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Long-range planning retreat summary

Long-range planning retreat summary

The three boards of directors met every two-three years for a planning session to identify strengths and weaknesses, develop goals and assign working groups. This was published in the Iowa Newspaper Association newsletter on May 7, 2014. Boards received progress reports at each quarterly meeting.

Boards hold planning session, set goals

Members of the Iowa Newspaper Association, INA Services Co. and Iowa Newspaper Foundation boards of directors met in a joint planning session at the INA offices on April 10th and 11th to discuss steps to take in the next two years to better serve the INA membership. Three groups of board members identified goals and strategies and assigned smaller groups to work on each objective.

One group of board members discussed how to reposition newspapers in the future. The discussion resulted in a goal to reinvent the INA to serve as a catalyst for change in the Iowa newspaper industry. A new task force will be created to discuss how it can leverage its strengths to help the industry remain relevant, while also exploring whether the Iowa Newspaper Association should change its name to better reflect the evolving nature of the industry.

A goal to reposition Iowa newspapers to support print, social and digital platforms resulted in the group deciding to create an “innovation incubator” to inspire, develop and support innovation in the Iowa newspaper industry while building on the industry’s core values — gathering news and commercial information, but delivering it on different platforms. It will be the charge of a task force named by the INA president to explore adding an INA staff member or intern(s) to shepherd innovation at smaller newspapers by traveling to those newspapers to help them build their digital presence. This task force will also explore developing digital programs beyond selling website banners, etc. for newspapers to sell locally. In addition, staff and existing committees will explore additional digital training for newspapers and take advantage of the work presented through the INA Better Newspaper Contests to showcase innovation and excellence.

A second goal identified by the group is to recruit younger people to the industry — as readers, consumers, employees and owners, a goal that is carried forward from the 2012 board planning retreat. An existing group, the Next Generation Task Force, will foster a stronger relationship with the Iowa High School Press Association and, by doing so; reach out to high school students to educate them about careers in the newspaper industry and to encourage newspapers to hire local high school students as interns. The Next Generation Task Force will also be charged with developing a succession planning program for Iowa newspapers wishing to sell their newspapers and assist newspapers that are locally owned find a way to bring people into the industry.

A second group of board members explored growing revenue for the association and member newspapers. A goal to grow print and digital revenue has Customized Newspaper Advertising targeting digital only customers, developing a system to gather and organize newspaper website inventory and rates in a timely manner and developing a vendor resource list for newspapers to assist them in digital “back shop” activities.

The goal to increase contributions to the Iowa Newspaper Foundation will fall primarily to the existing Fundraising Strategy Committee, which will discuss developing a new mission message aimed at giving people a reason to support the foundation. This committee will also discuss ways to enhance existing fundraising programs through targeting, repackaging and broadening the base of potential donors. This group also discussed a goal to pursue additional alliances. Currently the INA, INF and CNA have alliances with the Iowa College Media Association, the Michigan Press Association, the National Newspaper Association, Southern Newspaper Publishers Association, the Wisconsin Newspaper Association and several Iowa organizations working with the INF on newspapers in education projects and other sponsorships. Among the strategies identified for this goal is to identify organizations that are a good strategic fit and explore possible synergies.

The third group of board members discussed ways to engage more members. Its first goal, to involve and engage more members while also enhancing committee and board recruitment and development relies on a new task force to establish regions throughout the state with a manageable number of weekly and daily newspapers in each region. Each region would have one daily newspaper board member and one weekly newspaper board member as its representatives. These smaller regions would create a better opportunity for engagement, with the goal of education and recruitment; in turn enabling the board members to identify candidates in their areas for leadership positions. This same group will explore creating a “sponsor” program, where a regular attendee of the Convention would be paired with, and would reach out to, a non-attendee encouraging him or her to come to Convention and to promote the benefits of attendance.

Another goal…to educate and engage publishers on legislative and other issues may result in a legislative day at the State Capitol to give lawmakers an opportunity to hear first-hand from the industry’s leaders the impact legislative decisions have across the state.

Finally, a goal to increase training registrations was discussed and the staff was charged with considering alternative payment options and incentives for training events and to intensify training beyond webinars by researching the possibility of contracting with consultants to train newspapers with limited budgets on site.

In a pre-retreat survey, board members identified what they felt is working well at the INA/CNA/INF and what could be working better.

What’s working well:

  • Partnerships with other associations;
  • Training, specifically Online Media Campus and the convention and trade show;
  • Staff…leadership that is on top of issues and moves forward when decisions about them need to be made;
  • Government relations, specifically the awareness of and responses to legislation that could affect newspapers;
  • Member support…most members receive more back than they invest in dues and are active with the INA/CNA/INF;
  • Great communication with members;
  • Continual promotion of newspapers as being critical for communities; and
  • All member papers have an equal voice.

What could be working better:

  • Membership engagement…getting more papers involved with the organization and its programs;
  • State of the industry…wish it was stronger financially…INA/CNA/INF depends on strong members for volunteer time and support.