In May 2017 AMBA’s member magazine Ambition was awarded Best Online Magazine in the MemCom Membership Excellence Awards. Here, David Woods-Hale, Head Of Editorial at the Association of MBAs (AMBA) shares some important learnings and insights.
We launched the online magazine just over a year ago, so it’s been a busy 12 months in developing the product. Previously the organisation had published ad hoc printed newsletters for members in the UK, but as our membership has grown to more than 20,000 people in 150 different countries, we knew we had to be able to provide something accessible for everyone and so took the decision to launch a digital magazine.
The team at AMBA are constantly devising new ways to innovate when it comes to publishing and we know we have a long way to go to enhance our editorial strategy even further, but I wanted to share some learnings from the first year of our journey into digital publishing.
1. Have a unique selling point for your magazine
The media landscape is busy and crowded and your members will be consuming a vast amount of media on a daily basis. Make sure your membership magazine cuts through the noise, offering readers something original that they couldn’t find elsewhere. The temptation can exist to pack your magazine with news about your upcoming events or promote your services. While there is a place for this, it’s really important to add value to your membership proposition through your magazine.
Ambition focuses on AMBA’s mission around Careers (offering advice and guidance to help MBAs enhance their career prospects), Awareness (providing MBA level thought leadership and expert knowledge on the trends and issues impacting business, promoting ethics and responsible management) and Network (building a global and powerful force for good across the global MBA community, connecting like-minded individuals together to collaborate and share ideas). By making sure we include these themes throughout the issue and when commissioning content, we can always make sure the magazine is adding value to our members.
2. Listen to your members and never forget your magazine belongs to them
At AMBA we’re very aware that the publication belongs to our members. We’re constantly asking them to suggest people they’d like to see interviewed, put forward article ideas and comment on the features that we’ve included.
This is what will differentiate your member magazine from others in the market, because your members will give you focused and honest feedback, allowing you to offer them something unique and different. It also nurtures a sense of ownership among members and lets them feel responsible for the publication and that it’s something they can be proud of.
This year is AMBA’s 50th Anniversary and we’ve dubbed 2017 ‘The Year of the MBA’ and we’re including 50 MBA stories – based on interviews with 50 graduates in roles including entrepreneurial start-ups, public sector, charities and corporates – and members have really enjoyed sharing their thoughts with others. This has also boosted reader engagement.
3. Try out multi-media
We’ve made several video interviews with commentators and included them on the editorial pages. This adds an extras dimension when viewing the magazine, and means readers are able to choose how they would prefer to consume content.
Since the videos are hosted in the magazine’s pages, it also means members are staying on the magazine platform for longer, which boosts our engagement figures.
4. Connect the dots
We’ve been experimenting with connecting the magazine to social media, forums and blogs – all associated with content that’s in current issues of Ambition. This encourages readers to interact or visit our website for more insight. This means that between issues of the magazine being released, our members can keep up to date with more breaking content, join forums on our website about Ambition features and keep the conversation going. It means that Ambition, in the eyes of our readers, has become more than a monthly magazine, but a stream of content, which keeps them interested and engaged throughout the course of the year.
5. Engage your whole organisation
It’s really important that everyone in the organisation feels that they are a part of the process of creating an online magazine and that it’s not just the domain of the comms team. By circulating schedules, synopses and plans with the whole organisation, all the departments at AMBA have felt responsible for helping source commentators, write articles, suggest features ideas, build a network and promote the magazine when they’ve been in meetings. We’ve worked really hard as a team to collaborate and make Ambition a discernible brand, rather than a series of online communications and our editorial strategy is something everyone feels a part of.
This adds so much value to members, because every time they interact with someone from the AMBA team, they can share feedback and suggestions and these are always passed directly to the editorial team.”