Why “in-house” publications are perfect brand messengers

Sara Schmuck is the Managing Editor for Client Publications for Ellenbecker Communications. She has worked in marketing for the equipment industry for years and previously worked as a newspaper reporter and editor. She prides herself on practical solutions to whatever marketing challenge she faces. She enjoys the process of communicating—from photography to typography and all the stuff in between.

Equipment manufacturers don’t market to their consumers with sales blitzes (Back-to-school 0% financing!) or with tear-inducing TV commercials (“When you care enough to send the very best”).

Publications, whether a newsletter or full-fledged magazine, are effective mediums to reach out to potential customers and to make current customers feel like they’re a part of the family.

Manufacturing company marketing managers should rely on in-house publications as much or more than their sales forces or other print, web or broadcast media to effectively carry out their message. While a good salesman can seal the deal, a great publication can quietly open the door.

Publications aren’t cheap to produce when companies consider expert writers, photographers and printing and distribution costs. Even online publications carry a lot of the same production costs as a hard copy pub. But there shouldn’t be sticker shock because a good publication pairs with other marketing strategies to get higher brand recall and meaningful interaction.

Selling points for a company publication:

  • An in-house publication will consistently share the brand’s message. We can’t expect that from the “neutral” trade press. Our clients like to be in control, after all.
  • An in-house publication establishes the company as an open communicator–ready to spend a little time together without it hinging on a sale. A well done publication establishes the company as a leader, an expert, a trusted authority that doesn’t just reach out to consumers when they want to sell something.
  • A potential customer might have seen an ad or read a little something about a product in a press release. That is nice. But additional details and selling points come out clearly in a customized publication. It’s like having a salesman visit that customer, even if that salesman doesn’t know the customer is in the market for a purchase. Many of our readers tell us they read our publications from cover to cover, including articles that don’t speak directly to their work. They have staying power beyond a brief ad.
  • Distribution. This is a key factor in successful publications. You can talk to current customers and introduce yourself to those you want to be customers. This database is useful for future sales leads or customized regional marketing.

These are all great starting points for a company publication.

But the very best newsletters and magazines are at least in part about the customer, not just the manufacturer. Equipment buyers are accustomed to hearing pitches. They know how to read a spec sheet to get the functions they need. It’s our job to remind them of all these things, of course, and to help manufacturers set their equipment apart from the rest. However, consumers also deeply care about what other successful companies in their industry are doing. They want to read about techniques that make their jobs easier. They want to know what equipment others are purchasing and why.

This type of conversational, journalistic-style of reporting on the industry actually does sell stuff! I can testify that salesmen often carry our magazines and hand them to potential customers, saying, “If you don’t believe me, see what this guy said.” And it works for them.

The best in-house publications make those featured in them feel like stars. They make readers think they are paging through an industry publication, not a sales flyer. And the very best publications make readers want to be a part of the family.