While peer recognition is all well and good, as are the awards that accompany it, Samantha McLean believes that neither accurately reflects true commercial success, at least not in publishing.
The editor of award-winning industry titles Elite Agent and Elite Property Manager says that the key to their growth so far is primarily about having solid values and sticking to them.
It is a mantra closely followed by the whole team, which includes McLean’s husband Mark Edwards. In the last two years, they have been awarded back-to-back titles in the Publish Australia Awards, securing Business Editor of the Year in 2015 and Business Magazine of the Year in 2016, in the esteemed company of much higher profile and more established outfits.
“While we have a thriving digital presence, print is still the cornerstone of our business,” McLean says. “Where consumer publications may have struggled in the last few years, we’ve been able to tap into a different type of audience – one that actually makes a conscious decision to read a magazine and keep it around for as long as they possibly can.
“The proud moments come when we walk into other people’s offices and see our magazines on their coffee tables and in their lunchrooms. The fact that people choose to keep our work around is pretty cool.”
She says Elite Agent’s key point of difference is a triple-pillar foundation of audience engagement: educate, elevate and entertain. If stories arrive that fail to meet any one of these audience objectives, either in the form of contributor articles or media releases they go no further.
“Elite Agent is not about a cheap click, which may have been an easier but less fulfilling path to go down. Other media outlets seem to like highlighting the bad parts of the industry. Unfortunately, that can only have a negative impact on everyone.
“In my experience, the majority of real estate professionals are exceptionally hard working people with families, like you and I, in a crazy competitive and sometimes stressful environment just trying to do their best.
“We feel as B2B publishers – and I am very passionate about this – if you’re going to earn a living in an industry then you do things that lift the industry up rather than the opposite. What you don’t see from us in the magazine or online is as important as what you do see,” she says.
McLean, a 20-year sales and marketing veteran and self-proclaimed newsletter junkie, says Elite Agent’s focus on innovation along with the ability to remain agile are also key planks in their business journey to date.
A Virtual Auditorium training initiative and user-generated content programs such as Transform (“like MasterChef for real estate”) are additional examples of innovative audience engagement, which put them on the cutting edge of digital communications as well as print media.
Whether it’s about the basics or the ‘cool stuff’, everything is still a test until it’s not, says McLean., “You have to regularly go back and ask yourself ‘did that work and could we have done that better?’ Getting audience feedback on what we do is also important because it allows us to look at whether we are doing a good job for our readers, or not. And, if we do a good job for our readers, ultimately that’s a good job for our commercial partners as well. You need both in publishing to drive growth.”