A step-by-step look at one magazine makeover
Publications that delight their readers — those that offer fresh information in unique editorial and design packages — are the ones that stand out in this crowded marketplace.
That’s what communicators at the Saint Luke’s Hospital Foundation (Kansas City, Mo.) had in mind when they turned to Wylie Communications, Inc., to make Saint Luke’s Report more engaging and easier to produce. Here are the steps Wylie took to achieve those objectives — steps you can replicate with your own publication:
- Develop a logical issue flow
- Commit to feature-style writing
- Create multiple layers of information
- Give the magazine a face-lift
- Communicate clearly
- Get the bottom line
“A magazine is like a restaurant dinner,” says Ann Wylie, president, Wylie Communications. “A good one includes appetizers, or little nuggets of savory information; a meat-and-potatoes course, or a robust feature well; and, of course, dessert, or something short and sweet to top off the experience.”
Wylie transformed Saint Luke’s message points and coverage needs into a series of standing departments. Among them:
- Saint Luke’s Index: easy-to-read facts and stats about health care. The Index also allows the Saint Luke’s Hospital Foundation to communicate some of its successes
- Leadership in Caring: a one-page, “Dewar’s Profile”-style look at a Saint Luke’s staff member
- New & Noteworthy: a roundup of news items. New & Noteworthy helped clean up the feature well, making it the place for in-depth stories, sidebars and boxes, instead of bits and pieces of unrelated information
The results: The magazine flows more consistently, feels more like a “real” magazine, costs less to design because of the standing layouts — and is easier to plan.
“New research detailing the benefits of feature-style writing is piling up,” Wylie says. “Still, too many communicators make the mistake of sticking with the inverted pyramid, regardless of the topic, the vehicle, the audience and the frequency. Saint Luke’s Report is definitely a publication that demands strong storytelling skills to draw readers in and make them care about the issues.”
Wylie Communications’ team of award-winning writers specialize in the feature-style structure. They relish the opportunity to write compelling human-interest narratives, as they were able to do for Saint Luke’s Report.
“Handled well, presentation copy — headlines, decks, callouts, cutlines and subheads — performs three functions,” Wylie says. “It draws readers into the copy, breaks up copy so it looks easier to read and communicates even to flippers and skimmers.”
Wylie Communications writers develop presentation copy designed to achieve these three objectives for every piece they write.
Wylie Communications brought in a design firm to create an attractive, attention-getting look for the magazine.
The centerpiece of the new design: simple, full-page, black-and-white stock photographs with very subtle tints, used on the opening spread of each article as well as on the cover.
“I didn’t know whether to be more delighted that the designer came up with such an elegant, dramatic approach or that Saint Luke’s leaders were sophisticated enough to buy it,” Wylie says.
A nice side benefit: The designer’s decision to use stock photos and to use fewer photos more dramatically not only made the publication look more sophisticated, but it also reduced the photography budget.
“We were pleasantly surprised that, despite all the changes we were making in the magazine, the publication met its production schedule,” says Saint Luke’s Millard.
“We also appreciated Wylie Communications’ ‘no-surprises’ approach to the budget. Ann and her team work on a project rate, which means that if you don’t change the parameters of the project, you know to the penny what the final invoice is going to be before the project begins.”
“You really put your reputation on the line when you work with vendors,” says Saint Luke’s Millard. “If the vendor you choose doesn’t perform, that reflects on you and your organization.
“So I was extremely pleased when our executive director joined us for a one-hour debriefing meeting after we’d finished the first issue. ‘We have a real problem here,’ he said. ‘I don’t have enough time to tell you how much I like the revamped Report.'”