Painless Practices for Award-Winning University Magazines

If you are a higher ed marketer who approaches the creation of each new issue of your publication with fear and trepidation, you are not alone. Balancing internal politics with telling the best story, prodding sources and reviewers to keep tight deadlines, and determining the right channels for distribution can keep the most experienced professionals up at night. Let’s look at five ways to alleviate this stress and put you well on your way to an award-winning publication.


First and foremost is a need to carefully define your audience and then to keep that audience top of mind throughout the process. Whether your priority is to engage alumni, increase donor support, build industry relationships, enhance peer recognition, or all of these, knowing your higher ed audience will enable you to create thought-provoking content. And when your readers are engaged, you’ll elevate your institution’s brand.


Develop your magazine’s editorial outline with your institution’s goals in mind and a theme should readily present itself. Sharing your theme and outline with all internal stakeholders will generate enthusiasm and smooth the way when it comes time for review. You’ll find that when this theme is woven throughout, your cohesive publication will powerfully communicate your brand message.


Be selective in choosing your best stories and identifying the right sources. Storytelling serves to frame a narrative that drives your theme forward. To earn the interest and respect of your readers, your magazine should reflect the real-life experiences that provide strong emotional connections to student success, faculty research, industry partnerships and campus life. Protect the integrity of your publication by finding other ways to distribute less engaging content.


Give equal weight to visuals and photography as to written content when developing your editorial calendar. To create a beautiful publication that conveys emotion and evokes a response, provide your photographers and artists with specific direction to capture shots or create illustrations that lend authenticity to your message. Consider infographics, callouts, and timelines, particularly for the expected content like awards, alumni class notes, and faculty news.


Take time to learn from each issue and change up the factors that caused you stress. Continuously create efficiencies, such as improving communication with your creative team, streamlining the internal review process, maintaining a current print and email distribution list, and repurposing content on digital channels.

Your publication can be one of your best marketing tools to expand your reach and strengthen ties. And, it doesn’t have to be a painful process. If you lack internal bandwidth, partner with an agency that understands higher ed marketing, your brand, your audience, and your differential.

Are you ready to take your school’s publication to the next level? Reach out today to learn how we can quickly help you meet that goal.