With rapid rises in the rankings, winning sports teams, and admissions selectivity at its peak, TCU’s school spirit is at an all-time high. So how do you channel that enthusiasm into the magazine?
Zehno’s magazine revamp freed TCU’s inventive storytelling from a 12-year-old design. And it created new avenues for alumni readers to “share” — from feeding content to spreading the word via social media.
See how the redesign turned up the magazine’s appeal.
- Tackle the print and online redesigns at the same time.
- Appeal to younger alumni — readers in their 20s and 30s who make up 65 percent of TCU Magazine’s audience.
- Extend the life of online content through syndication and social media.
- Leverage content across marketing channels to inspire engagement and action.
- Set up easy-to-use templates to speed up production for stories online and in print.
SOCIAL MEDIA TRAFFIC
More readers are discovering the website’s colorful features, well-read blogs and online extras such as podcasts through social media, which drove 63 percent of new traffic to the site during its first year.
Not only is the new website reorganized and responsive, it’s also easier in every sense: easier to read, easier to edit, easier to add multimedia, easier to share.
In one year, the redesigned magazine website doubled its number of Facebook followers.
Start the conversation
If TCU wanted to get readers talking, first-and-foremost it needed to tailor its content to readers under 40 — the university’s biggest alumni demographic. When we surveyed readers, we found that this audience segment wanted more career and networking information.
In the back section, Comrades True, which includes class notes, we added multiple alumni profile formats that get at the same point: how did I get to where I am now? This section calls for crowd-sourced content, asking alumni to answer a standing question each issue.
Opening sections in the print magazine include alumni Facebook chatter and tweets, and drive readers back to the website for exclusive content produced by readers — such as a reader’s boyhood memories about a TCU football star and an alumni account of when sand volleyball used to be a TCU sport.
Between print cycles, the magazine staff continues to publish content to the web, distinguishing it as new and exclusive content and increasing spikes in magazine website traffic throughout the year.
Improve front-of-book departments
As TCU has risen in the rankings, it now has a new set of “competitors”: Research I institutions.
The new editorial plan brings research to the forefront — showing off quality research at a non-RI school — and devotes a large chunk of space to students and professors who are innovators/movers/shakers. The magazine has featured everything from researchers using data to anticipate international cybercriminal threats to proving how consuming “diet” drinks can lead to sabotaging food choices.
Pump up school spirit
TCU Magazine is a powerful, broad-based communications tool for the university because unlike many university magazines, it hits all audiences: alumni, prospective students and parents — to name a few.
New content focuses on strengthening pride among alumni: RiffRam is dedicated to sports through first-person narratives, news highlights and breakout stats. Mem’ries Sweet takes a look back through personal shared experiences, alumni profiles and curated content from readers. And the magazine now profiles classes in ways that are interesting to all readers without sounding like an admissions brochure.
TCU’s magazine website was too cumbersome for staff to keep content updates current and for readers to share content easily. The answer: a responsive WordPress site that would take care of digital content managers and mobile readers in one fell swoop. It allowed staff to focus on wow-factor content rather than technology limitations.
And it streamlined the workflow process. We added a WordPress plugin that helped staff shepherd articles through the proper approval channels before pushing live.
WHAT ZEHNO DID
- Position paper: Audit and strategic recommendations.
- Prototyping: Print magazine redesign, content strategy with new sections and storytelling devices, responsive web magazine in WordPress.
- Template preparation: Layout of first issue.
- Support: Continued consulting and on-site staff training.
- And more.
When you think you can’t afford to make your magazine better, consider the “skip one” solution. It enabled TCU to revamp both the print and web magazines simultaneously — and to partner with Zehno at every stage — from strategic recommendations to page design to website implementation.
TCU decided to redirect the money — and time — it saved in skipping an issue to transform its magazine without incurring a lot of “additional” cost.
And the results? A new approach to editorial planning that is brand-driven but not brand-stifled. Deeper “academic quality” content to compete with its new peer set. Departments freshened up with newsstand-ready creativity. Bold design that strategically aligns with the university identity. Targeted, career-centric articles for the under-40 crowd, TCU’s biggest readership segment.
Tips for your team
- Skip an issue to revamp both your print and web magazines simultaneously without busting your budget.
- Set up an editorial advisory board to guide content over time.
- If resources are finite, trim some pages and spend that money on improving photography and visuals.
DOES YOUR MAGAZINE MATTER?
Next time budget slashers descend on your office, be prepared to answer what it actually accomplishes.