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Why a Redesign is a Good Investment - 11/12/2013 -

Two associations take fellow members through the magazines’ redesign process and share why they decided to outsource.

By Laetitia Clayton

Publications are often the main way an association communicates with its members, and they are also usually rated as a highly valued member benefit.

While some associations have reduced or done away with their print products in recent years — due to the economy and the continual move toward digital communications — others have chosen to rebrand or redesign their publications to make them and their organization more relevant.

With this in mind, AM&P held a Lunch & Learn session on Oct. 9 titled "Utilizing Design Trends to Enhance Your Publication and Marketing Communications.”

The session featured two presenters who have overseen the redesign of association magazines, and they walked attendees through the entire process — from deciding if they should redesign and whether they should outsource the project to how they chose specific design elements.

Communication consultant Anita Brienza was asked by workforce mobility association Worldwide ERC to consolidate its communications and marketing departments, which included the magazine MOBILITY.

Brienza says the magazine, which was first published in 1980, had not been redesigned in 10 years and needed a makeover to keep up with evolving membership. After an internal analysis of members to decide which direction to take the magazine and a discussion of how to proceed, Brienza decided to outsource the project.

The Worldwide ERC team worked with external design and editorial teams to redesign "everything from the ground up,” Brienza says. "We shared a love of this product that we were doing. There’s a symbiotic relationship.”

She stressed that it’s important to find the right people and personalities that fit when outsourcing a project.

MOBILITY’s redesign included a new masthead, dedicated sections inside, a lot more "punch” with stunning art, and going to a two-column layout that allows for more white space, Brienza says.

One interesting idea that MOBILITY incorporated is including an article in each issue about a member who has a fun or interesting hobby, or is otherwise unique. She gave examples of a blind member who teaches skiing and a member who donated sheet music to the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame. They also created new placements for advertisers with the creation of an editorial calendar, she says.

After the magazine’s redesign, the team measured the outcome, through member comments, advertisers, editorial staff and others. The common response was that it created a stronger business branding, she says.

From a design standpoint, Brienza says it helps to look at other publications to gain inspiration. She mentioned coverjunkie.com, spd.org, and fastcompany.com as excellent resources.

The second presenter was Jessica Chase, director of marketing and membership for the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute.

Chase says her association decided on a strategic approach to makeover its communications across distribution channels, including its publication Interlock Design magazine.

The plan called for:

• Reviewing advertising rates and policies

• Revitalizing magazine content and design

• Developing digital and social strategy

• Integrating print and web

• Reallocating staff assigned to the magazine

The magazine is different from those at a lot of other associations, she says, in that it is not written for members but for members’ customers. This is why it was important to first get member buy-in, she says.

"Our members use it as a sales tool and wanted to maintain some control,” Chase says, adding that the board of directors made the final decision about the redesign process. "We evaluated content, design, purpose, ads. We even contemplated doing away with the magazine.”

The project was ultimately outsourced, like MOBILITY magazine, and ICPI hired a publishing firm and an advertising firm. Both Brienza and Chase developed a list of pros and cons before deciding to outsource, and both listed expert design experience as a plus and lack of industry knowledge as a minus.

Also like MOBILITY magazine, Interlock Design changed everything from the ground up during the redesign process. Interlock Design even changed its name, which was once Interlocking Concrete Pavement magazine.

Chase says they opened up the look of the layout with more white space and added callouts and large drop caps. They also eliminated black-and-white ads.

The results included increased revenue, more engaged readers, happy members, and an award-winning publication, she says.

The information the presenters provided was relevant and helpful for those who design association publications, even if a redesign is not currently on the table.

Laetitia Clayton is managing editor of NASW News, published by the National Association of Social Workers. Association Media & Publishing sincerely thanks her for volunteering to cover this event for our members who were unable to attend.


 

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