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Opinion: Ideas pave road to reader engagement

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We love ideas at Springfield Business Journal – the good, the bad and the weird.

Ideas are a funny thing, in that even the bad and the weird ones have merit because they can start a train of thought that might lead to new concepts or approaches.

Powerful ideas are especially sought after during our annual editorial calendar and awards planning. Sure, we understand that in business news, there are just going to be some sectors, such as banking, construction, health care and law, that will always have at least one space on the editorial calendar of In Focus topics.

While we work very hard to give readers new takes on familiar topics each week, we also see opportunity with each new editorial calendar to bring new topics – and this year, a new award – into the fold.

That’s where the ideas come into play. Sometimes, when we sit down to look at the editorial calendar, an idea will be presented for discussion and everybody’s light bulbs will instantly flip on, resulting in a collective “a-ha” moment. Whether that idea comes from staff, a reader or an anonymous tip, when its potential is immediately seen, it’s likely that the source of the idea will be gratified, resulting in the idea surfacing in print or online coverage.

Just for men
Sometimes, it can take a while for an idea to take root.

Case in point: SBJ has honored a class of 20 Most Influential Women each year since 2000. And without fail, every year, we’ll get questions – sometimes humorous, sometimes not – about when we’re going to give the men a day in the spotlight. For a long time, we simply shrugged off those questions, reasoning that men get plenty of coverage about their businesses and their
accomplishments.

Now, we’ve changed our minds. Yes, there are a lot of men out there whose activities in business hit the news radar, but increasingly, the same can be said for women. We realized that there are a lot of men out there doing some really great things – and there are probably plenty we haven’t even heard of yet.

In September 2011, we’ll give the men a nod with SBJ’s inaugural class of Men of the Year. Just like Most Influential Women, there will be 20 men honored, each one selected by an independent panel of judges following our rigorous nomination and application process. During a Sept. 16 special event, we’ll showcase the men’s contributions in business and the community during the past year. Start thinking now about who might fit, and stay tuned for nomination information.

Even though it’s early in the process, we think we’re on to something. Less than 24 hours after pitching event sponsorship opportunities, Corporate Business Systems jumped on board as a platinum sponsor. While event sponsorships are available for all of our awards, the speed at which this one closed is a rarity and, we think, a good indicator that adding Men of the Year was the right move.

Among the other new ideas we’ll be bringing to readers are In Focus sections on agribusiness, corporate wellness and a feature on 31 game-changers in our anniversary issue. And don’t worry – even in those issues that cover familiar territory, the editorial team already is at work coming up with new story packages to give you the news you need. In the weeks ahead, visit sbj.net for the entire 2011 editorial calendar.

Save the date
Sometimes, rethinking an old idea can launch something new, and along those lines, I’d encourage you to mark your calendars for Jan. 21. That’s the date SBJ will present the Top of the List party and debut the 2011 Book of Lists after a two-year hiatus during which we instead published a PowerSource directory.

Top of the List isn’t a formal awards ceremony. Rather, it’s a celebration of the companies that topped our annual lists. It’s a chance for these companies to bring out their employees, celebrate accomplishments and kick off 2011 with a bang. And it’s a chance for all businesspeople, regardless of where – or if – their companies fell on the lists, to network, celebrate and share ideas. All attendees will get hot-off-the presses copies of the 2011 Book of Lists, which promises to be chock-full of contacts and information that can help make 2011 a great business year.
Tickets will soon be available at sbj.net, so don’t miss out.

We’re pretty excited about what 2011 will bring. Some folks tell us brighter economic days are ahead. While that remains to be seen on a large scale, we know there are plenty of businesspeople and companies staying the course and pushing ahead. We’re looking forward to covering their progress. And always, if you see or hear something that you think is newsworthy, put it on the table, and we’ll be glad to consider another idea.

Features Editor Maria Hoover may be reached at mhoover@sbj.net.
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