Featuring great barbecue and a rockin’ good time, the ADP 2021 Annual Convention hosted members who gathered to discuss the latest trends and issues facing the directory publishing industry. Right alongside the great Mississippi in Memphis, Tennessee was the place to be. International print and online directory publishers attended the three-day conference, participating in topical discussions on how they have been steering their businesses to navigate through the pandemic. Members also brainstormed on issues affecting our industry, and learned first-hand how their peers are conducting business in the “new normal.”

The 2021 ADP Welcome Reception Was Top-Notch

The conference opened with a Welcome Reception sponsored by Liberty Press, where attendees reconnected with industry colleagues. Northern Directory Publishing, TXPAGES and Liberty Press graciously took attendees out for a wonderful dinner at Flight Restaurant & Wine Bar, one of the finest restaurants in Memphis.

Opening Day Included High Praise for Everything ADP Has Accomplished

The next morning, ADP President and CEO Cindi Aldrich opened the conference and welcomed both onsite and virtual attendees, thanking them for attending and thanking Hibu for sponsoring the day’s General Session. She then introduced ADP Board Chairman Chris Heilbock – Regional Vice President National Sales at Hibu – who told the audience that ADP has finished 80 percent of the association’s Action Plan and that it has hit the mark on the budget. He said he’s most proud of the fact that ADP is now known as an “association of sharing,” which gives its members tremendous value.

2021 ADP Annual Convention Attendees

Melvin Jones, Publisher of Memphis Black Business Directory – You’ll Be Missed

Chris then presented a lovely floral and plant arrangement to Sharon Jones, widow of Melvin Jones, publisher of the Memphis Black Business Directory. Melvin had recently joined ADP and attended the Publisher’s Summit last year. He was instrumental in bringing the conference to Memphis. Melvin was a strong proponent of our industry and will be sorely missed by members of the association and the many people he helped to succeed.

The Popularity of ADP’s Industry Certification Is Growing

Cindi then described the progress of the first-ever Industry Certification and the Trusted Local Directory™ Program announced at last year’s convention. Publishers have had many successes with these two game-changing ADP initiatives, even with the pandemic. Cindi detailed the ins-and-outs of utilizing the advantages of the Trusted Local Certification and the Trusted Local Directory™ to help a business increase revenues.

Cathy Mogler of Interfaith of The Woodlands told attendees of the many successes she has had with the Local Business Seal™. She sells advertisers on the fact that with the Seal, their information is syndicated on the internet, meaning their business will get found sooner – and by a wider audience. Once people understand how the concept works and the opportunities it affords, they eagerly get behind it and buy the Seal. Once the aggregated information is sent out and their listing is optimized, their rate of being found on search engines can double to triple in a matter of days. Cathy stated: “We send out a report that shows how invisible they were before, and how visible they are now on the internet – and how their numbers have gone way up. This is a perfect vehicle for the little guy out there to be seen everywhere.”

Click to learn more about the Certification Program or the Trusted Local Directory™.

Tackling Bad Data – One Business Listing at a Time

A lot of discussion occurred between publishers on how to tackle the bad data issue. When comparing the data bought from the phone companies to what’s available from other sources for free, there seems to be many discrepancies concerning what’s correct and what’s missing – and this includes new businesses. Directory salespeople have “their feet on the street” so they have the ability to verify data, but because of third-party sources, bad data can be shared across search platforms, apps and websites. Members mentioned using Neustar, a company that provides real-time information and is a clearinghouse for directory services.

Publisher Member Survey Results Are In

Board member James Hail, Publisher of Hagadone Directories, Inc., discussed the publisher member survey where companies can compare how their business fared to other companies. The survey questions ranged from revenue growth/decline, effects of Covid, expenses, growth of digital products and sales rep compensation, just to name a few.

Selling During the Pandemic Required New Tools

The value of Docusign®, a software program used by over 500,000 businesses, was explained. Numerous publishers use the contract signing system and like the benefits of having anytime/anywhere digital signing that’s fast, secure and easy-to-use.

A large part of the afternoon roundtable discussed the year of selling due to the pandemic. Attendees said they sold virtually to existing clients and also were able to develop relationships with new advertisers. Members used mediums like Zoom to collaborate with their sales teams and help salespeople manage the selling process. Because there was no travel, numerous members used Vidyard, an app built specifically for video selling.

Day Two of the 2021 ADP Annual Convention Kicked Off With Excitement

The next morning’s General Session was sponsored by iPublish Media and began with Cindi detailing all the benefits of an ADP membership. She cited the recent victory over AT&T that wanted to charge a 300 percent increase for listings. Cindi said that victory was “your ADP dues at work,” and if the association hadn’t fought the move, it could have crippled small publishers. She then described how members can make money with the Leadz Program using the Ad Effectiveness Research, and can keep up-to-date on topics with the ADP Daily Newsfeed. She said the Board of Directors has recently approved the 2022 Ad Effectiveness Study, but that the study needs to be pre-funded to go forward. As many members can attest, over the years this study has turned no into yes for advertisers a vast number of times. She also showed members how they can help ADP with its “war chest” by participating in the Donated Ad Program.

The Pandemic Required the Implementation of Creative Sales Approaches

The next topic was a discussion of how attendees distribute their directories. Members use a wide variety of systems (including the post office), delivering directories to display racks in stores using senior citizens or various local groups. There seemed to be pros and cons to all distribution methods depending on your distribution area and saturation rate.

Michael Doran of ATD-Austin explored some of the creative ways publishers have used their sales materials to continue selling throughout the pandemic with the help of Zoom and virtual marketing. He stressed that publishers shouldn’t “fall victim to the pandemic.” He said his company saw a 74 percent increase in the 11 weeks following the national shutdown. Betsy Smith of Hagadone Directories said in their call tracking summaries that calls actually went up during the pandemic.

Layne Snyder of Market Authority showed attendees how during this “new normal” it’s imperative for companies to continue advertising. He stressed that the boomers and seniors are the most valuable advertising market in the US. They have the most disposable income and saw many projects that needed to be done during the past year. He reiterated a famous saying that advises, when times are good you should advertise, when times are bad, you MUST. He showed a study that examined 15 recessions since 1920. It found that the firms that maintained or increased ad spend during the recession created a subsequent five-year sales growth of 256 percent. Those that decreased ad spend only grew 19 percent. He pointed out how that during the 1991 recession, Nike tripled their ad budget and Reebok didn’t – and Reebok has been playing catch-up ever since.

The 2021 Directory Excellence Awards Ended the Annual Convention

The presentation of the Directory Excellence Awards is always a highlight at the Annual Convention. This celebration, sponsored by Quad, is a wonderful ceremony that highlights the industry’s excellence in two divisions, Directory and Marketing. Lissa Duty of Rocks Digital Marketing was the Celebration Emcee this year.

In 2021 the Directory Excellence Awards received 87 entries – a record number – and according to judge Dr. Dennis Fromholzer, included some of the most creative and effective entries he’s ever seen.

2021 Publisher of the Year – CPC Yellow Pages

Each year, the Publisher of the Year Award is given to a member company that has the most cumulative winning points in both divisions. Congratulations to CPC Yellow Pages for winning this great distinction. The member company that won Directory of the Year in the 50,001 and above circulation category was CPC Yellow Pages. Ojai Valley Directory won Directory of the Year in the 50,000 and under circulation category. The Digital Directory of the Year was awarded to Interfaith of The Woodlands. Access the complete list of all the 2021 Directory Excellence Awards winners.

2021 President’s Award Presented to Mary Jo Gleason

Chosen to receive the President’s Award for notable or important contributions to the directory industry and helping further the association’s goals was Mary Jo Gleason, President of Media Measurement Solutions.

2021 President's Award Winner – Mary Jo Gleason

Mary Jo has been in the media industry for over two decades, and a member of our association for years. She is dedicated to ADP and has been an enthusiastic convention sponsor – she has often stepped up to the plate to assist with numerous projects and programs, including the Directory Excellence Awards competition. Mary Jo has been the president of Media Measurement Solutions for over 13 years as a call tracking expert and pay per call solution provider. She’s the one that shows you the real picture of your company’s websites and proves to advertisers that your ads work.

Mary Jo is a partner member in the truest sense of the word, working hand-in-hand with the members of ADP, partnering with them to get the word out, validating our industry – and helping our members succeed.

Wil Lewis Lifetime Achievement Award

ADP has a Lifetime Achievement Award named after the late Wil Lewis, the founder of White Directory Publishers and a three-time past ADP Chairman. Mr. Lewis guided more publishers on the road to directory success than anyone else in the association’s history. This is the ADP’s highest award and recognizes lifetime dedication to the directory industry.

Brent Cooper, Wil Lewis Award Winner 2021 on Stage

Receiving the Wil Lewis Award was Brent Cooper, Publisher of CPC Yellow Pages. He has been in publishing since he was a young child helping out at the family’s newspaper. He bought a struggling publishing company in 1994 and within a few years was able to buy out his partners and turn it around. He attributes the company’s success to the connections he made in his hometown as a young man. In addition to recognizing members of his communities for their contributions and service inside the book, Brent always includes directory covers of local landmarks and beautiful scenery. Residents love their community phone book because of this local touch.

Brent has been a board member since 2017 and has served as Secretary/Treasurer since 2018. He plays a major role in the executive, finance, nominations and strategic planning committees. He also serves on the Award Committee helping revamp this competition.

In addition to this year’s awards, Brent was 2019 ADP Publisher of the Year, and in four of the past five years, his company has won Directory of the Year for a Directory over 50,001 circulation.

Cindi Aldrich, presenting the 2021 President's Award to Mary Jo Gleason

In presenting this award, Cindi said she has known Brent for many years and that this man has his ear to the ground, and that his advice and counsel has been invaluable to her. Whenever she asked Brent to discuss his successes, he is always more than happy to share with his fellow publishers. She said, “If there was ever a member that bleeds yellow, it’s Brent!”

Congratulations to both Mary Jo and Brent on well-earned and much-deserved honors, and congratulations to each of our outstanding award winners. And looking ahead, we eagerly anticipate receiving your submissions next year!