What's Worse Than Laying People Off? Telling Them It's Hard to Do
Media professionals are forced to report on their own troubles. Sagging bottom lines, layoffs and other woes are making headlines. But there's more for publishing executives to learn that may make life easier.
It's how to negotiate and what to negotiate, says Stephen Frenkel, director of negotiation programs for Boston-based Mediation Works Inc.
INBOX: In an economy rife with layoffs, do you advise your publishing clients to first consider pursuing cost-cutting concessions from employees?
STEPHEN FRENKEL: I think layoffs are one option among many. In these kinds of situations it's important to be strategic and think about your long-term goals and consider where you'd like to be -- not only now, but eventually when the economic stability returns. … You can use a combination of moves to cut costs and enable yourself to move forward at the same time.
INBOX: Besides labor, what parties should publishers be negotiating with during this recession and why?
FRENKEL: It's OK to renegotiate your contracts. … What you're hoping is, in an ideal world, that your provider, whoever you're negotiating with, and yourself, can maintain your expected margins. But it's also important to share in the savings if prices are coming down for materials or anything like that and also to share the burdens in a bad economy. You want to be able to share them so that you can build that partnership, maintain your level of integration with each other [so] both of you survive the economic downturn and put yourselves in a position to do business together when things improve.
INBOX: How should publishers negotiate with advertisers, and is this more important than labor negotiations?
FRENKEL: Find out and articulate what your own value proposition is. Help your advertisers see what value placing ads in your publication will have for them. Is it exposure? Is it increasing branding? What are the benefits? And also help them see the long-term vision. Point out to them that advertising in leading publications is what gets them the business that gets them through these tough times, rather than the opposite.