By Nicholas Addison Thomas, Director of Strategic Communications at EO
As the Director of Strategic Communications for the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), I am fortunate to be on the forefront of some exciting, new communication strategies that align with our department’s goal of educating and inspiring EO members—and all entrepreneurs—around the world. Fueling a large part of our efforts this year is the adoption of a digital mindset, specifically when it comes to publications. By pursuing a digital focus, we can explore innovative ways to disseminate our content through online outlets and, above all, afford more business owners the information they need to get more out of their entrepreneurial journeys.
Anchoring our efforts is the digital version of Octane, our award-winning member magazine read by 11,000+ EO members around the world every quarter. Sensing the need to offer EO news and peer-written content “in members’ pockets,” we set in motion a months-long process to outline, execute and distribute the digital equivalent of our magazine. This Octane app, in many ways, would offer our loyal readers—and eventually, non-members—real-time information as it relates to the organization, as well as videos, social media, feature stories and other forms of vital communications. Essentially, the digital magazine would remove the restraints of print publications and allow for more “bells and whistles” of the online variety.
Other advantages of introducing a digital equivalent of Octane included readers not having to wait three months for peer-written content, the eventual cost savings with a phased transition from print to digital, and the chance for more online recognition beyond our website. As the world’s most influential community of entrepreneurs, we are dedicated to helping our members (and future members) get the most out of their business operations. Aligning our print products with a digital vision amplifies our efforts, and above all, raises the recognition factor of EO beyond our own ecosystem. For those considering the digitization of your company’s print publication, or for anyone currently navigating this process, here are some lessons we picked up along the way:
- Consider all the angles: It’s not enough to say you’re going to create a complimentary app to support a popular magazine. To really execute on the idea, you have to consider all of the angles before setting in motion the expensive—but necessary—plans. Before we did anything, we created a robust outline that highlighted all of the things we needed the app to do, especially considering our diverse and influential membership. We considered everything from geo-location, so members could see which events are occurring locally, to real-time engagement with authors and everything in-between. We learned early on that a diligent focus is better than a broad one. The app, in many ways, could do a million things … but we needed it to do a set few things perfectly. By honing our expectations—and setting it against a structured outline—we created a compass.
- Create a task force: As the old business adage goes: Always surround yourself with people who are better than you at certain things. We tapped into that EO leadership community and created a task force to help ensure we were not only going in the right direction, but that all technological and communications elements were in place. While I have institutional knowledge of Octane and EO’s communications history, there were some areas of this digital transition I needed help with. By reaching out and asking others for assistance, we were able to bridge any proverbial gaps and put our plans into action.
- Hire the right firm: Integral to this entire process was hiring a firm who could step up and take our vision to the next level. With our outline in-place and a task force helping us out, we conducted a lengthy RFP process. We found a firm that aligned with our goals and vision, making the development and execution of the app relatively seamless. When it comes to hiring a firm to execute on an idea, it’s imperative to come at it from it a place of core values. When we were considering prospective firms, we consistently asked ourselves whether they aligned with EO’s core values. I can guarantee that if they do, the bridge from concept to creation will be a sturdy one. If they don’t, it simply means you need to keep looking. Our outlines and legwork wouldn’t have amounted to much without the right people at the helm.
- Set up regular “touch base” meetings: This may sound obvious, but scheduling weekly or bi-weekly calls with the vendor was an integral part of our production process. Not only are we able to stay on top of all of the executions, but we get an up-close-and-personal look into how to go about transitioning a print magazine into a digital publication. Personally, I found the process incredibly rewarding, and I learned new ways to elevate the status of the Octane brand along the way. What’s more, I was given the knowledge I need to employ on future publications digitally.
- Execute, execute, execute: As you near the end of the creation process, the next big step is to ensure you have an implementation plan in place; preferably, one fueled by a communications plan to help market your new offering. In our case, we created a strategy that targeted the app through novel approaches to internal communications, including flyer insertions in the magazine, timely promotion in internal newsletters, online advertisements on our members-only site and targeted messaging on leadership calls to help drive promotion from the top down. We’re still working on trying to reach an external audience, but we’ve earmarked the primary ways we can get the app in front of our members. In doing so, we’re able to drive more Octane engagement, and ultimately, educate more members.
Looking back, the creation of our magazine app—we call it “Digital Octane”—was a rewarding process that afforded us plenty of lessons learned and insights into how to fuse communications with digital technology. While we still have some next steps to pursue, including the adoption of associated tools to help generate more interest and awareness about EO beyond our membership, we’re heading in the right direction. At least now, we have a roadmap we can follow and, in time, perfect. That’s pretty awesome!
Want to download Digital Octane? Simply go to the App Store or Google Play, search for “EO Octane Magazine” and download the app! To learn more about our magazine, contact us.
#EOlooksforward to the new calendar year, with posts, pictures and videos citing upcoming technologies and inspiration for entrepreneurs in 2016. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn for daily posts!