Trade magazines are service magazines. So, too, are many consumer magazines service oriented. That trend toward service has been growing. Once the magazine buying public wanted entertainment. A shift toward information and service has produced an entirely different sort of best selling publication than used to be popular.
An influential consumer magazine is Woman's Day with a record readership of more than 13,000,000.
- What does the public relations director for one of the world's prime circulation magazines do?
- What role does he or she play in creating trends and attitudes?
- What is the PR director's relation to advertisers?
- What sort of background does the job demand?
- What is the measure of his impact? What existing yardsticks can be used to measure the effectiveness of his efforts?
- The public relations director of Woman's Day, or of any other magazine, communicates with the readers to find out what they want, and then transmits their needs to the editorial department.
- The PR director must find out which of the current problems outside his own home and family the reader wants more information about. This is a two way street a service magazine educates and broadens the interests of readers as well as reflects them. In that way the service magazine and its PR director play an active part in creating trends and attitudes.
- Woman's Day is a woman's service book, so a background of home economics training, both in food and textile science; and retail merchandising in addition to five years spent on die editorial side, qualify Rose Simmons, the present brilliantly successful PR director.
- The public relations director of a magazine is sensitive to criticism of advertisers and/or comments, as he is to the criticism and comments of all manufacturers. But it is the reader who determines the editorial content of a magazine, not the advertiser. And when the editorial content insures as many readers as those of Woman's Day or Family Circle or Newsweek or Playboy, then advertisers flock to it. 5. The impact of a magazine's public relations shows in reader interest and reaction. Surveys are conducted regularly. Service magazines such as Woman's Day make a practice of offering patterns, instruction or advice to their readers. The response to these offers, when analyzed, is a yardstick of reader interest. (Two examples of Woman's Day offers are "Baby's Own Zodiac to Embroider" and a workshop item a Sewing Center Cabinet.
Woman's Day has four service areas:
- Beauty and grooming.
- Home furnishings. (This includes workshop.)
- Fashion. (Ready to wear and sewing.)
- Major and minor appliances. (Food included.)
Examples of department stores promotions sponsored by Woman's Day are:
- Beauty clinics.
- Decorating seminars.
- Collector's cookbook. (These are recipes on filing cards, compliments of Woman's Day, offered by Home Appliance departments in stores. Each recipe is keyed to the use of a different home appliance.
- Needlework instruction in the Art Needlework departments of stores; and formal lectures.
PR director: "I'd like to see a polyester dress." (The saleswoman brings out a dress.) PR director: "That fabric is acrylic." Saleswoman: "They're all the same tiling."
The public relations director has learned from this conversation that customers often know more than salespeople do about the merchandise since they are educated by what they read in magazines. She realizes, too, that sometimes misinformation is passed on by the store buyer. The lesson to her is that purchasers must be informed and alert.
For many years Woman's Day was associated in the public mind with food. This is because during the depression a service magazine's objective was to help the housewife by teaching her to stretch her food dollar and still have tempting and healthful meals. For many years now that purpose has not been a primary one; other priorities have taken its place. As times have changed and saving money on food is not so important, Woman's Day promotes other areas.
Electrical appliances now highlight every household. Money is spent on them; they take up space; and getting the most out of these appliances is a primary consideration. Woman's Day now helps women to use electrical appliances to the best advantage; and thus appliance promotion developed from food promotion.
Home furnishing has taken a different direction. From workshop, and the making of home furnishings have come fashions in decorating, and decorating seminars. People are fashion conscious in all areas today; and since furnishing a home is a major investment on a family's part, women need all the help they can get.
Most of the work of the public relations director of a magazine is a day by day bettering of reader/magazine communication. Occasionally, however, this routine pace will be broken by an extraordinary event, or tie in. One such tie in was with Hallmark Gallery, a Fifth Avenue card shop and gallery in New York City maintained by the manufacturer of Hallmark greeting cards.
Titled "Stitched in Time," tins exhibition was assembled by the Hallmark Gallery in consultation with the needlework editor of Woman's Day. Geraldine Rhoads, Editor of Woman's Day, sent out engraved invitations to the preview which drew wide attention and resulted in prime press coverage.
Important as this reader/magazine relationship is to a publication, the public relations director's relation with manufacturers is equally important. This is not only because manufacturers and suppliers are advertisers and potential advertisers. It is because service publications write about the product of these companies and depend on the com for up to date information. It is mainly through conversation, awards and newsletters that a service magazine communicates with manufacturers and suppliers. The editorial staff brings to the manufacturer the needs of the housewife, and is a constant influence in upgrading and updating products.
Woman's Day sponsors annual advertising merit awards for members of the Super Market Institute. It also issues a newsletter for the National Wholesale Druggists' Association. These and other projects in the same category are part of the job of the PR director.
The latest available figures on the "big five women's books" give them a readership of 64,000,000. Referred to are McCall's, Family Circle, Woman's Day, Ladies' Home Journal and Good Housekeeping. All five are considered service magazines; they have different viewpoints but their readership tends to be basically similar. Two thirds of the readers are between 18 and 49; and the Pictorial trend is toward the younger reader with money to spend. The average income is in the middle or upper brackets; and their education is above average.
The readers of more general magazines, such as the publications of Time are also well educated. This makes the job of the public relations director easier. The approach of public relations is basically sophisticated. Communication by words is a sophisticated medium. Advertising is different. An ad may be sophisticated and leave a great deal to the imagination and wit of the viewer; but those in the subway demand no sophistication.
Magazines help people to become sophisticated. The magazines now discuss urban problems, government spending, and the political process in addition to cooking, home furnishings and raising children. The general magazines are gearing themselves to the new America in which the demand for instant and in depth information will far out strip today's.
Magazines are frank in saying they are willing to let television have the mass audience, the vast numbers of un educated people. They prefer a select audience united only by a common interest in the product featured by the magazine. The fact that the audience is select does not mean it must be small. The statistics of magazine circulation and appeal tell something about this select audience, but not enough. Magazines are constantly trying to learn more, not only to tailor their editorial content to the changing needs and interests of their readership, but as a duty to advertisers. Advertisers and publishers want to know, for example, if the impact of a message on a captive and passive TV audience is greater than the impact of a message on a magazine reader. They want to know how to best reach a public that is gradually becoming interested in everything from art to politics. They want to know what young people in school today will expect of their magazine when they become readers, and whether they will be able to meet these expectations. There has never been a communications challenge equal to today's. The public relations director is involved. There is no such thing as maintaining the status quo. The PR man must think in terms of revolution in education, in reading, in buying and in living.