Five internal magazine mistakes to easily avoid

Five internal magazine mistakes to easily avoid

May 12, 2015

Internal publications play a crucial role in building engagement – but many corporate magazines make the same old mistakes, lessening the channel’s reach among employees. But, if you know what to look out for, these errors can be avoided.

High quality internal communication helps reinforce a firm’s culture while poorly produced content can even have a negative impact. That’s the message stemming from Disney’s think-tank The Disney Institute this week.

Despite the rise of digital channels in recent years, traditional printed publications retain a key role in delivering messaging to employees – as long as they evolve with the times and side-step common pitfalls.


Mark Newnham, Head of Creative at Headlines – The Internal Communication Agency, has overseen the creation of numerous award-winning internal corporate magazines in recent years – for both print and digital.

He outlines the mistakes to avoid if you’re looking to produce a printed magazine that creates a true connection with colleagues.

1. Brand police

More often than not, an internal magazine strictly follows a firm’s external brand. Brand police dictate it must look a certain way – heaven forbid you stray from the corporate typography or colour palette.

However, pretty much all brand guidelines ignore any reference to magazine design – and for good reason. Magazines by their nature should have creative freedom and variety between pages – if every page was created from a rigid, brochure-style template it would look like, well, a corporate brochure.

A magazine should have its own identity that, of course, may be heavily influenced by the corporate brand but also require style elements that are unique and allow the audience to recognise the magazine is for them and not simply another piece of external marketing.

2. Newsflash

Using your internal magazine as a news channel is outdated and ill-advised – nobody wants to hear about Dave from Accounts in his annual bath of baked beans again.

News should be, as the name suggests, new. This type of content no longer sits comfortably within a printed medium, unless you have a daily (no chance), weekly (highly unlikely) or monthly (rare in this day and age) internal publication.

By the time the publication is out, the news is now dated and your employees will no doubt have heard about it already.

By all means include a news spread to cover quick snippet highlights from across the business but don’t give it any more than that.

Unless the publication is your single comms channel and the only way to push messages, I’d suggest it is more effective to concentrate on feature-led, timeless content as the foundation of your magazine and put your news on a more appropriate, digital channel.

3. Talk from the top

Using your magazine as a mouthpiece for leadership is not going to win any supporters – hearing about how great the company is and how great life is from the top is likely get right up average employees’ noses.

An internal publication should be representative of the workforce and allow for an open and honest dialogue from across the business.

You often find a MD or CEO message is the first thing you see when opening an internal magazine.

This often sends alarm bells ringing: INTERNAL PROPAGANDA ALERT.

It doesn’t always set the right tone and doesn’t give the impression that the magazine is for and about its people. Why not try a guest editor column instead that changes each issue to represent people from across the business?

4. More is more

More often than not internal publications are crammed full of content. It seems every man and his dog who wants a story included is given their wish.

You know what I mean. “2,500 words on that urban fox you found rummaging in the office skip? No problem!”.

Perhaps that’s not entirely fair. I know editors work hard to make sure content earns its place and warrants inclusion but the fact remains – internal publications are often copy-heavy with too much content squeezed into their finite space.

This has a damaging effect on design and, as a result, reader engagement. By adding those extra 300 words the pages become heavy, unappealing and instantly putting off a potential readers.

Leaving clear space on a page can be seen as a non-essential and luxury.

But I say embrace the white space – give articles room to breathe and create content that welcomes and encourages the reader to take notice rather than turn the page without a seconds thought.

5. Digital only

If your internal magazine doesn’t have a digital presence then you need to get a move on!

Mobile technology has transformed the way we consume media and our expectations of it. However, so many companies are rushing to go digital-only with their publication – big mistake.

Print has vastly outlived predictions of its death.

Why? It creates a tangible, physical reading experience that digital just can’t and crucially, for the internal world, it allows in-depth analysis and timeless content that provides focus on life inside the business and celebrates its people.

Saying that – we all know the benefits of digital and the (almost) limitless possibilities it offers the communication world.

Therefore a multi-channel approach is vital – one that harnesses the individual potential of print and digital and gets them supporting and complementing one another.