Publications & Products
Volume 3, Issue 1

Produce a Compelling Magazine

Magazines offer institutions an ideal opportunity to communicate their value to the surrounding community, say the leaders of two award-winning magazines.

"If we're going to continue to ask for community support and engagement in our mission, then they need to have confidence in what we're doing," says Lauren Brookey, vice president of external affairs at Tulsa Community College in Oklahoma. "In terms of investment of time and resources, a magazine gives us the best opportunity to do that."

Spotlight on TCC, the college's magazine, recently won the Silver Award for Community College Magazines in CASE's 2013 Circle of Excellence Awards. It's produced twice a year and distributed to a list of about 5,000 community leaders. The budget for the magazine is kept to about $1.60 per copy—including postage—by using internal staff resources to direct the publication, write its copy and print the final product with the assistance of an external designer.

"Given their staffing and budget constraints, this was a very impressive publication," Circle of Excellence judges wrote of the magazine in their report. The judges also noted that the publication "received [their] high marks for being so informative about and responsive to community conditions."

Focusing on the college's value to the community is important for the magazine, says Brookey.

"We believe the magazine reflects the value of the investment our citizens make in the college," she says. "So we make every effort to reflect what initiatives are going on at the college, what progress we're making against goals we've set, the work of our outstanding graduates and other positive trends."

The magazine has even helped spur further support of the college. Brookey notes that a donor recently made a gift to a scholarship that supports single mothers after reading about the work of a faculty member who established it.

Vitae, a publication of Valencia College in Orlando, Fla., has a slightly different approach to keeping its alumni, donors and friends connected to the institution. The magazine, which won the 2013 Gold Award for Community College Magazines, is produced twice a year and distributed to more than 41,000 people—mostly alumni but also community and business leaders. Produced entirely by college staff, the average unit cost for the two issues produced last year was $0.43—including postage.

The Circle of Excellence judges wrote in their report that Vitae was "student-centered" but also highlighted the college's impact in the community and informed its readers "about state and economic conditions" that might have an impact on the institution.

Barbara Shell, director of alumni and community relations at Valencia, says the magazine's "class notes" section—in which alumni contribute updates about their personal and professional accomplishments—is among the growing and popular sections.

With an estimated growth of about 7,000 recipients a year and ever-increasing readership, Shell says she is confident the magazine is accomplishing its goal.

"A growing mailing list without a budget to match presents challenges," Shell says. "We are currently exploring alternative ways of production and delivery to accommodate the needs of our readers while also maintaining the quality of the magazine and remaining within budget."

Similarly, Brookey says that Spotlight on TCC is exploring ways to broaden its distribution to include alumni. Currently, only recent graduates receive the magazine. While Brookey is also looking at alternative means of distributing the magazine, she is convinced that the print piece has real value to college communications.

"The more that communications move online, the more I think we get through and garner attention by having our magazine be a document that people get in their mailbox and touch and feel," she says. "We just need to make sure that continues to meet the needs of our audience."

Please share your questions and comments with Marc Westenburg via email at or +1 202 478 5570.

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This article is from the July 2013 issue of the Community College Advancement News.