Why a printed magazine in the digital era was the right choice for SaskOrganics

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At Blossom Communications, we take our mission statement, “to help organizations and businesses flourish” to heart in all of our client work. That was certainly the case for SaskOrganics, a member-based organic industry association representing all certified organic producers and processors in Saskatchewan. It turned out that a printed magazine, sent out by snail mail, was exactly what the organization needed to flourish.

In this digital age, it’s easy to forget about low-tech solutions. But sometimes, it’s these low-tech solutions that make you stand out from the crowd.

In August 2016, the team at Blossom and SaskOrganics got together and created a magazine from the ground up. ABUNDANCE – a quarterly magazine dedicated to telling the story of organic agriculture in Saskatchewan – became the organization’s official publication. Blossom publishes the magazine and takes care of everything from content creation and graphic design to printing and distribution. We are currently working with SaskOrganics on the eighth issue of the magazine.

While the magazine is continually evolving, every issue contains three regular features: INNOVATE, SUSTAIN and NOURISH. INNOVATE highlights a local producer doing pioneering work on their farm; SUSTAIN focuses on best management practices and methods of the art and science of growing organic crops and produce; while NOURISH features a Saskatchewan chef or restaurant that uses organic ingredients and a farm-to-table approach to their dishes.

We caught up with SaskOrganics Executive Director Marla Carlson recently to get her take on why ABUNDANCE has proven to be such a winning combination for the organization.

BLOSSOM COMMUNICATIONS (BC): When you started working with Blossom, what did you want to accomplish?

SASKORGANICS (SO): First and foremost, SaskOrganics needed some kind of vehicle to communicate with our members.

I wanted it to be something more than a standard industry newsletter, as they can sometimes be too organizational-centric. I wanted something that was beautiful, that people would want to pick up and read.

We represent the organic sector from seed to fork and that gave us the opening to think about it differently. We wouldn’t have the sector without the people who eat our food – and the education of organic consumers is also part of our mandate. ABUNDANCE goes beyond being a producer-focused publication – we communicate with our members and we educate the public.

In Saskatchewan, I think we sometimes feel like everything happens somewhere else. Part of the purpose of this magazine was to tell the stories of our sector by showing people the diversity of the sector and the things that we grow, the innovation happening on farms across our province, our amazing farm to table restaurants, and our passion and desire to use local and organic food.

BC: What is Abundance to you? Does it achieve what you set out to do?

SO: From the very first issue, our members and the public really fell in love with it. And that was incredibly satisfying. People got it. People would pick it up, hold it in their hands and hold it close. It was interesting to watch others experience the magazine.

It’s important that it is as visual as it is – the beauty of the publication really opens people up.

You’re hopeful whenever you launch something that people respond positively to it. I’ve lost track of the number of people who have told me, “I can hardly wait until the next issue comes out!”

BC: In this day and age, a magazine is a pretty non-traditional approach. Why a magazine?

SO: Our email inboxes are just filled with newsletters… everyone has an e-newsletter or e-blast of some sort. But you don’t really get much in the mail anymore.

There’s something about a magazine arriving in your mailbox that’s beautiful and reflects back to you what’s happening in your own community and sector. It is nice to have something that is physical – that you can pick up and read again and again.

A lot of our members still rely on what they get in the mail. ABUNDANCE helped us meet our goal of getting something into the mailbox of every organic producer in the province to raise the profile of our organization.

There’s something really validating about having this magazine show up and it’s relevant to you. I think that has been part of the success of it or why people are waiting for it. The content continues to be of interest. We’re a long way away from running out of things to write about.

Our articles may be shorter than a traditional magazine, however, one of the comments I’ve had is that people like that they can read it cover to cover in one sitting and get some really interesting content without a huge time investment. They value that.

In the crazy digital world that we live in, ABUNDANCE has found some sort of sweet spot.

  

Can you tell us how ABUNDANCE has helped SaskOrganics flourish?

Without a doubt, it has raised the profile of organics in Saskatchewan. It’s hard to quantify because there’s never been anything quite like it in the province before. Abundance has been a part of making the organic sector visible in Saskatchewan and nationally as well. It’s all about creating feedback loops.

Who we send it to has also been strategic. Of course, we send it out to our members as it’s their magazine, but it also goes to influencers, stakeholders, provincial and federal politicians and cabinet ministers, the Prime Minister’s Office, Leaders of the Opposition, Cabinet Ministers, the Legislative Library in Saskatchewan, the Parliamentary Library in Ottawa, and pretty much anyone who asks for it. You can also pick it up at the trade shows we attend and at Saskatchewan organic grocers and retailers.

Advertisers have also embraced the magazine and are committing to multiple editions. They aren’t just doing a good thing supporting SaskOrganics by advertising; our advertisers are seeing a tangible return on their investment and getting new customers as a result.

BC: Any final thoughts?

SO: I pitched the ball and Blossom caught it. I think every success is about finding the right collaborators. Creating something from nothing – how exciting is that! It was an awesome, blank slate opportunity to create something that would have meaning, be beautiful and convey the message of the incredibly vibrant organic sector we have here. There was a lot of love, intention and thought put into it. It’s a passion project for the team and that’s what draws people to it. Everybody who is working on it loves it!

Back issues of ABUNDANCE magazine are available on SaskOrganics’ website.