Producing an in-house agriculture magazine is a challenge. Producing an in-house magazine that represents five organizations is nearly impossible. When CHS Ag Services, Northwest Grain, CHS Salol Elevators, Mid Valley Grain, and Agri Valley conceived the idea to create a magazine together, they knew they needed a professional ag marketing partner who was up to the challenge of producing the publication. The general managers of these five CHS affiliated cooperatives wanted to strengthen outreach to their grower-owners and show unity throughout the CHS cooperative system. They knew that sharing the messages of five companies jointly, as one voice, would be an overwhelming task to manage internally. VistaComm was ready and willing to partner with CHS to accomplish this venture.
“There are other companies out there that do magazines such as this. We visited with them, but in the end, people were really comfortable with how VistaComm works and how they bring the stories together.” said Northwest Grain general manager DuWayne Thompson. “It’s the effort VistaComm puts forth in getting our stories together–they make it so easy! You don’t have to write the article, they do that for you. You just need to have the information prepared. The VistaComm journalist does the interview with you and makes it so easy, which is important. It’s a big effort to put a magazine together, and if it was dropped on someone’s shoulder here, I don’t think we would ever get it accomplished.”
The first step in producing a quality magazine is getting organized. The VistaComm publishing team met with CHS cooperative management to lay out a strategy and set timelines to ensure that the publication’s first issue would be a success. The planning session gave everyone involved a chance to share their ideas for article topics and design elements. Proper planning gave the magazine a purpose and promoted buy-in from all involved. “We wanted to make sure that we were touching as many people as possible with relevant information. In our collaborative effort with VistaComm, they are on track with us and understand what our mission is for the magazine,” said DuWayne. “Because they understand our mission, they are able to help us drive and execute getting that relevant information out. This helps us be proactive with our growers and customers. It also helps us put a little shine on our businesses and how our customers view us.”
After a plan was in place, the VistaComm journalist went on-site for interviews and photos. “VistaComm journalists make the interviews so easy, and they write the article for you so you don’t have to.” DuWayne went on to say, “You also don’t have to worry about all the editing. Their general knowledge and understanding of our industry is also a big help. They know the right questions to ask to get a great article. That’s what really makes VistaComm shine.”
While the VistaComm journalist is conducting interviews and writing stories, other members of the VistaComm team are busy managing advertising sales and developing the design for the magazine. DuWayne stated, “There’s so much that VistaComm does for us as we go through the process of creating our magazine. We don’t see the process as it’s actually happening, but we know it’s getting done. I think the process is good.”
After the ads were sold, the stories were written, and the magazine was laid out, CHS management was provided two rounds of client proofs for review. Finally, VistaComm mailed out the inaugural issue of CHS Northland Partners, on time and on budget.
Once the magazine hit mailboxes, the results were clear. “Our associates and members really like what they got in the first issue. They liked the stories that came from CHS, and they liked the idea that we got five partners working in a unified way. Yet, we are individuals and, in many ways, we compete against each other. Because of that, they thought this magazine was pretty neat. They thought all the stories were pertinent and applied to them. I’ve had nothing but good comments about the magazine.” DuWayne was also excited about the feedback he received from his customers, “Depending on which customer and what story they related to, it brought clarity to them on whatever the issue was. For instance, John McEnroe’s article on what CHS is, how each of our entities are connected to CHS, and bringing the brand of CHS out to the country, helped them to connect the dots a lot better.”
DuWayne has high expectations for the future of the CHS Northland Partners magazine. “I am hopeful that the Northland Partners will bring relevant information to our patron base and bring our business owners closer together. I hope that we work closer together in a partnership and in a united effort. I know each one of us has our own personality–and CHS treasures that and wants to nurture it–but I hope there is a way to work together and yet be individuals. Today, we miss out on a lot of synergies because we are individuals.”
Working jointly through the Northland Partners publication has given these CHS affiliated cooperatives one voice. It has strengthened the CHS brand and promoted the cooperative system. Through unity, these cooperatives have fortified their relationship with their members and established a sense of pride in all CHS associates.
Want to strengthen the cooperative system and reach out to growers in your region? Find out how VistaComm can make it happen, call 866-752-7707.