Here's one of the so-called "hotline" messages posted in 1988 by then-new UPI president Paul Steinle, who came in with the FNN takeover:
340m to: all staff from: paul steinle re: management hotline date: june 9, 1988
a number of critical initiatives are gaining momentum and i wanted to brief you on some of them since they are impacting key areas you need to know about.
in the order of priorities, the most urgent management issue we are now addressing is the identification, positioning and pricing of upi products.
this project has top priority. it is the key organizational task that we must complete in order to expand our news media client base to obtain new revenue for upi.
unfortunately, upi had not clearly defined its products for many years. the company has been marketing its products on a piecemeal, patchwork basis with no clear rationale for pricing. at the same time, products were poorly defined and there was no overall strategy for product positioning.
the gravity of this situation was clearly revealed at a recent marketing meeting where upi sales executives were not able to agree on product names, product content and pricing policies.
this observation is not a criticism of our sales staff. in fact, the sales staff has demonstrated amazing resiliency and enterprise. working with no clear direction and virtually no sales materials, they have still been able to retain clients and find new customers.
in effect, our sales staff had been reduced to operating "cottage industries" with little or no direction or support from headquarters, and their results reflect their own initiative. the individual efforts are commendable, but from a company-wide perspective this approach is vastly inefficient and disheartening.
as you may have already heard, one of the marketing strategies that we are planning to initiate is the so called "unbundling" approach.
for purposes of greater clarity, we shall refer to this process from now on as "component product" sales. essentially, we are breaking the upi umbrella product line into its key components, such as national sports, business and finance, photos, the international report, etc.
each of these products shall be priced individually and will be offered alone or as part of a client-selected customized component package.
component product sales and marketing is important because it supports our efforts to grow back into more newspapers and broadcast outlets where upi has lost out with its "umbrella products" approach.
for example, should a major newspaper in the east decide to launch a california edition, we can now sell that newspaper the california wire, adjacent states and perhaps the la metro wire on a customized component product basis. the component product approach creates many new opportunities to obtain new clients again.
analyzing component product costs, which is the key step in formulating prices, emerged as the most formidable task in creating a component product pricing formulation.
analyzing costs is a problem because upi's accounting systems did not clearly match costs and revenues by products. since mid-may the accounting department has made several successful passes at breaking out these costs, backed up by assistance from certain key sales people. the results is a much clearer pricing formulation than upi has had for many years.
as a result of these efforts, we are making progress in an impressive and organized manner. a pricing policy proposal is already in draft form, and i expect it will be ready to be "market tested" within several weeks. then we will be able to take the initiative in the marketplace again for the first time in many years.
the week of may 31st, several members of the sales staff underwent sales training to fine tune and upgrade their selling skills. the course emphasized consultative selling -- a process developed by xerox and now marketed by a times mirror corporation.
this selling technique is based on working with clients to identify their needs and solve their problems. this sales approach complements the component product marketing approach nicely. by early july, the entire sales staff is scheduled to have completed this course.
as a result, the sales staff will be back in the market soon with fresh training, new product definitions, a clear pricing schedule and with the first of some new sales and marketing materials (pamphlets, brochures, etc.) to support their efforts.
also underway is a project to create an effective management information system (mis) for sales, with targets, call reports and monthly updates to create more accountability in sales.
upi's greatest successes have been achieved in those states where sales executives and editorial staff talk to clients on a regular basis, soliciting client comments and addressing client needs. that professional interaction between staff and clients is another key element of our turnaround effort.
communications between upi and its clients is an activity where every unipresser can play an important role. i encourage you to act professionally and supportively at all times when dealing with our clients on the phone and in person. courtesy and client support will win us immeasurably valuable good will.
telecommunications and data processing
the major new initiative undertaken by tdp has been the establishment of the help desk in dallas and the new relationship with sorbus, just announced.
the upi help desk is currently averaging about 300 calls a day. hopefully, this innovation is taking some pressure off the bureaus, but more importantly, it's allowing us to react in a consistent manner to support our clients and to monitor and control the communications problems that upi experiences.
this decision to establish a new relationship with sorbus is the result of deep frustration that we encountered in dealing with ge/rca. under the ge/rca arrangement, upi had essentially abandoned our customer service to an outside vendor at the point of interfacing with our clients. also, there were many complaints about ge/rca service. therefore, a change was necessary.
sorbus is established and professional, and it promises to provide a better level of service than we have been able to offer our clients in recent years. we are still working on an approach to dish maintenance, and that problem will be addressed shortly.
a massive overhaul of the entire telecommunication network is also being undertaken, under the leadership of our senior vice president for telecommunications and data processing, kevin hipps. this complex task includes analyzing our computer hardware and software needs, improving our relations with vendors, dissection our distributing upi products in a rapid, cost-effective manner.
a tip-of-the-iceberg portion of that project is the identification of certain slow-speed wires and the conversion of those clients to upgraded upi products, a project that sales and tdp have teamed up to address.
upi's printer and selector hardware is also under close review, with the goal of selecting hardware that will support growth and the cost-effective transmission of increased amounts of data and information traffic.
fundamentally, the reliability of our network, our printers and the service that supports the delivery of upi products determine how we are regarded by our clients, second only to our editorial product itself. therefore, these communications and service issues are being given high priority.
on the editorial side, the main concerns have been fine-tuning our report on a state by state basis, preparing training program for editorial staff and developing new products.
after the reduction change in staff at the beginning of may, the major economic impact to date has been the loss of the donrey newspapers in oklahoma. despite concerted efforts to come up with a solution that would allow oklahoma clients to pay higher rates to support more service, the clients could not afford the differential that maintaining staff levels there would require, and the donrey chain canceled its contract in oklahoma.
fortunately, we had factored in certain expected losses due to the layoffs and we don't seem to be exceeding those losses. in fact, our coverage of the oklahoma prison riots in the midst of all these changes received good play -- a tribute to the current staff.
bill ferguson, managing editor, national, has been working on a plan to begin editorial staff training, and I expect the program will begin later this summer. frankly, with conventions and olympics planning compounding the editorial workload, the training program has been delayed, but that is reasonable in this heavy news period.
on the new product front, a task force led by executive editor al rossiter jr. and backed by business editor roz liston in new york is shaping plans for upi's proposed regional business report. the rbr is also tied in closely with upi's plans to computerize and streamline its stock market report. these projects are coming together, and we should expect to see the first rbr on the wire no later than September.
finance and administration:
I hope by this time most of you have benefitted from the concerted efforts in fa to identify past due accounts and get control over upi's flow of funds.
the next major task for fa is to create a mis to guide managers throughout the country and around the world in understanding their budgets and in monitoring the allocation of funds.
a complication they have faced is confusion between upi's editorial regions and its sales division. editorial and marketing and sales have been reviewing past plans and have reached a tentative agreement on a new regional structure in which sales and editorial regions will coincide. after finance and other senior managers review this proposal (within a few days), we will be announcing these new regions (which will contain as few changes as possible from the current divisions).
the current accounting computer system must also be adjusted to create more rational and useful reports, and that problems will be addressed promptly to facilitate the development of a more useful mis for all key departments.
work is also underway to reestablish certain petty cash funds in bureaus, and to revise and update expense account filing policies and expense advance policies.
the human resources staff is deeply engaged in the two major projects. the company's management handbook is non existent. a new handbook has been drafted, and is being revised now. chapters will be circulated as they are completed beginning in July.
hr is also engaged in a top-down job description project. we have begun to review job tasks and job responsibilities with all key managers, and eventually this review will sweep throughout the entire company. the result should be clearer responsibilities for all employees and better coordination companywide.
in the international division, a number of new initiatives are underway. contracts with foreign subscribers have increased as exemplified by recent meetings with top management from efe, the spanish news agency, and the hungarian news agency, mti. pieter van bennekom and dr. brian also met recently with top management at dpa in germany. the new business plan was well received by all these agencies.
in puerto rico, a new collective bargaining agreement closely modeled after a the tentative agreement between upi and the wsg, was negotiated amicably with another union representing upi's puerto rican personnel.
in mexico city, upi's bureau has moved from a building owned by mario vasquez rana to new quarters, 16 cuautemac, and the new telephone numbers are (905) 761-5365 and 578 9882. next comes the move of our london bureau to a renovated facility in the docklands.
there is an important convention coming up this weekend in atlanta, anpa-tec, and corporate affairs is overseeing the development of the booth there. our booth has been modified by adding upi news photos, and a special display will emphasize the establishment of the new upi help desk.
ca has also updated the video used in the booth to explain upi custom news. ca worked with graphics director bill lemmer to product the new upi advertisement appear in this month's presstime.
ca has also been given the task of reorganizing relations with upi's advisory committee, an important asset that we plan on utilizing more effectively in the days and weeks ahead.
in addition to help orchestrate these activities, I have been investing as much time on the road as possible to visit clients. recently, I talked to jim squires and his staff at the chicago tribune, and bob page and his staff at the chicago sun times. this weekend takes me to springfield, ill., Friday, to meet state editors; to an editors meeting in austin, texas, the following day and on to anpa-tec in atlanta, Saturday night.
one of the most exciting and rewarding aspects of my job as been the chance to meet upi's clients and to accept their good wishes for you all. it's important to remember the breadth of support and the depth of conviction in the land for upi. you should know that you have a large cheering section out there, grateful for your products and wishing upi success.
from this overlong "hotline", I hope you can sense the wide diversity of activities that are underway here in the united states and overseas to improve and strengthen upi.
all these initiatives are aimed at improving our products, expediting the delivery of our services and selling those services to an increased number of newspapers and broadcasters. through this enterprise, I am convinced that we can establish upi as a truly independent and enduring institution. that status had recently been in doubt, but with dedication and teamwork and the kind of efforts that are underway in our company now, I am convinced that dream can be realized.
upi 06-09-88 03:54 pcd