25 February 2016

What’s in a (membership magazine) name?

Membership magazines have been around for as long as professional bodies. They remain the most effective content marketing vehicle in your promotional mix with an average level of engagement of 48 minutes per issue*. But have you ever wondered whether yours has got the right name; the right brand?

What’s in a membership magazine name? What should it (and its content) help you to achieve? What does it say about your organisation?

In discussions with many professional bodies, I get asked, “shouldn’t we have our name in our magazine title?” The likes of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers does, with CIBSE Journal; as does the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, with its new IOSH Magazine. What great brand awareness, profile raising and reinforcement of member benefit when these publications land on members’ desks or doormats. Big brands do it too, see Waitrose Food; Audi Magazine and M&S Magazine for just a few examples. If it’s right for them with their vast marketing budgets, it must be the way to go for you too, right? But actually these eponymous titles are in the minority. Why is that?

1. Competing with media owners and the desire to make a profit from the magazine (or at least get it to pay for itself)

Consumer brands recognise their magazines as the powerful content marketing tools that they are. They invest in them to help boost loyalty and sales. Those of us in the professional body world share those objectives, but have always had a desire for our magazines to be valuable membership benefits and profitable, market-leading media brands too. We ask a lot of them. As a result, more outward-facing magazine titles have been coined to help us compete with media owners for advertising revenues and readers, titles such as: The Actuary, magazine of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries; Public Finance, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy, and FM World, the British Institute of Facilities Management. These titles that don’t refer to the parent professional body are far more common. Perhaps because we feel we can be more overtly commercial with a magazine brand than a professional body brand.

2. Appeal to stakeholders or prospects beyond membership

There is evidence that an outward-looking title helps the professional body to engage with stakeholders or prospects beyond membership, rather than just talking to the already converted, so helping with outreach and membership acquisition. Being one step removed from the professional body and delivering great content helps to capture the imagination of individuals who, perhaps, hadn’t previously considered membership to your organisation or attendance at your conference etc. If you have ways of identifying the individuals engaging with your magazine branded content and what they are interested in, you can then target them with professional body offers.

So which way is right? Professional body brand in the title or not? Shakespeare’s Juliet may have argued that a “rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, but when it comes to your membership magazine, the name can make a difference. Of course, there are arguments for and against an eponymous title, so it’s worth considering what, realistically, you want your magazine  to achieve. If you know that, we know what to call it.


*Based on aggregate research on 15 membership magazines published by Redactive

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