Size is important when it comes to making members feel your society offers something valuable. Too big, and they feel lost in a vast sea of people and ideas. Too small, and the world becomes narrow and limiting: the same faces keep pushing the same perspectives at the same meetings. Eventually, everyone has heard it all before, so what’s the point in staying connected?
The answer is to be both big and small. To be broad enough to satisfy members whose work changes emphasis or direction, or just want to hear what’s going on in related fields, and at the same time offer services that relate to specific sub-groups.
The benefits of this kind of multi-level approach are obvious: improved member loyalty and interaction, a channel for targeting products and services, and a mechanism for focusing efforts in new, emerging topics where you have not previously had a presence.
Until now, however, this kind of approach has come with both a hefty price-tag and a high-level of risk. Sub-group publications often wax and wane depending on the talents, energy, and interests of volunteer editors. This can be incredibly frustrating for readers who may be left waiting weeks, months, or years for their promised newsletter.
Worse, they often find that when it does arrive it contains little or no technical meat for them to sink their teeth into, containing only ‘community news’ about people they have no reason to care about. Either that, or it’s been hijacked by a particular interest group. Or, the ‘magazine’ has turned into yet another journal. Or the writing is so poor that they can’t figure out what’s going on. Or…
Most of these problems can be circumvented by having professional editors work with the volunteers to commission, collect, edit, layout, proof, and deliver the right material. It’s not just about finding the right people with the right expertise to do the commissioning and editing: you have to support them administratively, you need someone to do layout, and—on top of that—you need to think about printing and mailing costs if it's a hard-copy publication.
If this sounds like too expensive a proposition, it probably is: if you plan to do it yourself. Most organizations don’t want, and couldn’t justify having, a dedicated staff working on publications that will only ever be seen by a fraction of the membership.
But we have the technical and editorial skills, plus a proprietary IT system, that allow us to do it all for you: including contacting your members to find out what kind of articles they want to see. And we can do this for what we believe is a price that no in-house team could get close to.
Most people today have plenty of work to do: they don't need more chores, especially administrative ones, from the technical/professional society that is supposed to be serving them. This is most common reason why specialist publications fail: because they are small, the specialists themselves are expected to produce them and they simply don't have the time.
We realized this many years ago and have developed a system that allows us to get the creative input from conference chairs and other senior society members without making them do the work.
This is ideal for everyone. Senior members feel a sense of ownership of the publication and can shape its content without the burden of dealing with production issues: plus they get clear credit for their work through Editorial and Advisory Board acknowledgements. Ordinary members get professionally produced publications specifically tailored to their interests, as guaged by their representatives.
And the society knows that they can count on the articles flowing in week after month after year. This is not just for one specialist area, but for all of them.
If you've ever been involved with a publication redesign/relaunch, you'll know just how expensive and time-consuming it can be. While change is inevitable and necessary, this kind of extreme disruption is not. To this end, our systems are designed to easily adapt to the shifts in technical interest, progress in information technology, and rebranding exercises.
If staff or members decide that there is a new hot topic in which the society should have a presence, the integrated nature of our system means we can simply start commissioning in that area right away. Or we can join converging topics together. Or we can split out a burgeoning field into subtopics. All without any major 'redesign'.
Likewise, we will deliver whatever electronic format your members need to have. Today it's mobile-compatible websites with video, RSS feeds, social-media sharing, and PDF files for those who want something to keep. Tomorrow, who knows. Rest assured that, whatever's coming, our developers are working on having it ready to go as soon as it's needed (if not before).