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Three Yellow Pages organization represented on a panel this afternoon at Directional Media Strategies 2008 agreed that more transparency and investment in the product, particularly in the form of advertising, were keys to managing through time economic times.

Speaking on the panel “Selling in a Down Economy,” Mike Boyce from R.H. Donnelley acknowledged that the print product has not done nearly as well as IYP or search engine marketing in demonstrating performance to advertisers. “We should have metered lines on all of our ads. It is incumbent on us as an industry to step up.”

One response to the growing challenge of selling print is from Yell, the U.K.’s largest directory publisher, which has rolled out “Call Counter,” a call measurement program that currently offers free call measurement on 50,000 ads.

Kathy Geiger-Schwab from Local Insight Media laid out a structure that LIM follows, which distinguishes between cyclical and transformational challenges. For example, improving sales channel effectiveness is a cyclical issue, while sales transformation falls into the latter category. Publishers need to pursue both avenues, fixing what needs to be fixed in the short term while also managing toward long-range transitions the industry is undergoing.

The panel also made it clear that you cannot sell effectively in a down economy without demonstrating belief in your own product and in the value of advertising during difficult times.

“We have to practice what we preach,” said Paul Plant, head of commercial development, referring to Yell’s continuing to invest in promoting its print products.

“Good times or hard times, we are as good as our sales force,” Plant said.

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