The Institute of Internal Communication is the only membership body for internal communicators in the UK. They have a diverse audience – a 1,400-strong group of in-house middle and senior managers; new practitioners who wish to grow their internal communications understanding and network; and creative/specialist agencies. Their member magazine Voice was launched in December 2016 and replaces the previous membership publication which was simply a short PDF newsletter. The name Voice reflects internal communicators’ work in creating opportunities for employees to have their voices heard. The magazine aims to motivate members through in-depth unbiased content about the real trends and challenges they face, and by opening them up to new ideas and insights.
Membership for the Institute has significantly increased since Voice launched, with membership revenue increasing by 35%. Member satisfaction has also greatly improved as has the IoIC’s social engagement, with followers rising sharply on Twitter in particular. As amazing period for the IoIC, all topped off with their win last month at the memcom membership excellence awards. Rightly so, the IoIC won the ‘Best Magazine Launch or Re-launch’, an award jointly held this year with the Chartered College of Teaching.
“It’s great to see the work of membership associations celebrated, as often we are organising awards for our membership so to take some time to reflect and celebrate our achievements is really important.”, Jennifer Sproul, Chief Executive, IoIC
We caught up with Jennifer this week about the strategy behind the relaunch, how it has affected reader engagement and tips for membership organisations who may be embarking on a magazine relaunch.
Q&A with Jennifer Sproul, Chief Executive, IoIC
Interview with Anna Rivers, Marketing Manager
The IoIC developed 10 editorial principles for Voice – how did you decide on these and how important were they for the relaunch?
We worked with our partners Artful Dog and the board members responsible for communications to craft these. We reviewed the content that was currently available whilst also looking at feedback from our members. Based on this we felt it was important to have principles to guide the content but also ensure we offered something different from other sources out there by looking at the good, the bad and the ugly. Often much can be learned from things that don’t go well just as much as the successes. We also wanted to encourage openness to allow our profession to improve and really learn from each other. It was essential for the principals to encourage a range of voices and experiences from across sectors and levels in order to promote a culture of collaboration and support.
You’ve widened the reach of your content through online channels, so that previous and potential IoIC members can see the enhanced value of membership and interest is piqued, whilst keeping some content for the member magazine only. How successful is this strategy proving? And how do you choose which content goes where?
A key element of our strategy was to leverage the relaunch of our magazine to grow our membership base. We wanted to ensure the magazine succeeded as a core part of the membership offering, acting as a tangible benefit to guarantee members feel they are always getting value for money. Most elements of a membership offering are typically based around face-to-face events and learning alongside the intangible importance of professional credibility, so a physical product is essential to balance this out.
We also recognised the importance of an online offering which could act as an ongoing archive of useful articles and a resource for new members that could be leveraged for our digital marketing strategy.
In relation to the balance of access, we agreed that anything from the printed magazine with extended content online would remain member only so as to not diminish the offering to members. However, some online only articles would have open access to give potential members an insight into the content we are producing.
In addition, we have opened the access for specific articles – for example our feature on mental health – to coincide with particular social media campaigns like #mentalhealthawareness. By linking this to our marketing, it helps to raise awareness of IoIC and also clearly demonstrates the support our profession offers in these important topics. The digital noise around content, whilst retaining some member exclusivity, is inspiring readers into taking up IoIC membership as they want to be part of the conversation.
One of your reader testimonials includes ‘the inclusion of perspectives and voices from outside our discipline is an enhancement.’ – can you please offer any insight into this editorial strategy and how it adds to reader engagement?
As I mentioned above, the mix of voices and perspectives is an important part of our editorial strategy. Our membership of internal communicators often plays the role of being the voice for employees in the organisation, hence the title ‘Voice’. Also, many internal communicators can be in small or singular teams so are really looking for places to learn and hear from other professionals across varying sectors to glean ideas and see what is or is not working well.
It’s really important to us, in terms of engagement, to drive our core value of community and also encourage members to share their thoughts and comments through other channels which, in turn, helps to raise the profile of IoIC and internal communication.
Do you have any tips for membership organisations who may be embarking on a magazine relaunch?
My tips would be:
-Listen to your membership and what they need, not just in terms of content but support
-Consider the content access balance carefully and don’t give away everything
-Have strategies which enable content to come from firm principles to ensure they add value, fresh perspectives and practical advice
– Link your print and digital strategies to ensure they support each other