What‘s wrong with your firm’s management journal?

Lots, if it’s much like most of them. Many of them leave me wondering how they help the firms that produce them. Let me take one of the best as an example.

actRoland Berger is a German strategy consulting firm with a solid reputation and an award-winning management journal, think:act. Their thought leadership was recently ranked 4th of 25 consulting firms by White Space which monitors and evaluates consulting firms’ published material. A look at the latest issue of think: act shows why. There are 20 articles on a range of topics, starting with one on the global soccer business and finishing with an interview with Steve Jobs on what drives him (restlessness, apparently). In between there is for instance an article by Philip Kotler on how sustainability and corporate responsibility will be increasingly important to the marketing of professional services, and an interview with BASF CEO Jürgen Hambrecht on European management. 

As a management journal, there is lots of interesting stuff and it has won several international media awards. But does this help drive business for Roland Berger? I don’t know for sure, but there are several reasons I expect it does not. Here are four.

  1. No connection to RB experts. If someone is interested enough in a topic to want to talk with an RB author, there isn’t one. No RB professional is bylined on any of the articles. (There are half a dozen short, in-line quotes from RB consultants in the whole 64 pages, but no contact details or links.)
  2. No connection to RB Services. For example, the article by Philip Kotler positions him as the expert. He has his own consulting firm and there is no suggestion that anyone at RB is qualified to help. (There are a handful of passing references to RB practice areas, for instance in the quotes above. But no links and no depth).
  3. No deeper content on any topic. Website content leads to sales because it brings people to a place where they can engage with a company’s expertise and are exposed to its offerings (see for example the chart below from Hubspot). In these 64 pages, there are no links to anywhere, let alone to a website where people can delve deeper into a topic. 
  4. Not topical enough. think: act has appeared twice a year for the last several years. No-one waits six months any more for a business journal when they can search online on a topic and find multiple possibilities in less than a second.

Content vs. Leads

Much of this is intentional. According to a Roland Berger press release, think: act does not “aim at carrying the consultants' messages into the target group.”  But there are two legitimate raison d’êtres for a management journal; one is to make money in its own right and the other is to promote a company’s expertise so as to generate business. The first allows journalistic independence, but requires that the journal is good enough to compete with others in the marketplace – or it folds. The second requires promoting a firm’s capabilities without being self-promotional – or it repels. A journal that is given away free, but does not have to showcase a firm’s capabilities is relieved of both sets of constraints and achieves neither objective.

This isn’t the only professional firm’s periodical which is free and which follows a journalistic model. Publishers of similar periodicals often argue that they enhance the brand, though they rarely have data to support their claim. 

This is a nice publication, but like many of its peers, it could use a sense of purpose. If it had one, it could do more more for its publisher.

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