A few years ago, we went to our client, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), with a creative new approach for its print publication.
Their existing magazine, My Business, was a fine membership publication. It contained a lot of useful information geared to helping small business owners own, operate and grow their businesses. But NFIB was looking for a constant, measurable touchpoint. As Kate Chandler, NFIB’s digital content director puts it: “It was touching members, but it wasn’t the right touch for us.”
Our idea was to transform NFIB’s traditional magazine into a totally different vehicle — one with a bold design, bright colors and brightly written, short-form content in a highly visual presentation. It was conceived as more than just a magazine. Chandler describes it as, “annual report meets magazine.”
The new publication, Playbook, combines coverage of the year’s successes in advocating for and effecting change on the public policy front at the state and federal levels with advice, tips and tools for running successful businesses. Playbook also has become the identity for an integrated content hub with highly visual content components that provide value to both NFIB and its members.
Delivering Value to Members
The new publication was the outgrowth of NFIB’s self-examination as it weighed its relationship with — and services to — its 325,000 members. The organization was looking at all the channels it was using to establish a dialogue with its members. At the time, many other marketers were going with an all-digital content strategy and, “we thought about it a lot,” Chandler says.
But there’s a growing movement in support of reinvented print magazines among brands. (I’ve written about Net-A-Porter’s “shoppable” magazine, for example.) Even so, any concern knows that the trick to satisfied customers is to give them what they want, the way that they want it and when they want it. And that includes content.
NFIB’s members made it very clear, however, that print communications, delivered via the postal service, were their top choice. “They told us that they like reading at their leisure. It’s too easy to overlook material that comes in their email box,” Chandler explains. “And more than that, they value it as being more trustworthy.”
Just as important, Playbook was and is a physical representation of why members were paying their dues — and the outcomes being achieved on their behalf.
Partnerships Unleash Creativity
The transformation of NFIB’s print publication, and the praise it’s received, shows what can happen when clients and agencies work together to spur creative thinking.
From our perspective, NFIB is the very best kind of client to have. We are perceived as more than just an editorial arm that’s expected to blindly accept marching orders and grind out content. We are kept in the loop and are part of strategic discussions so we can help not only shape that strategy, but also create and deliver content that meets the dual objectives of bolstering NFIB’s brand and underscoring its value.
“Imagination came to us with the concept, giving us something different and unexpected,” Chandler says. “If we were going to stick with print, this showed how we could do it without coming out with the same old thing. It’s helped us stand out; it’s a reimagined version of ourselves.”
The result has been rave reviews by NFIB’s field operations, as well as by many of its members. Said one long-time NFIB executive: “The Playbook is the best publication NFIB has ever put out.”
And that’s what content, at its most creative, is all about.
James Meyers, president, CEO and founder of Imagination, sets the pace on content marketing and is known for exploring that sweet spot where creativity, strategy and marketing converge to make magic. In his blog, ImagineNation, he shares his thoughts on what’s important, what’s coming next and where content marketing is going.