Make Your Membership Magazines and Newsletters Work for You

If you work in a society or association, you probably have a great portfolio of publications that are expertly managed. For many of you, however, there will be one publication that is too often overlooked. Isn’t it about time you made it work for you?

I’m talking about your membership magazine or newsletter. Every society has one but are you getting the most out of it? And more importantly, are your members getting the most of it?

Let’s take a look at your membership publication. Ask yourself if it delivers on these key benefits?

  • Facilitating engagement with your members
  • Providing members with a benefit that encourages renewal
  • Raising the profile of your publishing program and its great content
  • Promoting your events
  • Sharing your mission and values
  • Delivering the maximum commercial success

If you cannot answer yes to all of these points, it may be time to consider how you can transform your publication and make it a valuable asset.

What makes a great magazine or newsletter?

The first essential is great content. You want your members to read the content and come back for more. This isn’t as hard as you think! You know your members, you know the issues that affect their working lives, and you have access to the leaders in your sector, so you’re ideally placed to deliver relevant and useful content. But don’t forget to give the reader what they need. Many membership magazines come off as self-serving and end up neglecting what the readers care most about.

The readership needs a champion at the helm of the publication, and that champion is the editor. You might ask, “can’t our membership team do the editor’s job, or perhaps the chief executive or the president?”

Unfortunately, a great publication needs editorial independence. In order to represent the reader, it needs a dedicated editor. That doesn’t mean you need to hire a full-time staff member; there are plenty of great editors who can edit your publication on a part-time basis and ensure the voice of the reader is always heard.

What content should we provide?

We can summarize the essential content into three different formats: short reads, long reads and reference material.

Table of content sources

Short reads = news, a brief report on a timely development. The secret here is to identify what is genuinely new and disregard the inconsequential. Condense the story to answer the key questions (who, what, when and where) and move on. Journalists are trained to do this and there are plenty of great freelancers and news feeds out there that can provide a regular supply of news stories. Recent articles in your journals can also serve as an update and raise the visibility of new work.

Long reads = features and articles. While you can include syndicated content republished from other sources, most of your long reads will be commissioned. Your editor will work with freelance journalists and writers on a story idea (this will cost money) or invite experts from within your society or association to write (usually at no cost). If you have a journal publishing program, then this is a great place to source ideas for articles. A short article summarizing a breakthrough research article will inform your readers, raise the profile of your journal and help the research get the widest possible readership.

Selecting the right delivery format

There are many ways to share your content with readers and choosing the right one will depend on the type of content, your digital publishing platform, your budget and your readers’ preferences, as well as your advertising revenue.

Email is a great way of distributing short news items but is not appropriate for longer reads. Platforms originally designed for hosting blogs, like WordPress, can be used to publish and easily edit content on your website. Digital magazine platforms, such as MagLoft, Issuu, and Joomag offer enhanced layout options that recreate the full magazine experience on any device. Some platforms allow you to create a dedicated app for your magazine content.

Of course, many readers still prefer magazines in print form so consider whether this would be appropriate for your readership. Paper magazines are great when you are travelling or for reading at home. Advertising is also a consideration with print.

It’s becoming easier and easier to repurpose content and deliver it via multiple channels so that your readers can choose the content they want in the format they prefer.

What about commercial success?

Advertising and sponsorship can create opportunities to generate revenue. If you can attract a high-quality readership then you have something of real value to offer providers of products and services to your sector. Advertising can take the form of display advertising in print publications or digital ads of various types ads on web or e-mail pages. Sponsorship options include paid features or webinars, microsites, or links. For some sectors, recruitment advertising can be a lucrative revenue line.

Subscription sales to non-members are also an option. Some of the most successful membership magazines have a readership that extends well beyond members, with paying subscribers making a significant contribution to the running costs.

What next?

Test your publication against the key benefits listed at the start of this article. If you aren’t meeting them all, it’s time to review your publishing strategy. The best way to do this is to get some expert help.

Maverick Publishing Services has a team of experienced publishing professionals that can support you in all facets of publishing. We advise on publishing strategies, develop and execute readership surveys, and support the selection and implementation of the best technology for delivering your digital content. We can also help devise a commercial strategy that will help the publication contribute to your bottom line. Get in touch and find out how Maverick can make your magazine or newsletter work for you, your publications, and your organization.

By Mark Purvis, Affiliate Senior Associate, Publishing and Open Access