Should you take your editorial in-house or not?

Help with making the editorial decision

Should you handle editorial in-house?

I recently met with a client who was looking to overhaul their somewhat dated membership magazine and who were faced with the question of whether to take the editorial out of house or not. With many NGB’s and membership associations facing reduced funding, freeing up valuable staff budget for other roles can be an attractive option for the Board. Commercial and membership managers are now required to cover a multitude of roles, some of which may be more financially pressing than chasing copy for the member’s magazine.
To these multi-tasking officers finding an agency that can take over the editorial headache can seem appealing, but at what cost? Obviously it depends on what the provider is offering – a specialist editor with in-depth knowledge of the subject area could be the perfect solution but depending on the frequency of the title this may not be a fulltime role for them, in which case their availability may be limited to just a few weeks in the magazine cycle.

Whilst handing over the job to a more qualified and experienced expert might appear the best solution, in reality much of the copy chasing and info gathering is often more efficiently (and cheaply), handled in-house. Somehow colleagues find it easier to prevaricate and put off writing articles when a stranger is chasing them – not so easy when someone is standing at the end of their desk! Conscientious staff members can also be wary of speaking with agency writers, concerned about being ‘on message’ and indeed exactly what the organisation message is that week.

‘But we don’t have anyone with the time or ability to edit the magazine’, I hear you cry. Possibly not, but a good agency will be able to work closely with a keen communications exec. to offer a guiding hand, check on house style and voice, spot sponsor branding issues and between them cover the ‘editor’ role. The editorial programme can be pre-planned with the membership/marketing/commercial director responsible for a year ahead and then regularly reviewed and adapted on a rolling 3-issue basis. This way the organisation can keep ownership and control of the content and more importantly be seen by the readership to be the true voice of the organisation.

This is not to say a freelance or agency supplied editor can’t do a great job for a membership organisation. Ideally with a strong interest in the magazine subject, a good editor will soon pick up the technicalities, jargon and brand style guide, and can be the perfect solution to an over stretched membership department. For organisations with a quarterly magazine this can be the perfect fit, as the frequency would not support employing a dedicated editor in-house.

One area to watch with any Editor who spends a long time in the role is that the title remains in touch with the grass roots membership – those that have just joined and those you are seeking to attract. It is a function of human nature that the more you learn about a subject, the more you become involved with it’s industry and the more press launches you get invited to – there is likely be an unconscious slide to polarise the magazine content towards the top end of the market, be that elite athletes, high end equipment or the most glamorous venues. This can apply to both staff editors and freelancers. If you recognise the symptoms do not be afraid to ‘refresh’ the editorial viewpoint.

Whichever path you take there will be a solution that works best for your organisation, and a good media agency should be able to offer you all the options to find the best fit to your specialist need. Legacy Sport Media can provide all these services and has the experience of working with many different client sizes and set-ups to be able to suggest what might fit best in your own situation.

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