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The How and Why of Publications as Brands - 4/12/2016 -

The How and Why of Publications as Brands

Does your publication have its own url? Should your publication be sponsoring its own conference? AM&P’s March 22, 2016 Lunch & Learn explored ways — and reasons why — to develop your flagship publications as stand-alone brands.

By Paula M. Miller

"When you extend the brand of a publication, you’re allowing the magazine to be more than just a house brand. You’re allowing it to be capable in its own right. And this creates a broader base of people who know your publication and association,” presenter Rob Sugar said at AM&P’s March 22, 2016, Lunch & Learn.

Whether for magazines, newsletters, book series, or special reports, the Lunch & Learn explored the dos and don’ts of refreshing, strengthening, or extending a publication brand. "How to Develop Your Publication as a Brand” featured Rob Sugar, founder, president, and creative director of AURAS Design; Stacy Maguire, founder, owner, and creative director of EyeDeaAdvertising and Design Studio; and members of the American Nurses Association (ANA) marketing team: Novella Green,senior marketing manager,and Eric Wurzbacher, editor and project manager. The presenters discussed many aspects of branding including:

  • Conducting research
  • Getting approval from various departments across the organization
  • Strategizing brand names
  • Developing color pallet, icon, and font guidelines
  • Designing iconic covers
  • Building themes
  • Developing specialized content
  • Disseminating content across multiple platforms

Members of the ANA marketing and publications team opened the session by detailing how an extensive Nursing Knowledge Center publication series was recently re-branded. The re-branding involved establishing core- and sub-color palettes as well as core and product-specific iconography, enabling viewers to quickly identify the book they wanted by title, color, or icon. Maguire, who worked on a different ANA series, demonstrated how to create a playful look through the choice of logo, fonts, background images, and patterns. The ANA team members underscored the importance of conducting audience research and obtaining full commitment from the association’s marketing department before engaging in a re-branding effort, stating, "When you are doing a branding effort, get buy-in from all stakeholders up front.”

Perhaps the more obvious aspects of developing or refreshing a publication’s brand will focus on the name of the brand—whether the name is catchy and connected appropriately to its message—and the graphic elements of the brand—whether design elements such as white space, typography,and color palette are distinctive and help the brand stand out.But when re-branding, content must also be a top consideration. Sugar said that publications should "own their generic content. ”For example, a magazine with fairly typical "letters”or "interview”departments should brand them with names that are unique to the publication. He added that magazines should create proprietary concepts—both departments and editorial content—that are distinctive to the publication. For example, publications can fulfill this need by producing "top 100”or "year in review” type-lists that become firmly associated with the brand.

One of the most important elements of building a brand is propagating the content, Sugar remarked."In the old days, the concern was how to grow your circulation, but now it’s about building multiple platforms. ”He emphasized that associations should build multiple platforms for their publications and consider whether the association’s magazine should have its own url instead of encompassing a subsection of the association’s website,and whether the publication’s emails can be branded to the publication instead of the association.

Associations also can spread their publications’ content by "cross-pollinating” branded content, repackaging content around themes, and attaching brands to related programs and initiatives. For instance, Sugar suggested that an association’s publication, instead of the association itself, sponsor a conference.

A theme brought up by session presenters and participants alike was that a strong publication benefits the publication and the association—not just in terms of the numbers of readers or members. For instance, by providing a semi-independent voice,a publication is able to cover different topics with different angles than the president of an association could alone.

Paula M. Miller is editor and communications manager at the Council of Independent Colleges in Washington, DC. Association Media & Publishing sincerely thanks Paula for volunteering to cover this Lunch & Learn for our members who were unable to attend.


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