Monday, January 02, 2006

Meeting recap: Editorial advisory boards

Panel members offer their thoughts and experiences with advisory boards.
By Jody Shee, secretary, Kansas City ASBPE Chapter

The advantages of maintaining an editorial advisory board outweigh the amount of work it is to keep them up — whether the board has eight or 25 members, said the two panelists at a recent Kansas City ASBPE chapter meeting.

Board advantages
Since the advisory board is made up of experts from all segments of the magazine’s industry, they know the market well and can offer a wide range of article ideas, important feedback and can serve as magazine advocates at industry meetings that the editorial staff can’t attend, said Marnette Falley, director of business content for Advanstar Veterinary Healthcare Communications. She is editor of Veterinary Economics.

She finds that the magazine’s 25 editorial board members take ownership and talk about the magazine positively at the meetings they attend. She asks for exclusivity with the board members, meaning they agree not to contribute to articles for competing publications.

As the editor, if your background is in journalism and not in the industry you write and edit for, you can and should tap into the advisory board’s knowledge and experience to strengthen your editorial content, said Pamela Kufahl, editor of Club Industry’s Fitness Business Pro magazine.

The eight board members often help her flesh out the real news and issues that press releases don’t often address when she calls the board members for their input, she said. Board members also can put you in touch with experts you either were unaware of or who don’t normally talk to the press, but will talk to you if mention the influential board member’s name.

Member types
Look for industry influencers from each of your audience segments to be on your board. As you attend conferences and seminars, evaluate the speakers for the respect they receive, their enthusiasm and industry knowledge, Kufahl said. Also, look for at least one individual who thinks about issues differently and challenges them.

Find individuals with contributions to the industry that you want to acknowledge in the magazine, Falley said.

Both Falley and Kufahl advise against allowing manufacturers/suppliers who would be advertisers to be on the board for the conflict of interest it could present.

Get togethers
If possible, assemble the board members for a meeting at an annual industry convention, Falley said. Otherwise, try to meet with and/or contact the members casually throughout the year. Send them thank you notes, treat them to lunch at industry shows, call them and ask for their advice on article ideas or for sources.

If you are working on a redesign and want input from the board on designs, don’t merely ask for their thoughts. They don’t talk the same editorial language you do. Instead, ask them to compare layouts for which they prefer, she added.

Most of the contact Kufahl has with board members is on the phone asking for their opinions on article ideas or for their input to include in articles, she said. She also arranges to meet with them at shows.

Board challenges
Editorial boards are not without challenges. Since Falley requires exclusivity with the magazine, she sometimes has to reiterate this with board members when she sees them quoted in other publications, she said.

Kufahl notes that sometimes board members have a hidden agenda for what they want to accomplish with their position on the board. Make sure it doesn’t conflict with your agenda. It’s also difficult if you have to report something negative about the person or his/her company in an article.

Photo: Panelists Marnette Falley (left) and Pamela Kufahl sharing tips on managing an editorial advisory board.

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