By Connie Pool, F140306, National President
Probably the most visible and welcome benefit of membership in FMCA is the magazine that arrives in our mailboxes each month. From the very beginning, the founders of FMCA realized that the association needed a tool for communicating with its members. And, from the beginning they opted for a magazine format and titled the publication Family Motor Coaching.
This month I’d like to share with you a behind-the-scenes look at the Communications Department, the team of staff members at the national office who are responsible for creating this monthly publication and also for developing other visual and written communications for the association.
The process of creating the magazine involves staff members in the areas of editorial, art, advertising sales, and production. In addition to the department director, the Communications Department has five staff members in the editorial area, five in the art area, and four in the advertising sales and production area. Two of the advertising sales staff members also have duties in the Convention/Commercial Services Department. The in-house sales team maintains direct responsibility for approximately half of the sales territory. Magazine and online sales efforts are augmented by three outside advertising representative firms that cover other parts of the United States and Canada.
Staff members oversee the creation of the magazine each month from its conception to its arrival in your mailboxes. The majority of the production of the magazine is accomplished in-house using sophisticated publishing equipment, and by the time the digital files are sent to the publication printer, which specializes in periodical printing, they are ready to be used to create plates for the press.
Of course, this brief overview belies all of the detailed, day-to-day work required to bring each month’s magazine to life. Perhaps the best place to start in offering a bit more information is with advertising sales. As is the case with most print publications, the size of FMC magazine each month is dictated by the amount of advertising sold for the issue. More advertising sales translates to more editorial pages that can be delivered to readers. So, sales staff and advertising sales reps continually call on current and potential advertising clients to discuss their marketing plans and how FMCA fits into them. The sales and production staff also ensure that the correct advertising copy is placed in each issue according to the advertisers’ instructions.
Not only does this advertising revenue help pay for the production of the magazine itself, but over the years it also has made it possible for FMCA to fund other member benefits and to maintain low membership dues. The association owes a debt of gratitude to the many companies that have supported the magazine as well as FMCA’s conventions and, more recently, the association’s Web site, FMCA.com.
Interestingly enough, FMC readers spend considerable time perusing the advertisements that appear in the magazine (far more time than magazine industry averages). These ads help readers keep abreast of offerings in the motorhome industry, and association members over the years have proven that they respond to these advertisers by purchasing the motorhomes and related products and services that are promoted.
Of course, the editorial content is vital to the magazine as well. Information exchange was a goal of FMCA’s founding families, and it remains a fundamental premise of the magazine’s mission today. Developing a winning mix of material can be a challenge given the diversity of the magazine’s readership.
We as members are united by the fact that we each own a motorhome. However, starting with the type of motorhome itself, interests diverge. FMCA members own type A, B, and C motorhomes, as well as coach conversions. So, the size, price range, and equipment in these vehicles varies widely. Beyond the vehicle itself, readers are pretty evenly divided between male and female, with 92 percent of members indicating that they are married, and they encompass various age groups. They hail from various parts of the North American continent and beyond. Many are retired, but some are working full-time or part-time. Their occupations (current and former) run the gamut. Their skill level in terms of the mechanics of their motorhomes ranges from the very hands-on and knowledgeable do-it-yourselfer, who likely could take a motorhome apart and put it back together again, to those who are hands-off and depend on service facilities to do all of their work. The editorial staff endeavors to provide material to meet various needs and interests.
The mix includes technical material, which readers can’t seem to get enough of, along with articles about travel destinations, motorhome livability reviews, and association news and information. The assortment of monthly columns highlights RV-related products and accessories, handy tips from fellow travelers, answers to technical questions posed by readers, hints and ideas for full-time motorhomers, and even galley cooking. The majority of this material is provided by FMCA members and other freelance writers who are out traveling and enjoying the RV lifestyle, but the editorial staff members write articles also at times. All material is checked for grammar, spelling, and proper flow, as well as factual accuracy.
The graphic artists add their expertise by melding words, photographs, and other elements to create the final package. In addition to the editorial material, the graphic artists are involved in examining the digital files that are submitted by advertisers and their agencies to make sure the ad files meet the printer’s requirements and will flow smoothly through the process.
Finally, the graphic artists digitally prepare each individual page “” advertising and editorial “” to meet the printer’s direct-to-plate needs and then collect the pages on a storage device that is shipped to the printer. The staff at the printer takes over from there, and in a couple of weeks they have brought together digital files; ink; paper; and the latest printing, binding, and mailing technology to manufacture our great magazine.
This cycle repeats each month. While this monthly creation occupies a large percentage of time for the Communications Department staff members, this isn’t the only project in which they become involved. Department members assist with other written and visual communications of the association, such as the biannual convention program and convention-related artwork; the membership application and membership renewal forms; area rally artwork and ads; area rally program prepress preparation; fliers of all sorts, etc. The list is quite long, and all of this work must be sandwiched between magazine-related duties. Department members also assist with the organization’s public and media relations efforts.
I would be remiss in discussing the efforts of the professional staff involved with the magazine if I didn’t also mention two groups of FMCA members who work closely with them and contribute to the success of the publication. One group that works behind the scenes is the Technical Advisory Committee. These members review all technical material before it appears in the magazine to help to ensure accuracy and relevancy for readers, a concept that has been quite successful over the years. The committee doesn’t ever have a formal meeting, but its members provide a valuable service to the association.
The other group of members that works with the magazine staff is the Magazine Panel. Panel members review each issue of the magazine and also are asked to talk about the magazine with fellow members they meet in their travels and then pass along any suggestions to the staff. Panel members and staff get together during each convention to share ideas about the magazine and become better acquainted. These gatherings also allow panel members to ask questions, and they glean knowledge they can then share with other FMCA members they meet in their travels.
Speaking of people we meet in our travels, the magazine serves as an excellent recruitment tool for new members. Many have commented that the magazine alone makes the FMCA dues worthwhile. So, when you meet motorhome owners in your travels, give them a copy of FMC magazine that you have finished reading. Or take their names and addresses and contact the FMCA national office and ask someone in the Member Services Department to send them a prospective member kit, which includes a copy of the magazine. Another way to introduce them to the magazine is to have them sign up for a free six-month subscription to the magazine, using the tear-out cards that appear every other month in FMC, including last month’s March issue.