Reconstructing church and state

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You've heard this: We believe in separating church and state. That so-common phrase has become a metaphor for the media business, designed to bolster editorial integrity and prevent the blurring of the carefully delineated line between advertisers and editors.

The church-and-state separation keeps content pure and, perhaps more important, short-circuits any perception of bias from readers and other potential sponsors. Church and state need to remain separate entities in any media organization, light years removed and each unencumbered by the other. Right?


Two advantages of smaller publishing firms are flexibility and innovation, and in this spirit we've been carefully chipping away at the wall between church and state. Certain portions will always remain standing (pity the advertiser that expects editorial coverage), but we've found new life and new inspiration in eschewing the separation of church and state in favor of creating a church-state. It's a perfect win-win partnership for us, for advertisers and especially for readers. It'll work for your organization as well, whether you're a single-title publisher or a multinational media conglomerate.

The church-state is really a planned community, where everything has a design and purpose. Keeping in mind the editorial needs of the church side (evangelizing the appropriate message) and the business needs of the state (someone has to pay the bills), we've used all our mediaï¿?print, electronic and live events--to create the communities our readers clamor for. Meanwhile, we've extended our brand, raised our profile and taken business over continents and across oceans.

Like everything in media should, it all began with the end-user--the reader. In publications such as Chief Learning Officer (for corporate learning executives), Workforce Performance Solutions (for talent management leaders) and Certification Magazine (for IT professionals), we've found audiences hungering for a community. We created that with the support of our advertisers, producing more-targeted resources to meet specific reader needs and pulling together large audiences of like-minded professionals. At the end of the day, the new communities mean new solutions, new opportunities and new respect.

Consider our CLO Symposium as the perfect example. We launched that highly successful executive forum in 2004, and it has become the new model for our business, a fully integrated partnership between editors, readers and advertisers.

It starts with our editors, the keepers of the faith. We design programs based solely on the needs of the readership, creating an agenda of keynote speakers, discussion groups and workshops that appeal to our executive audience.

But it goes deeper. Sponsorship packages give our sponsors the ability to host and entertain their corporate clients. Sponsors therefore help populate the audience with the clients they most want to target, and those attendees lure in other industry peers. This produces an impressive roster of attendees, and the event continues to sell out twice a year.

Still the integration continues. Our symposium sponsors present workshops. They work closely with our editors to ensure the focus remains on the issues and ideas of greatest interest to the audience. Avoiding commercials is challenging, but the sponsors are so enthused by the response to this integrated model that they willingly take the high road. Post-event evaluations from our attendees are uniformly glowing and shared with sponsors to drive home the value of attendee satisfaction.

We've since built on this integrated model to expand live events both domestically and internationally. We've also launched new programs of integrated partnership with sponsors and found creative ways to serve the needs of all involved. Our most recent initiative, the CLO Academy, brings in a single high-powered partner, Capella University, to deliver a meaningful continuing education program that serves the educational needs of our readership and extends our reach into the reader's organization.

Separating church and state is a time-honored approach for media businesses, but the time has come to redraw those lines of separation. By bringing together church and state in a carefully controlled partnership, we've seen our business expand; enjoyed a significant return rate among advertisers; and our readers can't get enough of the programs we offer.

How's the state of your church-state relationship? A little creative integration can definitely improve diplomatic relations and lead to the kinds of international incidents that grow your media business.

Norm Kamikow is president-editor in chief of MediaTec Publishing. He can be reached at [email protected].

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