The challenge: Wanting more than “fine” for a flagship publication
As is true at many schools, the Sacred Heart communications team in Chicago is small: there are just two full-time staff members who juggle a wide range of internal and external communications.
The print magazine, which Head of Institutional Advancement Marjie Murphy knew was a flagship publication for the school, wasn’t always getting the attention it deserved. “While I felt the magazine was fine, it didn’t feel particularly inspirational.” says Marjie. “I felt like it was trying to be too many things to too many people.”
Still, she also knew that the team didn’t have the resources or the bandwidth to take on a costly, time-consuming, full-scale redesign. She was eager to find a middle ground.
The decision: How Sacred Heart Schools chose Capstone
In December of 2022, Marjie was at the CASE V Conference in Chicago, where she sat in on Erin’s session, “Create a More Strategic Print Magazine.”
Here’s what Marjie says:
I really liked what I saw. I didn’t know what we were missing until I saw some amazing pages and layouts that Erin shared at the session.
That prompted me to sign up for her newsletter and take a closer look at Capstone’s portfolio. As I knew we were beginning to plan for our next magazine, I reached out to do the initial Magazine Action Plan work.
I figured it would be helpful to get a sense of where we were and what type of work we could do moving forward — either on our own, or with a designer.
The solution: Magazine Action Plan identifies impact points, and design team executes
The Magazine Action Plan is the first step of Capstone’s phased engagement approach. It is designed to provide immediately actionable steps for communications teams that want to improve their school’s print magazine.
While it is intended to be an incredibly valuable DIY tool on its own, it also can be paired with Capstone’s design and editorial services, if requested.
Heartbeat’s plan included planning, editorial, design, and reader engagement recommendations. It also included plenty of real-life magazine examples that the team could use as plug-and-play solutions.
Plus, it had longer-term ideas that the team could implement over time.
Recommendations were designed to help the small team make the biggest possible impact with their flagship print publication as soon as possible — all while recognizing the constraints of the school’s budget and available staff time.
Here’s what Marjie said about the plan:
When we received the initial report, I had been thinking more in terms of the look of the magazine — here’s how to jazz up your table of contents, how often to publish, etc.
What I was surprised by, and what made sense, was that some of the key ideas were about more than just the visuals and publication schedule. In retrospect, I absolutely agree. You need to know where you’re going (e.g. who your audience is, what your vision is) before you can focus on the detail work (design, “real estate” usage, etc.)
The report was thoughtful and helpful.
Every Magazine Action Plan includes plenty of details about the best way to make a magazine pop with better stories, photography, and design.
But it also dives beneath the surface to show how subtle shifts in magazine philosophy, audience, and planning can drive these changes more quickly and powerfully.
The results: “Great feedback from our constituents.”
Marjie was so impressed with the action plan that she asked if Capstone could implement the design portion of the action plan, along with a few strategic editorial improvements:
We could have moved forward on our own with the Action Plan; but we really liked the idea of continuing to work with Capstone throughout the publication process.
Capstone did just that: We helped the Sacred Heart team execute key content shifts for the most valuable pages of their magazine. With design partner Kat Braz, we made sure every single page had a design that was polished, professional, and beautiful.