I am so impressed by Company Magazine at the moment.
I've just watched the feed of Company's Live Google Hangout while eating my dinner. Sidenote: I think that says a lot about the way we interactive with media in general. Rather than just sticking the telly on and finding something that'd do, YouTube and live streamed events such as this provide genuinely interesting, and actually quite exciting, niche content.
Anyway let's take a step back. About two years ago Company Magazine went through quite a major rebrand. While content remains the same in that they are a women's lifestyle and fashion magazine, the way they present that content has really evolved - as it should.
The physical magazine changed with a move from a typical glossy page to a matt texture encouraging a more edgy, but also down-to-earth feel, and a collage effect and focus on bloggers adding a sense of authenticity.
With this kind of publication though, it's not enough to just be in print - once a month. Sure, you might still maintain a loyal fanbase but to continue growing requires following trends, and technology has become a big part of that.
I should say, it's not just an issue of growing but also surviving - as seen in the struggle and subsequent closure of More! magazine, after 25 years of publication. It really is difficult.
So, it's an obvious one but social media really comes into it's own here. Where this used to be something that people would use to stay connected with peers, it's now also become a really powerful tool for companies. It gives them a chance to interact with customers (in an instant way), and actually to be informed by them too.
In my line of work (arts marketing) we spend a lot of time thinking about brand. Where some might presume this is something as simple as a colour scheme or font, it's so much more than that.
The best way I can think to describe a brand is the sum of all the interactions you have with a company. So, for the theatre I work at that's absolutely colour scheme and trademark brand elements, but also emails, tone of voice in social media but also the feeling you get from the physical building - whether popping in to buy tickets or taking part in a workshop.
So in terms of brand awareness, social media really is a huge deal. Rather than a monthly publication purchase, platforms such as Facebook and Twitter (amongst so many others - I lose track) mean that the brand becomes visible to you on at least an everyday basis, and in different ways. Not just visible - but something you can interact with.
That's important too and often a struggle - to communicate with personality, rather than just a corporate tone of voice. People feel more involved if they feel like they're talking to an actual person.
Equally, this avoids a company (in this case, Company Magazine) appearing as if on a pedestal. Before the time of social media it would have been so hard to get feedback or to stay informed. Now, they can take inspiration from the people interacting with them about their own lives, and what they'd like to see.
The Google Hangout event this evening was a brilliant example of taking away the pedestal, in favour of genuine interaction. Through questions with the Company team we got an insight into the way the magazine (both print and online) is put together, as well as their attitudes towards interacting with their readers and the future of magazines in general.
I really think live streaming and events of this kind are brilliant for building a sense of community. Tweets can often feel quite disparate as you share thoughts or work, and hope to make connections. By following the #CompanySocial hashtag, people get talking and following each other.
People also take in the same content, at the same time. It's a nice feeling. Like when we all watched the Olympics on telly and talked about it on Twitter. It puts the social in social media, and makes what could be a lonely activity (writing often is) into something which provokes further social activity.
This sort of online event also gives a bit of hope and inspiration. Rather than viewing journalism as an implausible dream, they see it as something they can work towards - with an awareness of the hard work involved.
It's also worth noting that Company commissioned two pieces from reader/writers for their January social edition during the Google Hangout. That shows a bravery and genuine commitment to nurturing new talent.
The inclusion of bloggers in the print publication also says a lot. There are so, so many brilliant beauty, fashion and lifestyle bloggers out there. An anxious company might see the competition from these brilliantly produced platforms. Instead, Company gets them involved - moving with the times and appreciating the inspiration they provide.
I didn't mean for this all to be quite so gushing. It's just that in a really geeky way, I love a bit of social media but also seeing a magazine moving at the perfect pace (with/ahead of the times) is quite exciting.
I look forward to seeing their next move, and for now I'm going to vote on their Facebook page for which shoe I'd like to see featured in their January edition. I just love it.