The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators' director of communications and public relations shares insights into his organization's proactive approach last year to creating a magazine that truly serves its audience and successfully re-engaged the association's members and advertisers.
By Carla Kalogeridis
ONE REALIZATION BURNING IN THE HEARTS AND MINDS of many association publishers today: We may need to reinvent our magazine for the digital age—but how?
Jason D. King, ABC, director of communications and public relations for the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), is deep into that journey, and the way is growing brighter. That's good news for King, but the even better news for his colleagues in the association publishing community is that he is willing to share his story at the Association Media& Publishing Annual Meetingcoming up June 14-16, 2010 at the Capital Hilton in Washington, DC.
King's presentation, "From Good to Great: Reinvent Your Magazine for the Digital Age,” is a behind-the-scenes look at AAMVA's quest to recreate its award-winning magazine, MOVE. He speaks on June 15th at 10:30 a.m. (session sponsored by QuadGraphics), along with the team from Network Media Partners that collaborated with his association on the transformation.
King is responsible for crafting and expediting AAMVA's strategic communications plan, but last year, his mission was "to up the employee engagement needle” at a time of AAMVA's greatest organizational transition—including charting new territory for how the organization communicates with its members.
A former broadcast journalist, feature show producer, and host for WBAG radio in Burlington, North Carolina, Jason King knew he had the guts to take on the project, but soon learned that drive and desire can only get you so far. Below, he shares a peek into the experience.
Q: At the Association Media & Publishing Annual Meeting in June, you are going to share your experience of redesigning MOVE magazine "with the reader in mind.” What prompted this soul-searching change at AAMVA – after all, MOVE has won several publication awards…What tipped you off that a change was in order?
King: At first, it was a hunch that our circulation numbers were out of whack when we noticed increasing numbers of our book being returned through the mail to us.
Second,it was my longstanding belief that while the magazine provided some value and won its share of awards,there was a way to 'do it better' from the ground up. This meant taking a hard look at editorial, advertising, and design.
From a strategic standpoint, we took a hard look at the content we were delivering and the demographics of our membership. We knew that how our readers were consuming content had changed substantially since our last major redesign.
Third, our redesign began on the heels of our association's first major reorganization in its 75-year history--at a time when we felt our members would be most open to change in our flagship communication vehicle.
Q: What role did research play in your redesign process?
King: Our redesign wasbasedlargely on data gleaned through a readership survey. Our intent was to let what our members wanted inspire and drive our design and editorial makeover.
Q: What was your most surprising discovery along the way?
King: What surprised me was that our instincts were right in so many areas. Although I'll admit, I never expected so many of our members to really want a digital version of our magazine.
Q: What was the most difficult change to agree to from a personal standpoint?
King: This was a very collaborative process among our advertising sales team, design team, and editorial team. Working collectively with all partners at the table, and with all the data, it wasn't hard to see which way to go.
Q: What advice would you give to an association about to begin a similar journey?
King: I can't stress this enough: Involve your organization's senior leadership and board from the beginning. We did this and it worked.
It sounds simple, but if people are in on something from the beginning, it's hard to throw darts at it in the end. So far, our readers and advertisers are very happy with our changes. In fact, we've recognized a new attitude among advertisers and more engagement.
And most importantly, have a thorough communications plan for your roll-out of all new changes.
Q: So now that you've successfully repositioned your publication for the digital age, what's up next for AAMVA's Jason King?
King: Creating a social marketing strategy that leads the bulb-eating squirrels away from my yard and over to my neighbor's.
Jason King will share much more about AAMVA's quest "to create a publication worth reading” and the cost savings in production and distribution his publishing team discovered along the way at the Association Media & Publishing Annual Meetingsession, "From Good to Great: Reinvent Your Magazine for the Digital Age.”
Interested in volunteering to help cover the Association Media & Publishing Annual Meeting sessions for Signature magazine and Final Proof e-newsletter? Contact Carla Kalogeridis, editorial director of Association Media & Publishing.