Last year, Canadian oil and gas giant Petro-Canada launched a new employee print magazine, In Depth. Regular readers of this blog will know I'm a big supporter of print as an integral part of any big organization's internal communications mix. So I was delighted to see my old employer revisiting the form. I think the new magazine is great. Here's a sample: Download indepthfall2007.pdf.
And here's Five Questions for editor Kevin Heinrichs:
Question #1: Why did you decide to launch a new print magazine?
Kevin: The new magazine was launched for two primary reasons. An employee survey indicated that a majority of workers were interested in and would read a magazine if we published one (74% said they "definitely" or "probably" would read it). And we realized that a magazine format would allow us to write more complex stories that lend themselves to creative layout with strong photos. A bonus is that employees can take the magazine with them on their transit commute or home to their families if they want.
Question #2: What is the content and tone, and why did you choose this approach?
Kevin: We wanted a tone with the text and layout that would appeal to younger readers, but not so edgy that it's inaccessible to older readers. We treat our magazine as though it is a newsstand magazine that just happens to cover one company. The same editing discipline and attention to layout detail apply.
Question #3: What is the format and frequency, and how did you arrive at the final design?
Kevin: In Depth is an 8.5"x11" format on matte stock, and varies from 16-24 pages, depending on the theme. We hired a local design company which brought us three different mock-ups in terms of "feel." One was too formal, but we asked for a hybrid of the other two designs, one which was definitely geared to the twenty-something crowd, and the other which had some great use of white space and typography. Then our designer, Joelle Opelik, took that basic template and created a unique look and feel for each issue's theme, but still under our signature masthead.
Question #4: How does the publication integrate with your online internal communications?
Kevin: For decades, Petro-Canada had a very effective news source in the form of a bi-weekly newsletter called In Brief. [Editor's note: In the early 1990s I worked a two-year stint as editor of In Brief - RS] It was respected, had name recognition among employees and was relatively well read. But when we looked at our ability to tell news that is current, the newsletter wasn't able to deliver that kind of timeliness. We tracked about a four-week lag from the time is story is assigned to when it arrived on employees' desks, given the approvals, layout, proofing, printing and distribution involved. That’s a long time in the hourly news cycle that people are accustomed to in regular life. Shifting the In Brief newsletter content to an HTML format and putting on our company's Intranet allowed us to implement an publish-on-demand system where we can publish news to our homepage as soon as the copy is edited and approved. The writing style of the former newsletter actually lent itself quite well to this new medium as it already valued tight, concise writing. Wherever it makes sense in the print magazine, we also encourage readers to visit our Intranet for more company background on a particular article, or to any video related to the story content.
Question #5: What has the response been, from management and from employees?
Kevin: The anecdotal response after the first year has been great. People love to be able to bring this home to their families. The recruiters have even been asking for extra copies of some of the issues to give potential hires a sense of the company culture. Mostly what we've heard is that they love the design, and that the stories tell them something new about their company. By way of improvement, readers have also told us they want more "people" stories. We'll be getting the results of a more detailed readership survey later this fall to get some more crunchy results.