Expert Insights Into Planning Your Company Magazine

I’m sitting in the local clinic’s waiting room facing magazine racks on the wall. Most of the magazines offered aren’t ones I subscribe to at home. So, what catches my eye, prompting me to pick it up and start reading?


Men’s Health offers to help me “Build a Back of Steel.” Hmm. So this magazine seems to know why I’m visiting the doctor today! On the Better Homes and Gardens cover, I’m encouraged to grow veggies in pots. Iowa Sportsman offers “5 Rules of Catfishing that Should Be Broken.” Meanwhile, a striking visual on the cover of TIME promises I’ll discover “How To Stay Married (and why).” So what’s my choice? That depends on my interests, doesn’t it?

Answer the “So What” Question

If you decide to offer your customers a magazine, they will receive it because your products or services dovetail with some of their interests…but likely not all. So your cover has to tempt them to start reading.

Cover blurbs represent a carefully thought-out strategy meant to keep the recipient from sending the magazine straight to recycling. Content writing services employ experts who create cover blurbs and corresponding interior content that work to answer my old magazine professor’s pivotal question: “So what?”

Do I care enough about catfishing to discover the rules I ought to break? Do the creators of Iowa Sportsman care enough about their readers to assure their story actually provides five legitimately useful thoughts on catfishing? Otherwise it’s all “So what?”

Plan to do it again and again—an editorial calendar will help get you organized.

Answering “So what?” once isn’t enough. Your magazine needs to catch your customers’ interest again and again. Can you deliver several stories every issue containing at least a nugget of information readers will value?

Your starting point should be an editorial calendar (pssssttttt—get your FREE editorial calendar template here!). Let’s pick up that issue of Better Homes and Gardens (BHG). BHG editors already know what stories they should be researching for a year from now. (I know this because I used to work for Successful Farming in the same building.) Their veggies-in-pots story this spring was part of an April gardening focus that included everything from choosing plants to growing strategies to recipes using tiny tomatoes and a pretty article on garden design. That’s a single-themed roundup of every typical BHG topic.stack-of-mags

Take a minute to think how you could link all of your departments in a magazine issue with a single seasonal theme. Or don’t. The important idea here is mapping a year-long strategy. Keep the editorial calendar in front of you and remember you’re watching for valuable content ideas that will fill each category. Using one topic or another, your magazine should offer your readers three basic elements: information, inspiration and motivation.

Information comes easy. It’s what you’re accustomed to providing in your newsletter, on your website and during customer meetings.

Inspiration? That’s what a magazine format was born to accomplish! With room for more profiles, tips, customer comments and photos, plus bigger headlines, you can help customers see your company in the best light.

Motivation flows from a smartly conceived, well-executed magazine story that puts your reader in the picture, too. Motivation leads to innovation which can lead to sales and loyalty.

Just can’t find the words?

Once you put your editorial targets in writing, you can match those objectives with possible content. At this point, bring more people into your process. Look at the topic ideas on your editorial calendar, then ask department heads who can best tell a story keyed to that specific topic on your calendar. They might suggest inside experts, outside experts, suppliers or—best of all from a magazine reader’s viewpoint—a customer with a personal viewpoint.

reading-magazine-2With your editorial calendar fleshed out, I suggest you turn the project over to content writing specialists and designers. They’ll work to assure your information provides inspiration and motivation.

Depth and organization is the ultimate remedy for the “So What”question. A magazine format offers elbow room to expand on a topic and really showcase your organization. Plan long-term to take full advantage of all the possibilities.