Taking time to review your work is a discipline that often gets lost in the day to day. But it’s essential to evaluate the process and product that keeps communication flowing with your desired constituencies. Using the school magazine as an example, here’s what you should look at:
What do you hope to accomplish with your magazine?
Such as: “The mission of the magazine is to strengthen and maintain ties between X Academy and alumni, current and past parents, friends and colleagues and all other constituencies, and to nurture a sense of pride and loyalty in the school. The magazine aims to stimulate philanthropy, volunteerism and goodwill through sustained communication. Further, the magazine should position X Academy favorably among peer institutions and address image and perception issues as discovered through anecdotal and formal market research, including quality of the faculty and programs, academic reputation and alumni accomplishments.”
Whom are you trying to reach?
Defining your readership will help you make editorial and distribution decisions. Your reader profile statement might be: “The magazine is to be considered a community magazine rather than an alumni magazine. The magazine’s primary audiences are alumni and current/past parents. Secondarily, the magazine should reach out to prospective families, referral sources, faculty, business leaders, peer institutions and others whose interest X Academy wishes to cultivate.”
Budget and Schedule
How do you determine cost?
Cost is dependent on many different factors. You should start out with a budget ceiling in mind for creative work (writing, editing, photography, design) as well as printing, mailing and postage. See blog posts Our No Fail Magazine Budget Diet and What’s the Cost of Print for detail. You need to count both outside creative support expenses and staff involvement to gauge schedules and the whole expense of producing your publication.
Start out with a schedule that sets realistic milestone dates in a process that puts your magazine in the mail on a specific day. Did you make it? Do you need to add time along the way to meet your delivery?
Is your magazine doing its job well?
It may be too soon to accurately measure the wow factor of your magazine when you do your review. But don’t rely on anecdotal yays and nays from your readers as the sole source of information to evaluate your publication. Call some readers after an issue comes out or talk to them at reunions or other campus events. Plan an email survey every few years. And test “forward”—ask selected readers—and your colleagues—for input on article topics you are planning or want to brainstorm.