Profile Piece: The relaunch editor who inspired a community

To the IMechE, 14 December 2018: “I have read the December issue of Professional Engineering and am so impressed by the content that I would like to rescind my letter of resignation.”

 

The 2019 memcom ‘Editor of the Year’ was awarded to Amit Katwala – an editor who inspired a community of engineers, overseeing the relaunch of a magazine and web channel with astounding success.

 

Amit – previously features editor – took over as editor of Professional Engineering and Professional Engineering Online at a time of profound change. The Professional Engineering team had just migrated to a new publisher, Think Publishing, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers was going through its own leadership changes and its members were unsettled.

Within a few months of guardianship, in September 2018, Amit delivered a modern, focused, new Professional Engineering. The relaunched magazine, as well as Professional Engineering Online, exceeded client and reader expectations – and is embarking on an exciting phase of commercial innovation.

 

Here are the four steps Amit took on his journey as relaunch editor…

 

Step 1: The right content for a complex audience

The 50K+ readers of Professional Engineering work across the engineering spectrum, from aerospace to environment, power to process. One of the biggest challenges was to balance the requirements of this varied profession alongside the needs of the client stakeholders.

Amit realised the secret to keeping readers engaged: bring together content that satisfies their sector-specific needs along with accessible, forward-thinking reporting that encourages them to explore new themes.

While many IMechE members embrace the future, many were accustomed to the old version of the magazine. Amit had to be careful to move forward at the right pace – go too slow and the new magazine would risk irrelevance; move too quickly, and some readers might feel left behind. The feedback suggested Amit and Joseph Flaig (his deputy) had struck the right chord.

“Congratulations on a much-improved magazine that is interesting, readable and treats its readers more like technically literate grown-ups” wrote one member.

 

Step 2: Work to a structure

Amit’s diverse interests came into play as the relaunch took shape. His feel for the media translated into a clean, modern magazine design with new, reader-focused regulars and reinvigorated sections:

 

  • ‘From Birdcage Walk’: For the first time, Amit encouraged the IMechE leadership to communicate with members at the start of every issue. This connects members with the work of their organisation.

Objective fulfilled: Inform opinion. REMOVE THE OBJECTIVES?

 

  • ‘Reaction’: Snappy and direct, the Reaction section takes a long view at ongoing stories in engineering. Recognising engineers’ busy schedules, Amit introduced shorter regulars such as ‘The 10’ (10 biggest recent stories in 10 words or fewer).

Objectives fulfilled: Inform opinion and encourage innovation.

 

  • ‘Features’: Amit modernised feature formats, with more ‘listicle’-style stories – perfect for articles covering disparate technologies; and more expert contributions, giving cutting-edge insight.

Objectives fulfilled: Inform opinion, encourage innovation and promote engineers.

 

  • ‘Industry Pulse’: A new section that addresses one hot story from each IMechE sub-sector – a super-smart way to keep everyone happy!

Objectives fulfilled: Inform opinion, encourage innovation, develop engineers and promote engineers.

 

  • ‘Supercharge’: This section reflects Amit’s commitment to helping readers progress. Senior engineers share job tips and experience. By inviting input from employers, ‘Supercharge’ has also made the magazine more attractive for advertisers.

Objective fulfilled: Develop engineers.

 

  • ‘Weird Engineering’: This new page taps into engineers’ fascination with the eccentric and unconventional. It shows how members are central to Amit’s vision for the magazine and has been welcomed by readers.

Objectives fulfilled: Encourage engineers and encourage innovation.

 

At last! A magazine that is entertaining, inspiring and informative” – IMechE member

 

Step 3: Don’t be afraid to be technical

The evidence came through in reader surveys, web analytics and direct feedback: these are sophisticated readers and they want even more technical content. Amit tackled this head-on, commissioning often challenging material from specialists – but editing and delivering it in a modern, accessible way.

“At last, a magazine worth reading. The magazine of the last few years had become so bland and boring I was in despair and considered cancelling. The revised magazine has come back to engineering for geeks – which is what most engineers are! I was especially amused by the back page, Weird Engineering” – IMechE member

 

Step 4: Stand for something

More than anything under Amit’s leadership, Professional Engineering and Professional Engineering Online are now focused on the future and tackle global stories:

21 Global Problems, 21 Inspiring Solutions. Engineers are leading the fight against the world’s biggest problems, including climate change, plastic waste and unsustainable energy use. The relaunch issue led with an exclusive analysis of the UK’s most innovative engineering companies.

The Great British Space Age. Amit championed this ‘out-there’ feature. This is proper journalism that required site visits and coverage of numerous innovative space companies. The result: a complete overview of the industry that’s prompted exclusive stories from Oxford Space Systems and Skyrora.

IMechE pioneers. The new Professional Engineering celebrates IMechE members such as one whose solar-powered fridges protect harvests in developing countries. In an industry where only 11% of professional engineers are women, Amit is committed to promoting diversity. This is reflected in a wide pool of contributors and commentators.

 

Three signs the strategy is working…

  • The client at the IMechE is thrilled
  • Reader engagement is on the up. With a lean team, online page views were up 3.15% in 2018, with a 2.35% lower bounce rate
  • Amit has big future plans, including roundtable events, story-specific reader surveys, and a look at the 35 most promising engineers under 35 years old

Plans are underway for the 2020 memcom membership excellence awards and entry will open in the Autumn. In the meantime, please sign up to our newsletter for the latest membership sector insights and updates and offers from memcom.