An Inconvenient Truth

I received a telephone call earlier this year from the communications staff at a large association that represents and lobbies for some of the country’s most prestigious organizations. (For the sake of the association, I’m being intentionally vague.) They were calling to inquire about The Pulley Group’s availability to produce a cover story for the association’s flagship publication.

I was flattered. Then they mentioned the deadline, and I was terrified. They needed the piece in two weeks.

Upon regaining consciousness, I accepted the assignment. Two weeks later, exhausted, we delivered a well-reported, well-written cover story. The client was pleased, yet I was stumped. Why would a world class organization commission a cover story two weeks before deadline?

A few weeks later a third party shared with me the back story, or what raconteur Paul Harvey referred to in his inimitable way as the rest of the story. Long before the association had called on The Pulley Group, it had arranged with a freelancer to write the cover story. My source, who knows that person, told me that the writer withdrew from the project two weeks prior to deadline for unknown reasons. As fate would have it, I happen to know this person as well.

I don’t know why the writer called it quits, and I won’t speculate about the last-minute withdrawal.

There is, however, a clear moral to this story: Choose carefully the people who create your publications’ content. For many associations, foundations and alumni groups, the magazine is the primary means through which constituents know them. Don’t entrust creation of this vital communications channel to just anyone.

The issue here is about more than missed deadlines. More frequently, it’s about missing the mark. Is your publication’s content smart and professional or boring and mediocre? Do the stories engage readers or leave them cold? Does the editorial quality of your publication enhance your organization’s brand or detract from it?

If you are unhappy with the answers, perhaps you should do something about it.

Posted in Editorial on 03/27/2012 08:03 pm

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