In 2022, we gave our long-running member magazine a much-needed revamp.
We wanted the new magazine to inspire people, and engage everyone in celebration of the many ways in which cultural heritage conservation brings benefits to society. While staying relevant to our members, we also wanted the new magazine to better-attract non-member conservators, students, allied professionals and heritage enthusiasts into engagement with us.
We realised that to do this, we needed our magazine to be ‘the voice’ of the profession in a much stronger way than before. It would need to cast a spotlight on the professionals behind the projects, bring new colour to human dimensions of conservation practice, and emphasise a sense of shared mission among our members and supporters. As an end result, we also wanted to bolster our wider impact and enhance financial resilience through increased membership and advertising revenue.
However, we also realised we had to overcome significant challenges to do this. Our magazine would still be dependent upon voluntary submissions with no budget for commissioning. We also had to ensure content would be accessible for potential new members and target audiences, while safeguarding the magazine as a key benefit exclusive to our paying members.
Our starting point was a Strategy Paper and a Creative Brief based on the results of our readership survey.
We then staged a competitive tendering exercise to recruit a communications agency. CenturyOne won the contract after demonstrating they shared our vision for the magazine, and had the experience, expertise and talent to make it a success. ‘It has been an absolute pleasure working with Icon and realising their vision,’ commented Stewart Dymock of CenturyOne. ‘We’re looking forward to the next stage of their communications plan across digital and events.’
The new magazine is richly illustrated with strong images to exemplify the stories we’re telling. Prominence is given to images of conservators themselves, often depicting them in the process of ‘doing things’ to underscore this human dimension.
Engaging and varied page layouts break up text and draw readers through articles, and from one page to the next. Longer features are interspaced with sections containing shorter items, presenting a cohesive and smooth-running complete product.
Magazine frequency has also been reduced from bi-monthly to quarterly, to provide longer lead times to plan content and its integration with our other communications platforms. This has meant that we can finally design and implement more ambitious thematic campaigns tackling the big issues in our sector, leading debate with venues of discussion harmonised across our magazine, website, social media outlets and e-bulletin communications.
CenturyOne helped us find a new editor, Karen Young, who was passionate about our sector and the work of our members, but crucially, was not a specialist in our sector herself. With her insight into the way our stories can be framed to appeal to both our members and broader audiences, in our cover story we tackled recent political controversy - with a look at decision-making around the conservation of the Edward Colston statue. Famously tipped into Bristol Harbour by protestors in 2020, our article interviewed both the conservator leading the project, and the Mayor of Bristol who commented on its significance to recent local history. With a preview published on our website, we succeeded in generating discussion online and reached new audiences as our followers commented on the story and reposted it across LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.
Member feedback has been swift and positive. We were delighted to see that many Icon members went out of their way to comment on the new magazine on social media, via email, and in person at events.
‘It looks incredible,’ commented one member based in Hong Kong, ‘and I have had many positive comments from my colleagues at the museum, seeking to read the articles!’
Members thousands of miles away echoed this: ‘It looks really good, and I have had a lot of positive comments from colleagues here’. A long-established and award-winning conservation professional summed it up nicely: ‘Congratulations to you and all involved in the new magazine,’ she wrote. ‘I love the format. It reads really well.’
It has been a big win for the organisation.