AM&P 17 Session Recap: Get Real or Go Home

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By Joanna Masterson

Print is alive, so long as your publication is actually read. That’s the message Dale Keiger, editor of Johns Hopkins Magazine, shared with attendees at AM&P’s 2017 Annual Meeting.

“You have to be read, not just perused or glanced through,” he says. “If not, your organization is throwing its money away.”

To start, Keiger says to be realistic about the fact that nobody has to read your publication just because it’s broadcasting a message. Readers are smart, well-informed people want real stories, so don’t patronize them. But they also have jobs, families, ailments, and financial burdens. “We’re competing in the attention economy,” Keiger says.

First you have to win the mail sort — keeping in mind the magazine isn’t the only thing being mailed from your organization — and then you have to win space on the nightstand or coffee table next to commercial magazines, books, mobile devices, and remote controls.

To produce a magazine that breaks through the competition:

  • Ensure it looks good, especially the cover.
  • Make sure content speaks to their lives.
  • Present content in a way that entices people to read it.
  • Don’t gloss over complexity.
  • Resist the pressure to keep coverage positive, simple, and brand-forward.

People want stories, not reports, sales pitches or propaganda. “Fill your publication with as many people and characters as possible,” Keiger says. “Use scenes from real life, narrative storytelling, emotion, and conflict.”

Just one story like that in each issue can keep people coming back.

Joanna Masterson is senior editor of Construction Executive for Associated Builders and Contractors. Association Media & Publishing thanks Joanna for her stellar job covering this session from the AM&P Annual Meeting for our members who were unable to attend.

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