2021 McAllister Top Management Fellow KC Crain Shows Future Journos How to ‘B2B’ Their Careers

This is a special feature written by Yuliya Klochan, a master’s candidate at Medill/Northwestern, specializing in science reporting.

Each year, global business information association AM&P Network awards the McAllister Top Management Fellowship, now in its fourth decade, to an outstanding B2B media executive who promotes the study of business media by sharing their experience with students and faculty at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing Communications.

This year’s McAllister Top Manager, KC Crain (pictured), president and CEO of Crain Communications, and his team of editors, audience development and HR staff from Chicago, Detroit and New York, visited the Medill School for two days earlier this month, sharing insights throughout a packed schedule.

“The team took four classes of students through what’s involved in transforming a century-old brand into a modern, multiplatform B2B media company, all the while retaining independence and integrity,” says Abe Peck, director of business-to-business communications and professor emeritus in service at Medill.

One of the four classes Peck and Crain’s associates attended was a graduate course on Magazine News Reporting in Medill’s downtown Chicago newsroom. Crain introduced the B2B powerhouse and recapped its 105-year old history: Until 1998, the organization focused on print publishing alone. From then through 2017, it launched and acquired more than 20 brands and started a digital transformation.

Today, Crain Communications is building a bigger portfolio through M&A. The company recently purchased GenomeWeb, a life sciences online news organization, and Green Market Report, a digital media brand covering the cannabis industry.

The big takeaway: Focus on your audience. As class speakers Dan Peres, editor-in-chief and associate publisher at Ad Age, and Ann Dwyer, editor of Crain’s Chicago Business, say, it is the “Northern star” for Crain Communications’ reporters and editors.

In addition to attending four classes and meeting with faculty, Crain associates led a workshop on “Your B2B Career,” which was attended by both journalism and integrated marketing communication Medill students. KC Crain and Nikki Kallek, chief human resources officer at Crain Communications, led the interactive session on the Evanston campus with Zoom and in-person participants. Kallek highlighted the ability of B2B writing to “impact how a business person makes decisions.”

“We’re really excited about working closely with the school,” Crain says. “We think there are natural ties between Medill and Crain Communications. And we were very impressed with the curriculum, the professors and the students. We hope that we can partner in many ways in the future.”

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