Earlier this year, I managed to catch up with my long-standing media colleague and friend Brian Sims (in picture) who’s now the Editor of Security Matters and Fire Safety Matters. Both titles are published by Western Business Media Ltd. They are arguably the most highly regarded trade magazines in the professional security and fire safety markets respectively.
I asked Brian about the challenges he faces on a day-to-day basis and how he manages to remain wholly focused on high quality editorial, while keeping his readers and advertisers continually engaged and wanting to come back for more across what are now multiple print and digital platforms.
My plan was to complete the five-part serialisation of this interview during this past summer….but I failed to publish the last one. So here it is, with much thanks to Brian for allowing me to make elements of our interesting conversation public. It is in Q&A form as you’d expect.
Q21: What are the keys to making sure an opinion or technical article works for you?
A21: “The right word count. The copy must provide strong detail, particularly so if it’s a technical feature. It has to be wholly accurate, well written and structured to realise a logical and cohesive flow for the reader.”
Q22: In terms of time spent clarifying stories or writing text, would you say that takes up a good part of your typical working day?
A22: “I edit everything I receive. Absolutely everything. There’s nothing that goes into my magazines or online without first being edited in some shape or form by me. I read everything and correct or clarify wherever and whenever necessary.
“The greatest feeling as an editor is realised if somebody calls you or sends an e-mail after you’ve published a print edition and states: “The little tweaks and touches you made and added to the article made it read so much better.” That’s the essence of the Editor’s job. You take the written word as delivered and do your absolute best to elevate it to another level.”
Q23: If companies want to be better represented in your magazine, what’s the first thing they need to think about?
A23: “The key factor is for us to engage with them and vice-versa. Plenty of companies in the security and fire sectors are very good at this. We need to ascertain what companies want from a partnership approach and vice-versa. It’s about both parties having a discussion and seeing how each other works and what’s on offer. You can then move forward from there with a set and bespoke plan as well as a method of operation that suits both parties.”
Q24: Do you have quite a lot of meetings like that wherein you work out a ‘game plan’ with clients?
A24: “Yes. As you can imagine, I talk directly with many companies and PRs on a regular basis. It might take six months or even a year to fine-tune what a given PR delivers and to determine their core strengths. As my Dad always used to say, you learn by experience. I know who I can rely on to deliver on time and to a certain ‘spec’, etc. It’s all about relationship building.”
Q25: What’s the longevity of the working relationship with key players in the market now? Is it becoming longer or shorter?
A25: “Many more companies now are looking to build an extensive and longer term media programme involving print and digital content plus face-to-face events, for example. I have a lot of conversations along these lines during which companies are literally scoping out what they would like to do in partnership with ourselves for maximum engagement and return.The clear majority of companies are now much more certain about what they are trying to achieve in marketing terms. They’re looking for the right communication channels and mediums in order to meet their key goals.”
Q26: What about vendors and installation companies specifically?
A26: “They all diligently fought their way through COVID and wouldn’t have been able to do so without deep knowledge of – and acumen pertaining to – the technical and promotional side of the equation. There’s far more awareness around that now.
“I think a lot of people have really grasped the power of digital marketing as well. They’re keenly interested in the ‘black and white’ of engagement numbers that are independently verified and cannot be fudged. They like the transparency we afford them in this regard.”
Q27: Do you engage with people who say: ‘I’m not interested in the hard copy magazines, only your digital output’ or vice-versa?
A27: “Some desire only print, others only the digital medium. Most desire an element of both. It’s all of the above really. If you are looking to go to market then you want as many strings to your bow as possible.
“I maintain the belief that we will not see a disappearance of print magazines in the security sector or the fire sector.”
“There will also be a call for display advertising in print media to create and foster brand awareness and, of course, deliver the corporate message. Digital platforms do a different job, delivering facts and figures in terms of engagement and numbers of click throughs to an offer of, say, a demo, a content download or registration numbers for a gated White Paper.
“In the digital sphere, it appears to me that some journalists adopt the view that: ‘It doesn’t matter if it’s not right the first time. We can always edit and change it later as it’s online’. Well, yes you can, but the original piece will always be cached somewhere. It doesn’t matter what medium is being used. For me, the same rule always applies. It has to be correct at the first time of publishing.
“Speed to publication isn’t everything, even on social media channels. It’s better to be ‘second’, if you like, with a considered, factually accurate, properly structured and detailed piece than ‘first’ with something that doesn’t hit the mark in relation to any of those parameters.”
Miles Clayton of physical and cybersecurity market specialist PR agency Agility PR was in conversation with Brian Sims, Editor of Security Matters and Fire Safety Matters. Please do get in touch if you want to find out more about how to serve your key trade media editors better.