Earlier in 2023, Mediaweek announced the Sales Team of the Year, an initiative to highlight some of the high-quality work done in the industry.
Each month, a media sales team will be selected by a rotating panel of judges as the nominee for that particular month, culminating in 12 nominees by the end of the 12 months. The judges will be assessing each team on criteria such as proactivity, strategy and execution, and client and agency relationship management.
The 12 nominees will then all go into the running to be named Mediaweek’s Sales Team of the Year.
The winners for October are The Guardian Australia’s sales team.
Mediaweek caught up with Mason Rook (Acting MD / Commercial Director), Jillian Matthews (VIC and SA State Sales Director), and Joshua Casemore (NSW State Sales Director) to chat more about the win.
Reflecting on the highlights of the last 12 months or so for the team, Rook points out that the biggest wins have all been a long time coming, as the result of a lot of hard work.
Rook: “The big wins have been around executing our three-year commercial strategy, we’re starting to see that come into its own at the moment. If you cast your mind back three years, our client-direct approach was really anaemic, and I’d say we relied way too heavily on programmatic. For a brand like The Guardian, a premium publisher with a really attractive audience, it didn’t necessarily align.
“We’ve spent quite a bit of time redefining and redeveloping what success looks like from our sales strategy point of view, and working in partnership with clients to figure out how we can understand what they’re trying to achieve, and to then wrap our media assets around that – rather than going out to market saying, ‘well, this is what we have to sell, come and buy it’. That has meant that through the pandemic, we’ve weathered the storm well.”
Casemore: “The added pressure from the economic times and our stance on servicing these clients from a more face-to-face point of view has helped clients get more bang for their buck, and make that dollar go the extra mile. That’s our strategy, that’s really helped, particularly in the last 12 months.”
As well as the results from the three-year plan, another factor in the success of the team that the trio points to is the culture of the business.
Rook: “From a team perspective, it’s been a really strong 12 months. We’ve had no one leave, which to me, says that we’re doing a good job. We’ve got a bunch of really nice people who are all really good at their jobs. That has meant that we have been able to deliver stability across the business, rather than having new people coming in, or losing great talent because we haven’t been able to furnish them with opportunities.”
Matthews: “Team culture has been key to our success. We have such a diverse workforce with so many people from different backgrounds, this melting pot of ideas helps us to collaborate on a different level.
“Not only that, we have a fantastic product to be out in market selling. The Guardian is very apt at the moment in terms of the values that it projects out in the market, and what brands want to align with. In an era of fake news, people are sceptical about what they read in the media. The Guardian is a trusted platform that can provide a halo effect to our brands and clients, and this is something that has added to our revenue growth.”
One of the things that puts The Guardian Australia in a unique position is its status as the local arm of a global brand – a fact that the sales team uses to its full advantage for clients.
Matthews: “Our raft of offerings is quite unique given we are a global brand, it gives us access to products that aren’t necessarily available in the Australian landscape for other publishers. Therefore, our level of creativity and innovation is market-leading.
“We are one of the few publishers that has its own custom content division in Guardian Labs, so whenever we run any content-driven partnerships with our clients, they’re guided by a team of experts who will work with them from content ideation through to project management and delivery. That’s a real breath of fresh air for many of our clients who don’t always get that level of service for these complex partnerships that they execute.”
When it comes to keeping clients on board with The Guardian once they’ve already worked with the team, Rook said that the key to client retention is that “we genuinely care about the results that we’re delivering.”
Casemore: “It’s genuinely asking those questions post-campaign and seeking out information on what the client saw from a results point of view, then gauging where The Guardian plays a role in delivering that. We’ll then say ‘we saw performance in a particular area, let’s continue that activity’, or ‘okay, we didn’t see that, this is what we recommend to gain more traction’.”
Rook: “It’s also knowing when to not push as well, I think that’s just as important. I’ve worked at a few places where they said we should be on every campaign, every campaign is right, and we should be getting 100% share of everything.
“Sometimes you have to say that if you’re chasing a real-time acquisition, churn and burn product, and that’s where your campaign has now moved to, that’s probably not our real strength. We’re not doing cents in the dollar advertising. But that’s what shifts that narrative from ‘The Guardian will pitch us everything’ to ‘The Guardian is going to present opportunities that they genuinely believe in’.”
It’s full steam ahead for the team in 2024, and looking ahead the trio say that the business has its sights set on new and existing partners.
Rook: “Where we’re trying to focus our attention is brands that are on their journey of becoming more purposeful, or trying to have greater impact. That’s a key category for us where we can say we really bring value.”
Casemore: “We’ll be delivering quality impressions and quality connections with a premium audience. We’re doing all these big and wonderful things from a publication standpoint, but it’s about what we can give a client off the back of that that’s connecting them with a quality audience.”
Matthews: “We’re constantly evolving our product suite as well. In 2024, we have a really exciting opportunity called Future Labs, which is events based. Audio and our podcast network is also a real focus of the business.”