Brand Smart

Last week, I received some fantastic news. The book I spent all of last summer editing was finally completed and printed. And on the inside, there it was: my name, right underneath the title.

“Compiled by Kayla Smull and Rachel Schnalzer

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But let’s rewind. After working as a Books Editorial Intern during Summer 2013, I was invited back to the Books division of Rodale, Inc. for the following summer, but with a very different focus than the introductory level work I had done the previous summer. Instead of helping all of the editors with a broad range of editorial tasks, my job this time would be editing and compiling an entire book independently. The book would eventually be titled First for Women Smart Solutions and include over 1,806 tips and tricks with topics ranging from housekeeping to cleaning to beauty to pets. An important aspect of the book is its connection to ultra-successful news stand magazine First for Women, a lifestyle magazine for the modern woman. Therein lies the secret to the book’s success. There’s plenty of books with tips geared towards women. There’s only one book affiliated with the powerful First for Women brand.

Throughout my time at Rodale, I learned the importance of branding when it comes to ensuring a book’s success. A regular diet book may do well, but a diet book that is Women’s Health branded will do exponentially better. Business minded publications such as Forbes often tout the necessity of branding when planning for success. In this blog post by Scott Goodson, he explains, “When Four Seasons Hotels, Inc., a Canadian-based international luxury, five-star hotel management company, sold itself to Bill Gates and and Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia for $3.8 billion what did they buy? Locations? Restaurants? Staff? Beach front property? No they bought the brand . . . Branding is fundamental. Branding is basic. Branding is essential. Building brands builds incredible value for companies and corporations.” With this quote in mind, it makes perfect sense why a Women’s Health, Men’s Health, or Runner’s World branded book would perform much better than a book about simply health or running with no brand attached.

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Take a look at the screen shot of the promotion for First for Women Smart Solutions above. The bright colors and bold designs of the cover and promotional materials perfectly match the First for Women brand. This is just one of the important ways in which First for Women Smart Solutions stays on brand and in sync with the First for Women name. Brands simply carry more weight and so, if possible, it helps when a book is able to carry a brand as well. It is for this reason that I am grateful to have been assigned to edit a book such as First for Women Smart Solutions. I know that the content of the book is excellent, but how would the target audience know that? The answer: branding. With the First for Women brand to back up the quality, unique information in the book, the target audience is immediately drawn in, a recipe for success.

Keeping it Local

“Print is dying.”

For regional newspapers and publications across the US, this statement seems to be unfortunately correct. Every week another local newspaper closes up shop for good, just another nail in the coffin, another brick in the wall spelling the end of days for traditional newspapers as we know them. Perhaps interest in reading inky pages detailing relevant albeit often mundane information about one’s home city has simply dwindled away. And up until recently, I assumed this trend applied to local magazines as well, another facet of the publishing industry ready to fall victim to changing times and fickle audiences.

But maybe I was wrong.

Just a few weeks ago, I began working at Baltimore, my city’s local magazine. Until I sat down to prepare for my interview just a few months ago, I hadn’t heard much about the magazine. Sure, I knew of its existence, but not much else. However,  the last three weeks working as an Editorial Intern at Baltimore have offered me new insights not only into this magazine, but city magazines as a whole. To be honest, at first I was surprised by Baltimore‘s bustling hallways and high morale…not always what you think of when you imagine local publications in this struggling economy. But somehow, Baltimore has been able to grow extensively while similar publications have faded just as quickly. How can Baltimore perform so well when other publications suffer so badly in the industry today? Well after a couple weeks working for the magazine, here are some ways in which Baltimore seems to position itself on the road for success.

-Target the youth: Baltimore gets a really bad rap, sometimes even from its own inhabitants. But really, Baltimore is an up and coming place. According to the Christian Science Monitor, Baltimore is “a city that is full of other young professionals – and attracting more every month. There is a vibrant bar and restaurant scene, social sports leagues through which hundreds of young people get together to play kickball and other games, even a monthly bike ride” Translation: Young people are flocking to Baltimore and are excited to get to know their city.  Baltimore targets these young people by ensuring the magazine is innovative and fresh, with fun, youthful content to boot.

-In-Touch Graphics: Nobody is going to pick up a magazine that looks dated. Instead, thenextweb.com suggests that “staying up to date on the latest design trends” is a surefire way to stay relevant and desirable in the publishing industry today. And Baltimore’s art department does a great job. Check out the December 2014’s front cover design below. It’s been a while since I’ve seen such a fresh, creative cover on a news-stand magazine.

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-Have a strong digital presence: In the digital age, it’s important “that your digital content is quality content,” according again to thenextweb.com. And Baltimore accomplishes this with flying colors. See the screenshot of baltimoremagazine.net below. Notice how its look rivals national and international publications.  Not only that, but the content is more useful than general articles geared to a wide section of the population. Instead, it features fun weekend plans for the people of Baltimore, a niche previously unfilled in the city.

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-Create a human connection: Who doesn’t like feeling special? Not many people see their name or their friends’ names in print in major magazines but in Baltimore, that’s a different story. By profiling leading community members, Baltimore offers readers a chance to connect more deeply with their city. And often, readers may recognize someone they know within the magazine’s pages. For instance, the February issue profiled the city’s hottest singles, dozens of every-day, up-and-comers in Baltimore. And then, the magazine threw a giant party with the profiled singles at Pazo, a Harbor East restaurant, where readers could buy tickets to come socialize with other singles, conveniently the weekend before Valentine’s Day. What better way to foster community readership than by connecting readers over cocktails?

Clearly, Baltimore has figured a way to not only stay afloat but actually succeed as a local publication in Baltimore City. There’s a lot of knowledge to be gained by studying the case of this magazine and similarly profitable cities magazines. Perhaps most evident is that although regional newspapers have suffered over the past years, all is not lost. If magazines offer content that is innovative and inspired, appear fresh and youthful, grow a strong digital presence, connect personally with their audience, and most importantly, keep it local, they won’t just survive within the publishing industry, but also thrive.