Defending Your Print
Prepare to justify your
print magazine all year round — not just at budget time.
By Lois Douthitt
magazine may be the heart and voice of your association, but you need more than
a declaration of your loyalty when budgets are under scrutiny and the digital
option flashes around as a shiny object.
are different approaches to determining and promoting the value of an
thoughts, though, are key no matter which ones you pursue. First, know your
primary customer — and it may surprise you to consider that this is your boss,
not your readers. Second, don’t wait until your boss asks you at budget time to
justify printing the magazine; seek and provide current data every year that
shows the publication’s value. Third, make sure there is value to your magazine by always innovating and evolving.
offered this advice and more at AM&P’s December 2014 Lunch & Learn
session. John Maisel, publisher for National Electrical Contractors Association,
reminded those who attended that association execs are busy running the
association, and it’s our responsibility to convince them of the magazine’s value
in ways they can understand. "They’re the customer. Treat them that way,” he advised,
adding that this doesn’t mean only at budget time. Instead, it’s a full-time
job and "a year-round permanent effort.”
effort includes continually collecting data. Yearly surveys help determine the
numerical value readers place on the magazine. "What percentage of readers
rates your magazine as a primary member benefit?” asked Joe Vallina, publisher
for American Nurses Association. "If 35 percent of members rate the magazine as
the number one benefit, explain that this puts 35 percent of your dues in
jeopardy. This will get your CFO’s attention.”
value messages also can earn buy-in from executive staff, your board, and
colleagues. "The magazine is a tangible brand that reaches a wider audience
every month than your most popular conference,” Erin Pressley, vice president of NACS Media Group at
The Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing and president of AM&P,
offered as an example. She recommended shifting the measure of success for an
association magazine away from financial returns. "We must reject the idea — well-intentioned
but wrong — that the primary path to greatness in the social sectors is to
become more like a business,” she argued. Change the conversation, she said,
from "How much money do we make per dollar invested?” to "How effectively do we
deliver on our mission and make an impact, relative to dedicated resources?”
said, resources for the magazine — which compete with resources for all
association initiatives — aren’t infinite. If you’re going to tout the value of
your print publication, there must be value. Heed the feedback from surveys and
make enhancements. "Don’t put out the same magazine you published five years
ago,” Pressley said.
presenters offered recommendations for cutting expenses and boosting revenue. Here’s
long-term contracts, and bid out printing every two years "unless you get an
insanely good deal,” said Maisel.
that neither you nor your printer wins if the magazine is discontinued, so let
your printer be an ally in recommending steps to contain costs, such as cheaper
paper and processes.
your mailing weight and size, and work with your postal service to contain
costs. Think hard about international circulation, as it’s expensive and often
unreliable, giving it a low return on investment.
single-sponsor supplements or sponsored content.
the presenters said not to be afraid of digital publishing, as it can complement
rather than replace your print magazine. "It won’t kill print,” Vallina said.
"Print will die only if it commits suicide.”
Lois Douthitt is senior director of publishing and member communications
for the American Physical Therapy Association. Association Media &
Publishing sincerely thanks her for covering this event for our members who
were unable to attend.