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Great big income targets and how to deliver them

Income targets. They can be the scourge of many a comms team. How do you deliver yours? Are there lessons to learn? An all-new event will lift the lid on the latest thinking and opportunities for comms teams.

I can remember being head of comms at a large met council and one of the 100 things on my ‘to do’ list was to bring in income.

I had an income target – a pretty big one in fact at £six figures.

Website advertising, street furniture agreements, selling communications services to other organisations and resident magazine advertising. You know the kind of thing. If you lead a comms team you probably have a similar list.

But one stood out – the resident magazine.

Picture the scene – it was 2011 – and the resident magazine did OK for advertising income. But our team’s budget was being chopped and it was pretty clear to me that the magazine would need to fall on its own sword and be scrapped. Credit to the leader – when I proposed this move he agreed and we stopped the magazine completely (the telephone didn’t ring once afterwards to ask where it had gone, by the way).

But here’s the thing – my income target for the magazine REMAINED.

Eh? Yes. In fact it hung around for a while.

So off I popped to Finance one day to get it removed.

Now this isn’t a complaint about the Finance team – quite the opposite, we had some excellent Finance colleagues doing a difficult job in local government, then and now.

After a quick chat over a cup of coffee the target was removed. They could see it was bonkers and did something about it. Phew.

My other income targets all remained, though, and the team got steadily smaller. The squeeze was on.

Got an income target?

There will be a very particular story unique to each organisation which details how your income targets have evolved.

I believe that they have happened for one of five reasons:

1.       A media consultant carried out an audit and reported back to the organisation that there was a £million available by ‘sweating the assets’. Large format ad sites and the like. Large income targets followed and they headed straight to the comms team’s front door

2.       Balancing the books – your budget is being reduced so instead of stopping certain, non-prioritised activities an income target was created to help retain the status quo

3.       Someone, somewhere, thought there was a huge amount of income to be generated from carrying adverts on your organisation’s website. Targets followed. This was/is an opportunity but proper thinking needs to take place over the amount of internal resource (£x) required to generate (£y) income. Do the sums add up?

4.       You have an organisational magazine or newspaper and you can charge £ for ads. True. To a point

5.       Or all of the above

It’s probably fair to say that not all organisations have fully supported heads and teams with their income targets. And that’s an issue because for some they won’t necessarily have the skills or experience to hit these targets and it can become a huge distraction to delivering other key work.

As always it comes down to what is most important – what are the organisation’s priorities?

Income – is it worth targeting?

For sure income can be generated by comms teams and so long as internal expectations and targets are marketing-led and realistic, and the internal skills and resources are in place to satisfy the opportunities, then it can be a very worthwhile activity. If done well the additional funds can then be recycled to improve services.

Help is at hand

If you’re in an income target pickle, and not sure where to get support or inspiration, an all-new event has been created by Granicus which will focus on both income generation and saving money. The event will showcase how others are approaching and delivering their income targets and it will be a valuable opportunity to chew the fat on the issues and barriers you may be facing right now.

The event will take place in Birmingham on 15 June and you can sign up here. It’s free to attend.

I’ll be there and looking forward to learning more about these important issues.

Darren Caveney is creator of comms2point0 and owner of creative communicators ltd