Kendra Y. Mims
Kendra Y. Mims is an associate editor at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons in Arlington Heights, Illinois, and a member of ASAE’s 2018-2019 Diversity + Inclusion Committee.
Is your organization missing an opportunity to speak directly to the people your members serve? Here’s how one medical association expanded its reach, advanced its mission, and empowered women by launching a magazine for patients.
Association publications provide members with pertinent information about their organization and keep them informed about the latest trends and issues affecting their industry. Although digital and print publications are an invaluable member benefit, your content reach doesn’t have to stop with your member audience.
Since launching our consumer-focused supplement on breast reconstruction at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons in 2017, we’ve successfully reached a new reader demographic and informed nonmembers about our organization’s efforts to advocate for breast cancer patients. Creating a publication that speaks to your members’ target market not only expands your readership but also raises awareness about your mission and highlights the work your members are doing to make a difference in their profession and community.
Here are four things to consider before creating a consumer-based publication for your association.
Although the debut issue of our special edition on breast reconstruction was written for our member surgeons, we saw an opportunity to create a greater impact by publishing subsequent issues for the patient audience. The revised Breast Reconstruction magazine provides exclusive coverage on all topics related to breast reconstruction to help patients understand their treatment options.
When launching a publication for an external audience, consider targeting the people your members serve in their work. Identify their challenges and create content that shows how your members address their needs and find solutions to their problems.
To capture consumers’ attention, your publication will need to focus on a topic people care about and value.
When we launched our patient-focused magazine, we knew that more than 3 million women have a history of breast cancer in the United States, yet only 23 percent know their breast reconstruction options. It was important for us to create a magazine that highlights our commitment to empowering women to make informed decisions about treatment following a breast cancer diagnosis. Our supplement extends beyond our member audience because patient advocates, support groups, cancer survivors, patients, families, and others affected by the disease relate to our content and support our cause.
Your publication should highlight how your initiatives are raising awareness or driving social change and how your members are enriching the lives of others. Consider your association’s advocacy efforts on key issues and how they might interest the public. You’ll likely find people outside of your membership who have a shared passion for your cause and believe in your mission.
Your publication should highlight how your initiatives are raising awareness or driving social change and how your members are enriching the lives of others.
As you begin planning, ask the same questions you would when launching any publication: Does your subject warrant a monthly or quarterly publication, or can you publish an annual special edition? Should you release it around a particular holiday or national issue observance that aligns with your content? Do you want to offer a print edition or create an interactive digital publication?
We publish our annual patient magazine in September to ensure members and their patients have access to the publication for Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day in October. Our members distribute the print edition to their patients during office visits and Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day events, and consumers can download a free electronic version directly from our website.
You must determine what works best for your organization based on your budget, staff, time, and other factors. Establish the frequency, format, and release date early on so that you will have a clear roadmap to plan your content accordingly.
Because our supplement is geared toward breast cancer patients, our contributors and staff must write with a lay audience in mind—that means plain language and no jargon. We help our member contributors convey scientific information about breast reconstruction and treatment options in a way that’s digestible, conversational, and engaging. We also publish articles by patients who give readers an inside look into their breast cancer journey and breast reconstruction experience.
Although it’s important to highlight the work of your organization and your members, you can extend your reach even further by featuring nonmembers who support your cause. Our last issue featured breast cancer survivors who use their platforms to bring awareness to underserved communities. Because of their stories, we reached a new demographic, and more women learned about our organization.
A consumer-focused publication can reach people your membership publication never will and can position your organization as a thought leader to a new audience. Don’t be afraid to think differently and get creative. You’ll find there’s much more to gain than to lose.