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Chatelaine: Canvassing for Content

For more than 80 years, Chatelaine has established itself as one of Canada’s most trusted brands by speaking to and with women about the best of style, home, food, health and real life. In keeping with this mandate, the magazine decided to commission major national surveys to get further insights into the minds and hearts of women across the country, aged 35 to 45. From these surveys, Chatelaine published two ambitious multimedia packages called “This is 40(ish)”—one in 2016 and the other in 2017. In 2018, as the #MeToo movement captivated the world, Chatelaine chose to focus on Canadian men and launched another survey—this time aimed at 25- to 65-year-old men. The resulting package, titled “The Man Survey,” revealed men’s thoughts on everything from masculinity to feminism, to sex, love, relationships and their role in the movement.

Survey: 45 questions; 1,000 people. Spinoff: Multimedia packaged content.

WHAT THEY DID

For each of their three surveys, Chatelaine worked with Abacus Data, an Ottawa-based polling, public opinion and market research firm.

“We asked ourselves what we would really want to know if we could ask anything,” says Lianne George, Chatelaine‘s Editor-in-Chief. The team then whittled down the list to about 45 questions and Abacus put these in front of 1,000 people across Canada. From the participants’ answers, the magazine spun off print pieces, multiple video series and social assets to support the surveys.

Having this multi-pronged approach gives Chatelaine an opportunity to “delve into conversations inspired by the results,” explained George. “This is actually the fun part, where you get to mine the findings for stand-out stats that lend themselves to deeper exploration via an article or video, for example.”

While Chatelaine‘s process started with defining what kind of content they wanted to produce, the team acknowledged they would need to remain flexible. “We had a sense of what we wanted to do when we started, but certainly the execution was informed by the most interesting results,” says George.

Finding balance: time x process

HOW THEY DID IT

Chatelaine has a staff of 24; George estimates about half worked on the survey series when factoring in all the stages of content creation. It was no small or quick feat. To wit: the team worked to conceptualize the project, commission the survey, write the questions, parse results, assign content, produce video, shoot portraits, write, edit, design, plan social strategy and finally, publish. From start to finish, each package took about six months to complete.

Given the many moving parts, managing the timeline could have been a concern. But for George, it was a matter of allocating a generous planning period and sticking to a strict workback schedule.

Challenge: Making sure context and intent of participants' words are not lost in the editing process.

CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

“One of our biggest challenges was ensuring we captured a representative collection of voices—both in responses to the survey and in our video series, where we teased out some of the most provocative questions,” says George. She stresses that it was crucial that the context and true intent of participants’ words were not lost in the process of editing hours of footage into minutes-long videos.

She also points to how highlighting surprising facts can garner much attention. “In our first iteration, what struck us was the stat that only 32% of women self-identified as feminists,” she states. “By publishing this, we were able to catch the attention of major influencers like Lena Dunham and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.”

According to George, 2017 was very successful from a traffic and engagement perspective. They created social media content that had major organic reach; designed a popular, cheeky and downloadable emoji set (including yogurt, a bottle of wine and some comfy, high-waisted underwear); and their hashtag, #ThisIs40ish, trended #1 in Canada on launch day. “It was one of our top stories of the year in terms of unique views and social engagement.”

When it comes to #TheManSurvey of 2018, Chatelaine was able to help nudge forward an important conversation about how certain gender expectations and attitudes shape the experiences of Canadian men and women.

Having established great success with the surveys over the past three years, Chatelaine is already planning another for 2019.

George says: Surveys are great for getting to know your audience. And they generate a lot of relevant story ideas, too!

KNOWLEDGE SHARING

According to George, the foundation for the multi-year project’s success came from working with the right polling firm.

“You’ll want to partner with someone you trust and who understands your editorial mandate,” she says. “Abacus really understood the value in what we were trying to do and helped us position our questions effectively without changing the editorial nature of the language we were using.”

She is also confident in Chatelaine‘s investment in these surveys. “They’re a great way to get to know your audience and generate a lot of relevant story ideas in one go!”

Read Chatelaine‘s survey content for 2016, 2017 and 2018.


This Showcasing Success case study was made possible with the support of the Ontario Media Development Corporation.

Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC)

Content:

Canadian Forest Industries: Surveys the Nation

Canadian Forest Industries had known for several years that Canadian logging contractors were struggling financially. What they could not pinpoint—and no one else in the industry could either—was exactly how much they were struggling. It was common knowledge that most contractors had taken rate cuts to help the forestry industry through the 2007–2011 recession in U.S. housing. When the industry finally recovered from 2012 onwards, it seemed that contractors were being left behind but there was no hard data.

Canadian Forest Industries‘ audience is comprised of independent small- to medium-sized businesses, who simply didn’t have the resources or associations to collect the comprehensive data required. So the magazine decided to tackle the project themselves: they thought it would provide several months’ worth of exclusive online content to drive traffic, followed by a formal report. In a best case scenario, the CFI team hoped their findings would make an impact on the debate about the profitability crisis happening between the industry, the government and the contractors.

Content: The Breakdown—1 survey, 236 responses, 56-page final report, 15-part web series.

WHAT THEY DID

Group Publisher and Editorial Director Scott Jamieson and Canadian Forest Industries Editor Maria Church led the charge in launching the exhaustive readership survey to get feedback on the current state of the forestry industry in Canada.

After receiving the final data, the CFI editorial team combed through it for themes and angles, ready to analyze the results and turn the data into multiple forms of content. When they started reviewing the data and brainstorming how to share it, it became clear that a multi-media, multi-step approach was best.

The team did a gradual content rollout from June to October 2016. This slow trickle helped build momentum around the survey results and garner feedback, and allowed staff to manage the survey workload around their regular duties by staggering the work.

They began by launching a weekly 15-part web series with each short piece focused on a key finding from the survey, such as “Real world logging profits,” “Machine operator earnings,” “Operating cost trends,” and “Fleet replacement plans.” Each installment was promoted to CFI‘s 16,000 e-news subscribers and on their Twitter and Facebook feeds.

Canadian Forest Industries also ran a longer regional report every few weeks on Canada’s main forest areas to show their audience how their region was doing relative to prior years and other regions. After releasing the 15 themed reports and regional reports digitally from late June to late September, the team created a three-page summary article for the magazine’s October 2016 issue. Additionally, they produced a video segment that featured CFI editor Maria Church and anchor Tamar Atik sharing key findings from the survey data.

The CFI survey results were also shared in industry presentations at OptiSaw 2016 in Vancouver, and another at the Truck Loggers Association AGM in 2017.

Finally, the CFI team produced a 56-page final report. This combined all 15 thematic reports, the five regional reports and an executive summary in a single volume, along with quotes from loggers across Canada. It was released in October 2016, in conjunction with the October 2016 summary article.

Helpful Tip: Reach B2B readers during their slow season.

HOW THEY DID IT

Scott Jamieson and Maria Church worked together to create the survey, and then solicited feedback from a few logging associations, with the Truck Loggers Association in BC acting as a main partner. The CFI team threw everything they could think of into the survey questions and then used timers to whittle it down to a 15-minute survey. They also worked with third-party research firm Bramm & Associates to vet the survey, to ensure that their questions would produce usable data. All told, it took CFI under two weeks to produce the entire survey in English and French.

After launching the bilingual survey in early April 2016 (typically a slow time for loggers as they are not running their operations), the CFI team reached out to potential participants through email; online links on the magazine’s English and French sites; and LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook in both English and French. It was in the market for six weeks, resulting in over 230 complete replies to the detailed survey questions. As noted in the 15-part web series, survey respondents “were distributed according to the geographic breakdown of the forest industry, with 50% in Western Canada, 25% in Quebec, and the rest found in Ontario, Atlantic Canada, and central Canada. Within BC responses were almost evenly split between the BC coast and Interior.”

The research firm had a final report to CFI by mid-June. The editorial team then spent a week reviewing the results and planning how they’d roll them out to their audience.

Reaching Out: Email, shares, links.

CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

Initially, the magazine was worried that the length of the survey would limit the number of complete replies. They decided to reach out to their target group directly through CASL-compliant emails, social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram), and popular industry websites.

Fortunately, the group of logging contractors that CFI was reaching out to were highly motivated. The contractors genuinely wanted to know the state of the industry. The survey also received a vote of support from the largest logging association, Truck Loggers in BC, who encouraged members to take the time to complete it.

Time management was a major challenge for the CFI team on this project as they were adding a large assignment to an already busy editorial staff. Using a third-party research firm to vet the survey and create the initial report was crucial, both for credibility and workload.

Jamieson also notes that executing a successful survey requires a skilled editor who is comfortable manipulating data and finding the story in the numbers.

Jamieson says: Manage the workload. Roll out your content. Then re-purpose it for the main report.

KNOWLEDGE SHARING

Research is one area where magazines can make a meaningful impact on their market, especially for business media markets and brands. Industry magazines are one of the few organizations within a sector that can provide an unbiased perspective on pressing industry issues. To help finance these projects, Jamieson recommends finding sponsors to pay for the research. For CFI‘s survey, Hultdins, Stihl, Tigercat and Ponsse were sponsors and the work was supported by the Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC).

Jamieson also recommends talking to stakeholders in your community to see what information would be most useful, testing the surveys with them, and giving a lot of thought to how the information will be used. For example, in the CFI survey the print magazine was a relatively minor player, with the majority of content produced for online, digital and social channels. He also recommends using free charting software online that can turn numbers into graphs and charts in a few minutes to avoid getting bogged down in the graphics process. The production department can then create high-end versions of the graphics chosen for print.

CFI released a follow-up survey in April 2018, which they hope will allow them to start analysing industry trends in the data. Using a similar content marketing strategy as for the 2017 survey, CFI plans to increase their use of social media for the 2018 survey outreach and eventual results sharing. The magazine’s ultimate goal is to produce a similar survey every two years.

See the full report here.


This Showcasing Success case study was made possible with the support of the Ontario Media Development Corporation.

Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC)