Consider a relaunch carefully – there’s a lot more to it
than a redesign.
By Kris Jensen-Van
If you’ve got
a strong brand, your publication’s circulation is climbing, and advertisers are
jostling to get into your pages, don’t even think about relaunching.
But if your
organization needs to consciously respond to changes in its operating
environment, your publication was suspended for a time, or if research reveals
waning relevance, engagement, or effectiveness, then the jig is up: It’s time
Lou Ann Sabatier of Virginia-based Sabatier Consulting, understand that a
relaunch entails much more than just a redesign. It’s a way to revise or
clarify your publication’s mission, to grow or shift your audience base, to
debut significant new content, and, of course, redesign. It’s also a chance to
do what associations do best: Focus on member needs.
gives you the opportunity to marry what you want members to know and what they
perceive their needs to be,” Sabatier says. "Very often, your readers move off
the dime, but we don’t. A relaunch really lets you consider their needs.”
The steps are
clearly defined, she says.
1. Determine where you are and where you want to go. Know your audience’s needs,
and create a content strategy to meet those needs, keeping your organization’s
mission in mind. Analyze your weaknesses and target potential improvements by
setting measurable goals, Sabatier advises.
2. Develop a plan to get where you want to be. Don’t rush the process, she
cautions, and don’t overpromise. It’s smart to draw up a business model and a
two-year plan for the publication to ensure that you have adequate resources
and a realistic timeline.
3. Implement the changes. "Remember that you need approval from your key
stakeholders, not your entire staff,” she says, but it’s critical to
communicate clearly with members, advertisers, your board, and other
stakeholders. Be sure to measure the impact of the relaunch with your members
on a regular basis; create a baseline and record trends.
One publication that underwent the relaunch process was CR, the consumer-focused magazine of
the American Association of Cancer Research, which also publishes seven
peer-reviewed scholarly journals. Founded in 1907, the AACR is the world’s
oldest and largest cancer research organization dedicated to preventing and
curing cancer through research, education, communication, and collaboration.
Its magazine, CR,
was launched in 2006 to provide information about cancer research to cancer
survivors, patient advocates, and the medical community on a paid subscription
basis, but within just a few years, it was apparent that the magazine wasn’t
reaching its editorial, circulation, or financial goals.
There were multiple challenges, says Tracy Middleton, AACR’s
assistant director of marketing.
"We’d really had no experience writing for consumers,” she
says, "and the name ‘CR’ wasn’t
working.’” Middleton and her team committed to a relaunch.
The challenge, she said, was to determine what elements were
working and to throw out the rest. They relied on their own experience, on
reader feedback, and focus groups to winnow out the keepers. It was
reaffirming, Middleton says, to see reader support for elements the staff felt
On the flip side, what they found, Middleton says, is that
the cover design didn’t connect with readers, their audience was too broad and
undefined, the paid subscription model wasn’t growing readership, and as a
result, advertising was scarce.
By dialing down the audience base to patients, survivors,
family, and friends, the magazine took on a new life, with a clear mission and
purpose. This lens provided coherence for all content and helped editorial
staff keep the focus on readers’ interests. At press time, the relaunch was
still under way, with a new name for the magazine in the works.
Kris Jensen-Van Heste
is a communications specialist at New York Association of Homes & Services
for the Aging. Association Media & Publishing thanks her for covering this
annual meeting session for our members who were unable to attend.