Hey (waving), I’m Chris Zeiher. I’m the Melbourne-based Director of Sales & Marketing (Asia Pacific) on the print side of Lonely Planet’s business. I’m also kept ridiculously busy as our brand spokesperson over on this side of the world.
I’ve been a part of the Lonely Planet family for over 15 years and have been lucky enough to contribute content in over ten of our printed products and a couple of online articles. The Melbourne-based team now operates directly out of home offices. So, I have quite the “hive” operation going on in my study, I can tell you!
What are your mornings like?
When I’m not getting up at 1:30 a.m. to jump on a 2 a.m. call (yes, that’s a thing) or rehearsing answers as I drive to the studio for a live cross on the Today Show or another breakfast TV program, I’m generally on a stand-up call with the Melbourne crew at 9:30 a.m. As we’re all working remotely, we’ve found this an essential way to stay connected and on task.
Most mornings feature at least one or two video conferences with buyers or marketing teams from major retailers. In these sessions, I’ll showcase our new printed products, which are generally sold to the customer 3-4 months in advance of publication and broker for advertising spots or in-store positioning for key releases. Twelve months ago, these meetings all took place in person, so I travelled extensively between Melbourne, Sydney, and Auckland. The Zoom revolution has really altered the way our industry now buys and sells.
I’m also currently monitoring all the Lonely Planet press inboxes globally, which means I spend a great deal of time first thing in the morning following up requests that have come through whilst I was sleeping. This can be anything from following up on book review requests, brokering media interviews for print, broadcast, and TV, or licensing our product to be used on forthcoming television or film projects. (Most recently, season 3 of Hanna for Amazon Prime. I’m also working with producers of The Umbrella Academy, who are keen to use our Italy guidebook in forthcoming episodes).
What’s it like to work in sales and marketing over at Lonely Planet?
There’s a very strict rhythm to sales (with each of our primary markets having slightly different time frames) on the business’s print side. Over here in Australia, I conduct sales calls to all our clients each month, showcasing all our forthcoming releases 3 or 4 months in advance of publication (known as frontlist). This has me calling on various types of retailers in the online and bricks and mortar spaces. Our bricks and mortar sector is broken into sub-categories: big-box retailers, chain bookstores, independent bookstores, and specialist retailers. We sell to each retailer in a different way as not all of these operators will take everything from our product list. So, there are lots of nuances that need attention each month.
Additionally, there’s a load of “nuts and bolts” work that also needs care, ensuring we best represent our product in-store and online. It’s here that we broker and agree to showcase titles in retailer catalogues, ensure that the product has the correct placement in-store, deliver in-store branding experiences, upload and share book trailers or featured posts on retailers’ social channels, etc.
As Lonely Planet is such a well-known brand in Australia and New Zealand, I’m called on for opinion and commentary a lot— this can take the form of TV interviews, broadcast media, or interviews for broadsheets. The topics and audiences can differ wildly. In the last couple of weeks alone, I’ve gotten requests for my opinion on the future of backpacking for 18-25’s, whether “outdoor museums” are tourist traps, and a call to arms to rescue the Australian travel sector with targeted government assistance. I can tell you… it’s never boring!
What’s your favorite part about the job?
It’s totally being on camera! My workmates will nod and laugh at this. I LOVE IT. Getting called up for an interview and going live on air for breakfast TV is exhilarating. Jumping in the make-up chair at the studio and being asked, “So, what are you talking about today?” is the exact moment the butterflies kick in. And there’s nothing more heart-racing than a live interview from an outdoor setting. That’s a total thrill where the only connection between you and the interviewer (and the live audience) is through one ear-piece… there’s no visuals and no body language to read off of, so you have to be on your toes. I’ve been interviewed on rooftops, in parks, in front of moving trams — you name it, and they’ve thrown it at me.
Do you have any memorable moments you can share?
So many. Really, so, so many. One that stands out was a request to interview in a hot air balloon as it sailed across the West McDonnell Ranges in outback Australia. According to Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel, The Red Centre had been named one of the world’s top regions to visit. Someone suggested that I and the Minister for Tourism interview from a hot air balloon basket whilst the sun rose over the stark landscape. Great idea! Amazing visuals, right?
The only problem: we could only answer questions in between bursts from the burner, which limited our speaking to 90 seconds. The cameraman was also so restricted for space that neither of the spokespeople could be in the frame at the same time. And then there’s the landing… where the Tourism Minister basically ended up sprawled on top of me as we hit the red dirt. HA!
Here’s a recent light-hearted interview with the Today Show for the release of Best Day Walks Australia.
Thanks for chatting, Chris! Your job sounds like a real trip.
Lonely Planet has taken me to some seriously awesome places all over the world and connected me with communities and experiences that have enriched my life. It’s not often you find a job where you’ve found your “people,” but that’s how it felt the first day I walked into the Lonely Planet office. This brand is really special and has at its core a pioneering spirit that continues to attract, excite and inspire generations of travelers. I’m beyond excited to see where Red Ventures helps Lonely Planet go next— it feels like the adventure has only just begun.
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