Positive, energetic and proactive content

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Sean Ireland
Taking a cue from its corporate owner Lee Enterprises, The Times and Democrat of Orangeburg, S.C., recently produced a special section that brought new revenue into the newspaper from non-traditional advertisers at a time that is usually slow for advertising.

The Times and Democrat produced a Labor Day section that gave some of the largest employers in its area, located about 30 miles south of Columbia, an opportunity to thank their employees. Sold quickly and effectively by the newspaper's staff and filled with the right content, the project was quickly embraced by both the local business community and readers.

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"Response was incredibly positive," said Publisher Cathy Hughes of The Times and Democrat. "We had 16 pages of ads, nine of them full pages, and we sold out color positions quickly. Included were two sponsorships, to the county economic development commission and the county chamber of commerce.

"The unusual nature of the section made it stand out as a source of reader interest on a holiday weekend," she added. "Two days after the section inserted, it was showcased at a local meeting of business and government held by the state chamber of commerce and used as an example of positive, energetic and proactive content in the local newspaper."

Lee Enterprises shared the idea with The Times and Democrat this summer, and the daily newspaper wasted little time running with it. In early August, the newspaper's graphic-design artists prepared full-page spec ads for sales representatives to use on in-person appointments. The area's largest employers were targeted first with presentations that emphasized that the ads would be a way to give back to their employees in a public way. The newspaper included banner website ads at www.thetandd.com as a sweetener to the deal.

Hughes said the spec ads and the emphasis on companies expressing gratitude to their employees were the keys to the successful sales efforts.

"Business and industry thanking the workers of our region for the jobs they do promotes pride by people in their work and the companies for whom they work," Hughes said. "It presents employers as caring about people and thankful for where they are located.

"The section presents a human side of business and industry not usually seen via their advertising and prompts interest by people who may not be traditional or regular newspaper readers."

Hughes said the newsroom was another important part of the equation and was asked to provide positive content that stayed away from topics such as high unemployment or a struggling economy and focused on quality of work and contributions to the well-being of the community.

The 24-page section included news-to-use stories on improving attitudes at work and job performance, saving and using money during work years for retirement, and planning for children's and college expenses. Health and fitness topics were also presented, as were Labor Day-specific topics about the history of the holiday and the national telethon associated with it.

The section was inserted into the Sunday edition of the paper before Labor Day, and ads were posted on the newspaper's website throughout September. Additional copies were provided to the local development commission, chamber of commerce and the advertisers.

The Labor Day section was the perfect product at just the right time for The Times and Democrat. "The idea fit our market and the Labor Day timing was good for a number of reasons: we were in between back-to-school and holiday advertising, the idea was new and fresh with positive content, it appealed to non-traditional advertisers and we were near the end of our fiscal year, so a new revenue producer was welcomed," Hughes said.

For more information, contact Cathy Hughes at (803) 533-5535.

Orangeburg, Hughes

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