April 24 2012
Building up a complete picture of your target audience and setting out exactly what you want to achieve with your communication is a crucial stage in the publishing process. Do you want to build your brand in a particular sector, communicate your ability to take on international work or demonstrate the full breadth of your service offering? The tighter the objectives are, the sharper your focus will be and the better the results. You should also consider what other communications clients receive from you and ensure that all of your marketing is joined up with as little overlap as possible.
Establish which channel your client communication should take, or whether a fully integrated marketing communications programme would best fit your bill. The best way is to conduct an audit of your existing marketing communications, defining the role and success of each. Once you have a clear picture of your existing strategy, consider how a magazine, website or other form of branded content would fit in. Print methods offering a greater range and quality of publication, and digital channels are expanding rapidly, so there are an increasing number of opportunities to get your message out there.
Targeting different types of client through segmentation can make the communication much more effective, so consider producing a number of different versions of your publication. Are you aiming at private client or corporate? Consulting or audit? UK or European? The more specific you can be the better. But if you want to segment, is your database up to the task? Does it have all the data you need, and can you extract it easily? If you don’t, you may want to go with a single publication and use the launch to research the appetite for versioning.
To make a strong case, you will need to establish clear benchmarks based on your objectives and get internal buy-in from senior management. Remember that the partners will not need to write, but the articles will make them shine in the media. Dummy pages and lists of potential article topics can be a big help, turning an abstract concept into a tangible proposition. Obviously, you will also need to find the budget, which may come from rationalising existing publications that are not working as hard as they might, or activity that no longer works as well as it did, such as advertising.
Once your marketing and financial models are in place you will need to determine how your publication will be distributed. For instance, will your magazine mailing be centralised, or will you expect each client relationship manager to distribute their own? If you are communicating via email, how many of your clients’ email addresses do you have and how will you get the rest? And if your distribution strategy is based on client data, make sure that you have built in the means to keep checking and updating the data, through ‘returns’ and ‘gone aways’.
You may think that this is all within the capabilities of your marketing and communications teams. But publishing is a specialist business – great client magazines and websites are created by publishing professionals with years of experience, capable of validating and sometimes challenging the partners’ points of view. While writing the brief, consider the factors that are important to you in appointing an agency, such as experience, knowledge of your sector, cost and chemistry. Once you have appointed an agency, agree success benchmarks and be as open as you can. The more you share, the better the partnership will be.
Once an agency has been selected, they will start on the launch issue. An editor will gather content ideas and work with you on a detailed synopsis before commissioning subject specialist journalists. An art director will work with you to ensure that they are on brand. At these initial meetings you will agree the day-to-day working arrangements with the agency, deciding such issues as who will approve internally. As content begins to be created and pages become ready for you to see, your agency will seek your opinion before taking in amendments.
A new magazine or website will typically take at least three months to produce. If you wish to coincide with a major event or regional initiative you may want to add a little safety cushion. Finalise print and production partners early if needed, especially at busy times such as Christmas. Treat a magazine or website launch as you would a new service launch and make sure that you organise promotional activity, both internally and externally. Remember that a new launch can generate significant PR opportunities.
Like all marketing activity, content marketing will stand or fall on the strength of results. The nature of those results will depend on your initial objectives. Whatever the goals are, they should be backed up by robust research. One of the simplest ways to gauge client feedback is through a reader survey, but gone are the days when an insert would solicit a decent response. Ask your agency to run this for you, ensuring the results remain independent.
With the first issue in the bag, you and your agency should now have a debrief meeting in which you go over all aspects of the publication together, discussing both the elements that worked well and any areas for improvement. Taking these findings on board, your agency will begin work on the next issue. Ensure that any internal results, client comments for example, are communicated to your agency, so that any findings can be considered when producing future creative. The more feedback they receive, the better the next issue will be.