This issue, “10 Questions” checks in with Sheli Steele, advertising manager for the twice-weekly Craig Press. Formerly the Craig Daily Press, the publication has reinvented itself to adapt to changes in both its community and the newspaper industry.
In her spare time, Steele spends time with her three daughters. Reina, 13, is active in student council, drama and National Junior Honor Society. Jaidyn, 16, plays volleyball and basketball, and participates in track & field at Moffat County High School. Gabbi, 23, began working at The Denver Post this month and will graduate from the University of Phoenix next July. Here’s Sheli’s take on her life and advertising in northwest Colorado.
1 – You went to Moffat County High School in Craig, and say you consider yourself to be a Craig native since you’ve resided there for 30 years. Does that mean you’ve also lived elsewhere?
After I graduated high school, I went to Western State College in Gunnison for two years. After two years in Gunnison I moved to Grand Junction to attend Mesa State College. I lived in Grand Junction for two years. Grand Junction is a fantastic place to live but after the birth of my oldest daughter, Gabriella, I moved back to Craig to be closer to family. I married in 2000 and moved to Maybell, Colo., where we added two more daughters to our family. In 2008, we moved back to Craig to be closer to schools and activities for our children.
2 – How did you get interested in advertising, and where did you get your start in this area?
I started at the Craig Daily Press in March 2013 out of necessity. I was in the middle of a divorce and needed a job. The advertising manager at the time took the risk and offered me a job. I never imagined I would be doing “sales” for a living but I have fallen in love with the job. I don’t view my job as a salesperson anymore, rather a problem solver. I have been fortunate to build relationships with my advertisers and enjoy helping them grow their businesses.
3 – You’ve been the advertising manager for Craig Press since March 2013. Where did you work prior to taking the job?
Before starting at the Craig Press, I was helping run our family business in Maybell, chasing after three busy daughters and maintaining our ranch in Craig.
4 – In August, Craig changed its publication schedule to two times a week, Wednesdays and Fridays, with increased circulation on both days. How did that benefit your advertisers and readership?
Originally we planned to increase our circulation to 5,000 but quickly realized we needed to further increase our circulation and are now publishing 6,500 papers on Wednesdays and Fridays. The free model has been proven to be the most effective distribution model for advertisers as it eliminates the price objection. Being free ensures an advertiser’s message has greater reach.
Across Colorado the average paid circulation newspaper reaches less than 35 percent of customers in a market. In other areas where the community newspaper has a free distribution newspaper, surveys have shown as high as 90 percent local readership.
5 – What kind of advertising and marketing vision do you and your Publisher Renee Campbell have, and what ideas have you worked on together or with your ad team?
Our success is dependent on a properly trained staff. We will commit to a digital training program provided through Swift Digital University as well as complete the How Selling program from Center for Sales Strategy. We will maximize our new CRM to ensure proper tracking of all customer contacts and conduct a Customer Needs Analysis with each of our top 25 clients to ensure that we are giving exceptional service.
6 – What are the unique challenges – and the successes – of working the sales territories in your area?
Craig is a rural remote community where coal and the energy industry are our largest economic drivers. While our surrounding communities are seeing growth and expansion, we are stagnant, even contracting. Craig is not home to many retailers or restaurants and our largest employers, coal mines and power plant, do not have the need to advertise regularly.
I find we have the most success when our account managers are able to get back to the basics: face-to-face with advertisers, listening and providing solutions for success. Since being acquired by Swift Communications in August 2016, our advertising solutions toolbox exponentially multiplied, providing the team with more options and solutions for our advertisers.
7 – What new technology, trend or direction have you recently instituted in your advertising department?
Our plan for 2018 is to diversify our revenue and tap into events and promotions. We will host our inaugural Best of Moffat County event in Q2 as well a companywide outdoor sportsman’s expo in April. Contests and promotions will be integral for audience engagement and increased revenue. We are excited with the success we are able to deliver to our advertisers through targeted display and will continue to grow this product.
8 – On LinkedIn, you mention you’re involved in various community activities in order to foster client and potential client relationships, and you also do public relations with your newspaper and Moffat County. Details?
I am a member of Rotary and also sit on the Rotary Board. We meet every Tuesday morning and I am proud of the work we do for our community. I also sit on the Human Resource Allocation (HRC) committee to review nonprofit applications and allocate annual funding to organizations. I regularly attend Craig Chamber events to network and identify new business.
9 – Neat desk and office or not, and what would we see there?
NEAT desk! I can’t do clutter or stacks of paper. I rarely print anything as I prefer digital files, almost to a fault. It would be easy to identify which desk in the office is mine as I am clearly a proud mom. I have a lot of photos and newspaper clippings of my girls on my bulletin board. I always have a clear sight line to our current rates and promotions right next to my Mac Air. Simple. Organized. Minimal.
10 – What is your advice to members of the next generation interested in sales and marketing?
As cliché as it sounds, the end result can be rewarding if you commit to hard work. There are times throughout the year where I work a lot of hours but when I am able to identify and deliver a solution to a small business and they see success, it is all worth it. It is imperative to be involved in your community, network, and be willing to work outside of the typical 8-5 day.