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Pullen: ĎWhatís Sexier Than Risk?" - 1/28/2014 -

Rick Pullen
Get to know Rick Pullen, editor in chief of The Council of Insurance Agents and Brokersí Leaderís Edge magazine, and a former member of the Association Media & Publishingís board of directors. Pullen, known for his association publishing mantra "nothing has to be boring,Ē shares three tips on how to get members to actually read your articles.

By Carla Kalogeridis

Sidebar: How important is it for an association publishing team to have a CEO that understands media?

Pullen: Itís absolutely crucial, if you want to turn out a publication that your members will actually pay attention to. Our CEO, Ken Crerar, is not a publishing pro ó but he gets it and gives me the freedom to create a fun magazine that people actually read. His dad was a printer, so I think he has some publishing DNA in his soul.

One of the biggest problems for association publishing professionals is working for non-publishing professionals who just donít get it. To be honest, every association CEO should be just like Ken Crerar in their approach to association media, but very few even come close. Heís got a very clear sense that associations should burst through the media clutter and how to do that. He wants our publication to be read. Most association leaders are more worried about offending someone than actually being read. They have no sense of media, publishing, messaging, or good journalism. (Editorís note: Donít miss Signatureís exclusive interview with Ken Crerar on the ROI of a great publishing team, coming up in our next issue.)

Sidebar: Leaderís Edge has won an enviable list of editorial and design awards from most of the major award programs out there. How much of this do you attribute to Ken Crerar?
Pullen: Leaderís Edge has won a lot of awards because Ken has given us the leeway to take risks and try new things. That takes guts. How many other association execs do that? Not many from the conversations I have with other AM&P members. Leaders donít want to offend. The reality is, no matter what you publish, no matter how innocuous it is, someone will take offense. So why not err on the side of interesting?

So many association teams have to publish whatever their presidents and CEOs tell them to, but the problem is that those leaders know nothing about making a publication readable, so of course, their interference is going to screw it up.
Sidebar: You once said in a Signature interview that "nothing has to be boring.Ē What advice do you have for editors writing for an industry that seems nothing but boring?

Pullen: Insurance can be pretty boring on the surface, so we approach it differently. What is insurance really all about? Itís all about risk, right? So treat it that way. Ask yourself, "Whatís sexier than risk?Ē We even run an ad for the magazine that says, "Risk hasnít been this sexy since James Bond.Ē So approach your industry from a different point of view. Who says you canít make widgets sexy?

You really want to know how we actually address boring on a day-to-day basis? First, spend a lot of time ó I mean a lot of time ó on great art. Our art meetings go on for hours. My design team spends hours preparing for a meeting. Itís got to be impactful and sexy.

Second, spend significant time on writing a great headline and decks. Headlines must be intelligent and clever.

And finally, take all your volunteer-submitted pieces and rewrite the first five paragraphs before the reader gets to the boring but useful stuff. Insert wit, humor, and a great turn of a phrase whenever possible. Thatís enough of a lead-in to convince the reader that the article is worth their time.

Carla Kalogeridis is editorial director of Association Media & Publishing. If youíd like to be interviewed for Sidebar ó or know of someone else who always has an interesting perspective or opinion on association communications and publishing ó send us your suggestion.


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