When elementary school children in Wilson, N.C., go home with communications folders for their parents, so do ads from The Wilson Times.
“Our advertisers love it, because it’s not very often that we can give them an opportunity for something that will last so long. We give them visibility throughout the school year,” said Shana Hoover, director of sales and marketing for The Times.
The promotion is in its second school year and was presented at a recent SNPA P2P video conference. The ad space sold out in a week, generating $6,455.
The Wilson Times circulates nearly 10,000 Monday-Saturday with the Saturday paper being a weekend edition. Wilson is about 45 minutes east of Raleigh.
The newspaper contracted with a company in Tennessee to print ads on the folders used by teachers and parents or guardians of children in grades K-5.
Teachers tuck whatever they want the parents to see into the folders, usually the written work done by the children during the week. The folders have spaces for the parent to sign that they reviewed the material. The process goes on as needed throughout the year.
The advertising idea came from Times Publisher Keven Zepezauer, who implemented it when he was with another North Carolina newspaper, Hoover said. The Times pays for the folders and the printing, sells the ads and distributes the folders to the county’s public elementary schools in time for the start of the school year.
“So the folder is passed back and forth between the parent and teacher throughout the school year,” Hoover said. That means the parents see the ads for a good nine months.
The Times distributes 8,000 folders, giving each elementary school enough for the previous year’s enrollment plus 25 percent to cover folders that are lost or suffer from wear and tear.
“We want to make sure the schools have enough to give to any kid who needs to use them,” Hoover said.
In implementing its swift sales strategy, the paper’s sales staff approached businesses they thought would be interested in reaching out to families with elementary-age children, she said. Advertisers who jumped on the idea included the local pizza restaurant, a child-care facility, an insurance agent, a comic book store, providers of voice and music lessons, and the sheriff’s department.
“It’s a really quick project for us but it’s had a really high impact in the community,” Hoover said.
The Wilson Times Co. hopes to expand the promotion for next school year to its recent acquisitions, weekly newspapers in Spring Hope and in Johnston County. In Johnston County, the company bought four weeklies and merged them into one, now called The Johnstonian News.
“When I started thinking about the amount of money people spend on school supplies … anything we can do to try to help them I think is good. We’re very excited about it,” Hoover said.