Topic finding in the customer magazine – for beginners (and professionals)

Your web presence is up-to-date and mobile capabilities. The product catalog is up to date and professionally produced. But you have not dared to make a customer magazine yet? Although it should be a strategically important element in your communication. Why, as Heike Discher puts it in her blog post “What makes the print so valuable” convincing.

But you think too many reasons speak against a magazine. Because…

  • … we do not have enough topics for a magazine.
  • … our customers already know everything about us.
  • … we always have to tell the same thing.
  • … everything important is on the website and in the catalog.

If that’s your case, then I have good news for you: It’s not true! And I’ll show you step by step way.

Thesis 1: We do not have enough topics for a customer magazine.

If this objection were correct, there would be magazines in Germany neither at the kiosk nor in the companies. The fact is: in 2015, according to the Association of German Magazine Publishers ( VDZ ), around 1,600 consumer magazines were published. And almost 33 million Germans read magazines several times a week, reports the statistics portal statistic.

The Allensbacher Markt- und Werbeträgeranalyse (AWA) 2016 showed that interest in magazines also extends to corporate publications. Five of the ten fastest growing print magazines in Germany belong to this category, according to the specialist portal cpwissen.

But what distinguishes successful customer magazines? The business journalist and author Bettina Blaß sums it up with a buzzword: utility.

You create this value by focusing not on your product or service, but on the reader’s interest. Means: Do not choose your topics primarily from the point of view, which – superficially – helps your sales. Think about what is important and interesting for the reader.

At first glance this may be hard to swallow – after all, the magazine should help strengthen your business. But the reader knows no mercy: He is not interested in another advertising brochure. And what he does not care about, he puts aside.

But how do you find out what is important to the reader? How do you get to the topics?

A few suggestions:

  • Barbara Hallmann from the Deutscher Journalistenkolleg has a suggestion that is as simple as it is good: ask your family and your circle of friends and acquaintances. What would people like to know about your industry and your business?
  • Listen in to your business. Feel your customer advisors, the service team, the salespeople and hotline employees on the tooth: What do customers ask? What one wants to know interests many others as well.
  • Take a look at similar magazines and magazines – certainly those of the competitors! Read them critically with the glasses of an outsider, not an insider: What do you like, what not? What could be done better? What is missing? Here, too, ask outsiders for their opinion.
  • Do not think about the product “around the product”.
  • Set communication goals so as not to lose focus when selecting topics. Stephan Tiersch has explained in his two-part blog post “Why many communication goals are not” in detail how to proceed here.
  • Talk about people, not about machines – or if, then about people on the machines …
  • Whether they are PR or marketing colleagues or outsiders, they need people who stay on the ball, who regularly tap into topics and follow them on. Set up an editorial office to collect and coordinate contributions and ideas. How often the round comes together, of course, depends on how often your magazine should appear. A well-made magazine that comes out three times a year is better than one that appears every month but is bloodless.

Thesis 2: Our customers already know everything about us.

You know your industry, know about new products and background information. But your customer does not have this expertise. He does not have to. He does not want. He wants to have the secure feeling of being in good hands in your company, with your employees, your products or services. The magazine aims to create an emotional bond with the help of good stories.

How do you find these stories? The following questions will help you:

  • How is your product made? Let the reader look over your shoulder.
  • Are there any new trends? What do you make of it? Make an assessment. An important help for your customers. Because you are the expert.
  • What experiences have customers had with your company/products? Let her tell.
  • Who and how are your employees? The youngest, the oldest, the most dedicated …
  • Is the company socially engaged? In sports? For children? For nature?
  • How do you keep up with the training? Further education? Training?

Thesis 3: We can not always tell the same thing.

Themes never stop. Be it new technology, new developments, new trends: the topic may remain the same – but not the story. Staying on the ball is, therefore, a must for you or your editorial team.

A few tips on how to do this:

  • Google Alert, for example, keeps you up to date. Just enter a search term there. This research tool then sends you a notification by e-mail if there is something new about your term on the internet.
  • You can also rely on other search engines when searching for topics and content on the Internet. I admit: Google is probably our favorite search site. But changing perspective can sometimes be helpful. An overview of 25 search engines and how they work, for example, provides the magazine t3n.
  • When it comes to industry knowledge, specialist forums are suitable for topic search. When it comes to finding out what (potential) customers are saying, evaluating social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Google + and more. helpful. Ideal, of course, if own channels are available. They offer the possibility of market research live.
  • How professionals, that is journalists, research topics, read in the blog article of Mechthild Wachter “Why Googling is still no research. “

Thesis 4: Everything important is on the website and in the catalog.

The magazine has a completely different task. It is more than another information channel. It should also entertain, provide stimulus and benefit, draw a picture of the company. Serve the reader in the magazine interesting, funny, curious, useful and human around your company, your products, your customers and employees, about trends and news.

“Print is perceived as more valuable than digital,” says Joe Pulizzi, founder of the – digitally oriented – Content Marketing Institute in Cleveland. Nevertheless, do not forget network print with the other channels. Many stories can be continued on the company website or on a specialized topic site or content hub, with links to more information, contact addresses, video and event photos, and so on. That’s how your magazine attracts attention, creates engagement – and ideally guides your readers to your website – and ultimately to your products or services.

Conclusion: there are topics. Especially if you have the courage to focus your magazine on your readers instead of seeing it as a better channel for advertising messages. Of course, it makes work to collect topics, sift and implement. But it’s worth the effort. If you run the magazine journalistically – and not sales -, use a living language, stay close to the reader and provide it with useful content, he will gladly reach for it.

From customer magazine to content marketing: you should pay attention to this

It’s striking that most authors base their thinking and content marketing theorems on a kind of zero situation. The most important target group seems to be the marketing directors of online start-ups. Those who are just starting to rebuild their marketing fundamentally.

Many mature companies, on the other hand, have questions that can not be solved easily with common blueprints. There was already marketing with content operated long before it got the name Content Marketing.

Marketing with content has been around for a long time

In such companies, there is a regular customer magazine as well as a website with narrative elements and a Facebook page. Even e-mail newsletters and press distributors are not inventions of the content marketing age.

Of course, the decades-old customer magazine is an instrument of content marketing. In fact, print magazine has produced content marketing, not the other way round. But be that as it may. Today’s content marketing has grown into other functions, such as SEO, PR 2.0 and reputation management.

Overcome silo thinking

Companies that have been marketing content for a long time and want to take these new features with them are facing different challenges than the start-up. The boundaries between marketing, corporate communication and sometimes even human resources that have been established for years cannot be overcome in a coup d’état. But they hinder the free flow of content. In addition, personnel responsibilities are mostly distributed by channel. Colleague Müller is responsible for the print magazine, colleague Meier for Facebook. The website looks after IT. This results in silo thinking, thematic individual courses, and inefficiency.

One short-term approach to this dilemma is to first focus on one of the existing channels. Due to its high content density, the printed customer magazine is ideal for this. When preparing each issue, large quantities of material are usually researched, viewed and utilized. In addition, seasoned print editors have always been used to thinking in stories and consistently putting themselves in the reader’s seat.

The customer magazine as a starting point for content marketing

With explanations about personas, communication goals, topics etc. you do not have to spend much time with experienced editors. In any case, shorter than it takes to teach editorial work to an SEO specialist …

So why not make the customer magazine the core of the content strategy? In the first step this means:
– Expand topic planning to social media channels.
– Think beyond the traditional journalistic formats when transposing them.
– Always think about seeding in addition to long formats and also work up the content in short formats such as infographics, top ten lists, short presentations, tip boxes, and picture galleries.

Changes in structure and processes are inevitable

That looks still manageable and can work in conjunction with a certain social media management quite first. However, this entry also means changes in workflow and responsibilities and must be well planned.

However, a complete interministerial revision of the structural and procedural organization will become inevitable for a really efficient implementation. Because turning away from channel-specific and turning to a topic-specific way of seeing and working brings about a paradigm shift in the entire professional communication work.