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Shane Shanks

Coaching in-house teams

Redesign your magazine while boosting your team’s brainpower

May 2, 2017   //   Shane Shanks

Is your magazine stuck in a time warp but your budget won’t allow for a complete overhaul? Consider a coaching-based redesign.

In my previous post featuring Auburn Magazine, I shared how our collaborative coaching model leverages your in-house creativity and Zehno’s expertise.

When is a coaching-based redesign the right investment of your resources?

  • When you have high-level talent on your internal team. If this is the case, be sure you can block off staff time for deep thinking about the magazine. Otherwise, you’ll recreate your same old magazine because you’re always in a rush to meet the current issue’s deadlines.
  • When you want to strengthen buy-in from your internal team. The joint responsibility between your team and Zehno, and our hands-on approach to coaching, build a shared sense of ownership.
  • When you want your team to learn some new approaches. By working with an outside firm like Zehno, you’ll gain best practices from higher ed marketing experts. Your team can pick up ideas about content, workflow, production and more from our agency and our entire client base.
  • When your budget doesn’t cover a full prototype. This coaching-based redesign process, developed in response to schools asking us to show their internal teams how to work smarter, is ideal for schools with smaller budgets.

Success story: University of South Carolina

Redesigning the university magazine after 16 years was an exciting chance to break from the past. The challenge was to not just jazz up the old publication with new typefaces, but to give the magazine a targeted strategic focus.

In collaboration with the University of South Carolina team, Zehno outlined key steps in the redesign process — from underlying goals through finished product. Together we sorted through readership surveys, set goals for desired reader actions, developed a library of editorial formats to tell the USC story and mapped out a strategic editorial structure and design direction.

The brains on both teams developed a library of editorial signatures to serve up the stories that match reader desires and the magazine’s goals: reconnecting classmates, sharing collective experiences and encouraging readers to spread the word about USC. Some examples:

  • “Carolinians who ___” (invent or care or rebel) threads together the stories of non-marquee alums who achieve similar things.
  • “Head to Head” unites generations of alumni — one older, one younger — to discuss shared experiences.
  • Read & Repeat presents five facts about the university that we want alumni to share with others.

“The key thing I learned is that you can go much faster when you’re working by yourself or with a small group — but you go much farther when you include more people in the whole process,” editor Chris Horn, director of the University Writers Group at USC, told the UMagazinology blog. “It’s messier, but more out-of-the-box ideas get generated that way. That’s probably the biggest takeaway for next time.”

Using Zehno’s mood boards and the content strategy created by both teams, the reinvigorated internal staff built out the complete issue.

The new magazine’s fresh content, upscale design and strong sense of Carolina culture won reader approval (and awards from CASE and the American Advertising Federation). The institution had risen dramatically in terms of research prowess and student selectivity, so the new magazine encourages readers to spread the word about the school’s many successes.

And even better: the South Carolina team applied this same process to revamp other magazines on campus.

Learn more

Want to team up with us on your magazine redesign? Let’s talk.

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