ASBPE Webinar on COVID-19 Addresses Implications for B2B Editors
The impact of limited field trips and major event cancellations are among key concerns arising from the current pandemic that editors must address. Staffing issues and timely content requirements present additional complications. This picture was painted during “Covid-19 and B2B Publishing,” an online panel discussion presented on April 22 by the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE).
In opening remarks, ASBPE Education Committee chairman JD Solomon urged panelists to focus their presentations on solutions rather than problems, and to identify key developments during the past four to six weeks.
ASBPE gathered a superstar panel for the event:
- Teresa Anderson, ASBPE president and vice president of editorial service and editor-in-chief at ASIS International
- Sean Griffey, founder and CEO of Industry Dive
- Melissa Ezarik, managing editor of Administration and University Business magazines
- Martha Davis, senior director of content at Endeavor Business Media, Energy Group.
A recording of the event will be available shortly. Even those who attended the presentation live will benefit from reviewing the proceedings.
The one-hour session clearly required much more time to address raised issues. Hopefully a sequel will be scheduled soon. Meanwhile, here are some thoughts concerning key issues mentioned above.
Is there a suitable substitute for field trips? Face-to-face editorial travel is not easily replaced. The closest we might come is creating full-time field editor positions handling assignments for multiple publications. This arrangement obviously would not work well for single-magazine operations. Editors of those publications would have to rely on conventional freelance arrangements.
What happens if national events are permanently discontinued? Workshop attendees were polled on the current status of organization events, with the following results:
- 41% had cancelled one or more small events
- 41% had cancelled a major annual event
- 57% were still trying to move forward with summer events
- 55% were considering substitutes for in-person events. Digital events were a possibility.
Panelists pointed out that the lack of events would result in lost opportunities for editors to keep abreast of current trends through contacts with show attendees and exhibitors. Scheduling selected local events might be a suitable solution; several panelists reported excellent response to webinars.
How much Covid coverage should be allocated per issue? Another poll of the audience revealed that 16% had suspended regular content to go all-in on Covid coverage, while 84% added Covid coverage but continued with planned editorial.
Do staffing policies require revision? Although this matter was addressed in terms of Covid impact, some issues may involve broader consideration. One policy described at the webinar was drawing up a contingency plan for replacing staff editors who got sick. Perhaps of more immediacy, in my opinion, is developing best practice for supervising full-time staff members who work most days at home.
Are any advertising implications involved? When shows or other events are cancelled where advertisers could participate as exhibitors, they might be open to other possibilities for exposure. For example, an advertiser could sponsor a webinar moderated by an editor.
Can telephone contact efficiency during tough times be improved? The webinar did not address this item, but I include it here because Covid implications are obvious. Some publication editors should consider writing articles for their readers about how best they can be reached when phone lines are swamped. While trying to reach assorted parties even now, I encounter some firms that simply advise you to call later—obviously not a good idea if matter is urgent. Other firms have a robot request the caller’s number and promise to return the call at a designated time. In several cases when I tried this option, the return call was never received. Last but not least, we allow inexperienced individuals to handle incoming calls. Allegedly the caller is advised that “monitoring for training purposes” is in place. But the outcome is nevertheless disastrous. Worth a story in your publication? I think so.