Any claims that you deliver top editorial content are groundless if you lack a decent travel budget. Yet many staffs today are “restricted to quarters” in terms of field trips. When I talk to editors around the country, I hear a constant “we can’t go anywhere” litany. This is particularly troublesome in those cases where only a token editor is permitted to attend an industry’s major convention.
Yes, we could blame this situation on the current economy. However, some editorial staffs were always chained to the desk as a matter of cost containment policy.
Maybe I was spoiled when growing up in the B2B business. In my first job as a mere assistant editor, I was instructed to plan several field trips to meet my readers. Later, I landed a spot as managing editor for a small tabloid where the publisher was determined to build a bigger magazine. He wanted me to be everywhere! At one point, I attended regional association meetings across the country almost every week. Ultimately, this face-to-face content helped us to rise from industry upstart to industry leader. Before becoming a consultant, I spent 21 years with another travel-oriented publisher. At one point, I traveled at least 80 days a year.
Is frequent travel glamorous? Hardly! It’s a tough proposition. Will it provide a more authoritative view of real life in your industry? Absolutely! But truth be told, many editors never wanted to travel in the first place. So for them, today’s restrictions are just fine.
There’s another side to this coin, of course. Where editorial travel budget is available, it’s not always used wisely. That’s why you must prove to management that your staff travels productively. In my VP/editorial days, my company used a separate travel expense voucher for editors. The form required them, among other things, to itemize all coverage emanating from any trips and the issues in which it would appear. Every six months, I prepared an editorial travel summary for my management group. It showed such things as travel activity broken down into convention visits versus other fieldwork. We could tell at a glance who our most productive travelers were as opposed to those who were clearly wasting travel bucks.
Finally, I think that every editorial staff member should be visiting the industry every month. That visit could be a swing in your local area. Surely that wouldn’t bust somebody’s budget!
It just seems that we are so focused now on website content that maybe we’ve forgotten how B2B magazines built authoritative images long before the internet. If there is anything you can do to boost your field presence time, do so. Competitively speaking, it’s a smart move!
Howard Rauch is president of Editorial Solutions Inc., a consultancy focusing on B2B magazines. Rauch is the 2002 recipient of ASBPE’s Lifetime Achievement Award. You can contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.