Adapting your magazine in a changing market

Dietetics Today (DT) is the magazine of the British Dietetic Association (BDA) and includes technical and CPD content, plus member-led stories focusing on workplace challenges and opportunities and training. The BDA represents the professional, educational, public and workplace interests of members who represent a diverse dietetic workforce, from practitioners, researchers, educators to support workers and students.

The BDA wanted to understand about how its members were feeling about DT, having sensed it may have been at risk of losing ground to comparable titles in its market. The BDA decided to use an external perspective to get this ‘cold read’ on DT’s reader satisfaction and what the magazine needed to do more or less of in order to maintain its value and support the status of the BDA among its membership.

Member research showed opportunities for change

“At least half the people in my department say they barely look at it, which I think is a shame because we’re paying for it and it should be a valued piece of information,” so said one respondent to some custom research Century One undertook on DT.

This was a key theme that emerged from the research: members were ready to value DT more given the chance. The research suggested DT could consolidate it’s standing among members when compared with other sector titles if it had an editorial vision that more closely matched the BDA’s strategic purpose. That purpose is to “to promote health and wellbeing by leading the profession, educating healthcare professionals and the public, advancing science and practice, and developing and influencing policy.”

We needed to clearly define an editorial vision to help deliver on this main objective and help secure DT’s future success.

This vision would centre on including more clinical content in ways that worked for member, reflecting this insight from the BDA’s Strategic Plan 2015-2018:  “In today’s National Health Service, our profession faces some extraordinary challenges…it is essential for us all to work together so that we continue to drive the demand for our profession and ensure our stakeholders acknowledge us as a credible and visionary profession.”

The research showed any reimagined DT would need to work harder to reflect the breadth of the membership, making good on the importance of diversity to the BDA. As Sue Kellie, BDA Deputy Chief Executive told Century One:  “We need to reflect diversity in the fullest sense – including how our professionals work in media and communications, clinical practices, different settings – and value that diversity and how we all make a contribution

Deeper editorial analysis

Following on from the research, the BDA commissioned a detailed Content MOT to translate the direction of travel the initial research suggested into recommendations for a relaunched DT. Specifically, the objectives of the Content MOT on DT was to:

• marry the research findings with a revised editorial proposal

• assess the running order of the magazine

• influence a design brief to reflect the editorial strategy

• provide suggestions and guidance on new regular features

• address questions on the depth of clinical content and member information

• develop stories to reflect the different stakeholder sub groups within the BDA

• assess and suggest improvements to sectioning within the magazine.

Editorial to maintain member loyalty

One of the most urgent recommendations on the new editorial vision were to bear in mind an over-arching set of editorial ‘rules’ for DT. These would be:

• For every piece of content that goes on page, ask ‘How does this support the BDA’s central aims’ and ‘How can we present this in a way that more strongly supports the BDA’s aims’. The idea is to introduce strong discipline on content curation, headlines and to feed into the redesign considerations, the team always asking, “What can we do to make a story stand out and encourage more action/engagement against the BDA’s core purpose?”

• To plug in diversity of the membership when commissioning, creating or curating content for DT.

• To make BDA’s role as a champion of a visionary profession evident ‘from Welcome to the last page’.

Putting the new vision into action

To bring the editorial vision to life and reflect what the research showed members wanted from DT, Century One’s editorial strategist suggested a wide range of detailed recommendations. These included:

• stronger use of infographics, charts and tables in technical features to bring the look and feel closer to what readers wanted and expected and to make absorbing clinical insight easier

• regular features, in predictable spots, to give sections of the magazine clearer identities and an intuitive navigation/flow, including a potential split between a ‘member zone’ including all news, BDA updates, member-focused stories, and a ‘CPD zone’ which would include all CPD articles

• more clearly-badged CPD articles, including articles measuring outcomes and dietetic effectiveness to better meet the expectation of valuable insight and speak to the BDA’s aim on advancing science and practice

• more ‘working life’ articles where members share how they have overcome challenges and progressed in their careers, with direction on how readers could do the same

• to reflect the diversity of BDA members, include box outs or flashes throughout which are tailored to different specialties

• regular thought leadership pieces to articulate the BDA’s views, demonstrating how it is stamping its authority on the news and public policy agendas

• greater discipline around signposting to make it easier for readers to continue the conversations and learnings started on-page. This includes clearer calls to action on directing readers to relevant social media, finding out more from online resources, networking with other members at events or registering for a training course, for example.

• more regular and engaging references to policy and media insights that demonstrate the BDA’s championing role.

An ongoing journey to maintain relevance

The design team worked with the new editorial strategy to reinvigorate the design with the use of improved and more valuable, attention grabbing content.  The revised version of DT was put in place in October 2018.

But we don’t see the story ending there.  The impact of these changes will be reassessed in 12 months’ time through research and the strategy will continue to evolve to move with members and the BDA’s strategic goals.

If you think we can help your membership comms better compete against disrupters and challenger titles, get in touch.

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