Waste not, want not — it’s the unofficial slogan of many non-profit and association magazines faced with the financial limitations of their organizations. However, the association model doesn’t have to mean quality suffers, and The Rotarian proves just that.
To find out how, we asked John Rezek, editor-in-chief of the magazine and a speaker at the upcoming Folio: Association Media Summit, to share his inside tips on cutting budgets, prioritizing spending, and making sure everyone is on the same page.
John Rezek: There are a lot fewer zeros on all of the line items of the budget now than before. I grew up in a culture that believed you can’t always control what you make, but you can control what you spend.
And that was even true at Playboy, where I oversaw the editorial budget. There was a time when the circulation slipped to 3.25 million, and there was panic…One of my proudest moments was being able to trim $350,000 from the budget without losing anyone. You go in and you cut $15,000 here, $15,000 there and soon you’re talking real money.
People can live and do their jobs without a lot. You need a laptop, you need some ideas, and you need some talent.
Folio: What is your top priority when it comes to spending?
Rezek: Staffing. I spend more on mailing. I spend more on paper. I spend more on printing. But my priority is staffing.
Folio: What’s one area where you think association media orgs can stand to cut expenses?
Rezek: I think organizations should stop navel gazing and spending so much money on figuring out what their readers want. I understand the value of reader surveys, but if you hire great people who know about magazines, I’m not sure you need people to come in and tell you what typeface you should use. That's why you have an art director.
People like to have what they believe is objective back-up for decisions they make. The marketplace of your membership can tell you what you’re doing right and what you’re not doing right.
Folio: How do you manage expectations, both up and down the chain of command?
Rezek: I expect excellence from the staff and clarity from on high. It saves time when my betters tell me what they want to communicate to our members, and then let me figure out how to do that in an attractive, efficient, and compelling way.