Publishing Allies: 4 Tips For Creating Productive Media Partnerships
It's not uncommon for sister publications within a publishing company to partner on issues or share content. For its October issue, Wired collaborated with fellow Condé Nast title bon appétit on a food issue, hoping to cross-pollinate its audience. But it's also encouraging to see publishers seek partners from beyond the confines of their own properties.
Earlier this year, online wedding resource and publisher The Knot partnered with leading gay media company Here Media Inc. to conduct a co-branded survey that examined how same-sex couples approach wedding planning. The survey explored what kinds of traditions same-sex couples are integrating into their weddings and how their wedding spending habits compare to their straight counterparts. Here Media-which includes brands such as OUT, The Advocate, Here TV and Gay.com-and The Knot collaborated to gather survey results from readers visiting both companies' various web properties.
For Anja Winikka, TheKnot.com site director, the partnership made sense on many levels. "It's an historic time for our country. We've always been a strong proponent of gay marriage, and we've always had content on it." Winikka says The Knot was eager to learn more about gay couples and reached out to the experts in that niche, Here Media.
The Knot and Here Media were a perfect match. Here's how and why they hit it off.
1. Have Something In Common
Diane Anderson-Minshall, editor-at-large for The Advocate magazine and Advocate.com, emphasizes the importance of partnering with organizations that share similar goals and ensuring both parties see the value of working together. "Many companies go into partnerships thinking only of what they'll get out of it," says Anderson-Minshall, "But when it fails, that's in part because it wasn't mutually beneficial."
Winikka agrees: "My best advice is to absolutely make sure that each brand is receiving equal play in the partnership. At the end of the program, both brands want to feel that it was a success for them, so that the partnerships can be done year after year and the relationship between the two brands continues to grow."
In this case, The Knot and Here Media both saw the great benefit of learning from one another and about their respective audiences, says Anderson-Minshall. "The Knot is an industry leader in contemporary wedding issues. We are the industry leaders in this country, hands down, on speaking to and really reaching lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender consumers. Across all our platforms, our readers are educated, affluent and most likely to be first-adopters and trend spotters. And now they are getting ready to spend a hefty chunk of money in the wedding industry. The Knot helps survey those folks, and we help The Knot understand them."
2. Set Clear Expectations
Like a good marriage, a healthy business partnership requires clearly defined roles and responsibilities. "Outline all the expectations," says Anderson-Minshall. "Not just costs but also deadlines, who exactly is responsible for what, what your expectations are and who is in charge; even in partnerships, a project needs a manager and without it, you'll get something like Healthcare.gov (which probably failed because there were 54 contractors and no single boss)."
Also, be aware that not every partnership works out, says Anderson-Minshall. "Successful media partnerships are a lot like dating: the better you've been able to vet someone and make sure you have shared interests and goals or at least chemistry, the better it works out."
3. Be Open Minded
When it comes to finding a good partner, Anderson-Minshall suggests publishers be more adventurous in finding new collaborators. "A lot of media companies don't partner with other companies because they think they'll lose readers to that other organization. But unless you're head to head in a category, that's rarely true. In our case, The Knot is much more service-oriented and we're more culture and news-focused, so our partnership was a great way to blend those elements, retaining for each what we do best."
4. Enjoy the Rewards
If you've selected the right partner, it should have a halo effect on both brands, says Winikka. Previously, The Knot partnered with Mashable to learn more about "techie" weddings, and as a result of the partnership, "if you're planning a techie wedding, you'd be more likely to trust The Knot," says Winikka. "Mashable is an authority on all things in the technology sphere while The Knot is an authority on all things weddings. The partnership was successful for both brands, as The Knot sought to reach their technology-focused audience and Mashable sought to reach The Knot audience of brides."
In many cases, such media partnerships have the potential for exposing your brand to a new crowd. That's why Here Media felt it was better to collaborate than do the survey alone. "This allowed us to work with The Knot on a guide that would reach LGBT readers of The Knot and expose them to our brand, and vice versa," says Anderson-Minshall. "If Dog Fancy wants to find out how many pet owners are LGBT, I hope they come to us as well. We're always open." PE
Denis Wilson was previously content director for Target Marketing, Publishing Executive, and Book Business, as well as the FUSE Media and BRAND United summits. In this role, he analyzed and reported on the fundamental changes affecting the media and marketing industries and aimed to serve content-driven businesses with practical and strategic insight. As a writer, Denis’ work has been published by Fast Company, Rolling Stone, Fortune, and The New York Times.