Recently, Stuart Bruce wrote up a small piece on Buzz Magazine, which got my wheels turning to ask for an interview. Today, Shel Holtz also posted a piece on the magazine.
So, I sent out a few questions to Heather Pugh, the editor-in-chief / Mizzou student / co-founder of her own PR firm. And, the first featured PR student for Buzz Magazine.
According to the media kit,
Buzz Magazine is a vital resource for individuals at all stages of their public relations careers. Buzz serves as an educational supplement about the public relations industry - to help increase individuals' knowledge of and love for the field.
Buzz comes out of the first of every month, with editorial deadlines on the fifteenth. Buzz has the layout of a traditional print magazine, but is made available to subscribers in PDF format via e-mail.
POP! PR Blog: Currently, there are a few media outlets that already cover the public relations industry, such as O’Dwyers, PR Week and the Bulldog Reporter. How is Buzz Magazine going to differentiate itself from other news outlets in the space?
Heather Pugh, EIC, Buzz Magazine: Buzz is different than those publications for several reasons.
First, Buzz is aimed at a younger audience. Buzz readers are typically students, recent graduates, educators and young professionals, although we do have several seasoned professionals who subscribe.
Second, Buzz allows anyone interested in public relations with some writing experience to contribute. So, whether you’re a student or CEO, you can write for Buzz. We believe that the opportunity not only opens doors for those looking to contribute to the field, but also provides many different perspectives for the magazine.
Finally, Buzz is not simply a news source for the public relations industry – it does not contain mostly firm announcements. Buzz serves as an educational supplement about the public relations industry – to help increase individuals' knowledge of and love for the field. Each issue contains 12 regular columns (see attached one-page), as well as 10-15 features. Each piece aims to teach Buzz readers something new. And just because someone is a seasoned professional doesn’t mean they can’t learn something new.
POP: Buzz is going to be covering an industry that is surprisingly closed mouth when it comes to the press – how is the magazine working with public relations executives or the executives of the holding companies to get stories out there?
BUZZ: We have a list of contacts at various firms around the nation who know about Buzz and know they can send company news to us for publication at any time. We are continuously working on becoming known by all firms – big and small. Word-of-mouth can be simply amazing … However, public relations firm news is not the main focus of Buzz. Instead, Buzz focuses on teaching its readers about the industry and the skills needed to succeed in it.
POP: Why did you start Buzz Magazine?
BUZZ: Buzz started as a publication written by students, for students, in order to give them an opportunity to contribute to their field, but has grown to be so much more. Only a few short weeks after inception, news of Buzz had saturated the professional and educational worlds. Now individuals at all stages of their public relations careers are subscribing and writing.
POP: Is there both a PDF version and print version of the magazine?
BUZZ: Currently, there is an online version (http://www.buzzmagazine.net/) and a PDF version, but no print. We hope to be a full print publication by next (academic) year, but that will rely mostly on how many advertisers we gain in the coming months. The PDF version, originally supposed to come out on the first of every month, still has not been completed for the first issue (release date, Sept. 1). Two weeks prior to the release date, our entire layout staff received other offers elsewhere, and we have only recently found replacements. We’re working hard to get the first PDF issue out by Sept. 15, but that’s not definite. In the meantime, readers may view all the articles online.
POP: You noted that there had been some misperceptions about Buzz Magazine out there already – what are some issues that you would like to clarify about the magazine?
BUZZ: PRFuel referred to Buzz as an “e-mail digest,” which is simply not true. While the issues are currently available only via e-mail (or online), they do not appear in “digest” format. Buzz has the layout of a traditional print magazine, but is made available to subscribers in PDF format via e-mail. Some of our subscribers even pay the printing costs (which, without advertising, are a bit high) and receive a print copy. Once we acquire enough advertisers, a print version will be available, hopefully at little or no cost to our subscribers. We wish to remain affordable to individuals at all stages of their career – we don’t want cost to be a subscription barrier.
Also, BuzzMagazine.net is simply the online version of our publication. We put the articles in two columns because they are long, and we felt that format would make them easier to read.
POP: What is your distribution model and current circulation rate? As PR is in somewhat of a lull right now, how are you going to get subscribers to your publication? What type of outreach are you undertaking to get magazine subscribers?
BUZZ: We are in the midst of a campaign to notify public relations firms, as well as all colleges/universities with public relations majors. We’re starting off with a direct mail campaign and going from there. We will be contacting more than 245 schools and 60 firms in the near future. Because of limited funds, we have to take one mailing at a time, assess the success rate, and then evaluate whether or not we want to continue in the same means or find another route. In addition to direct mail, we’re also using word-of-mouth through alumni of the schools we contact, as well as the Internet, to let people know we’re here.
Our plan is for Buzz to be a not-for-profit publication. When we do end up charging subscribers for the print version, it will be to simply cover printing costs. The goal is to gain enough advertisers to continue making the publication available for free; to educate and inform individuals in the field is much more important than making money of off Buzz.
POP: What is the funding source for the magazine?
BUZZ: Right now, Buzz is funded by the University of Missouri-Columbia Public Relations Club. We have extremely limited funds, and hope to bring in many advertisers for next year.
POP: Are you all members of PRSSA? Have you spoken to PRSSA about funding the publication, or becoming the official PRSSA magazine?
BUZZ: Many, if not most, of our members do not belong to PRSSA, including myself. Many schools do not have PRSSA chapters, and so it’s just not an option. For example, I started the PR Club at MU because there is no PRSSA chapter close to Columbia. However, writers/subscribers can be members of PRSSA – we don’t include any restrictions like that.
PRSSA does not want to fund Buzz or take any part in its production. In fact, they encouraged me not to start Buzz because they feel they offer enough opportunities for students to go around. My response is, “Students need more than one avenue in which to explore their career. Buzz will help bring all budding public relations professionals together and give them an opportunity to contribute to the industry.” Please note, though, that I am not against PRSSA in any way, and their organization is mentioned in several articles in the current issue in a positive light. Young public relations pros can be members of and contribute to both PRSSA (and FORUM), as well as Buzz Magazine.
POP: Buzz appears to be a resource, on some level, for those about to enter the real world of PR. What ties do you have with agencies and companies in terms of entry-level job postings and internships?
BUZZ: Buzz Magazine is in contact with about 60 firms around the nation, and has sent classified ad forms to their human resources departments to fill out whenever they have positions available. We want to become a premier source for those seeking jobs/internships in the industry.
POP: While the publication notes that it is for all levels of PR, the magazine articles tend to skew young. How are you going to change that perception?
BUZZ: I agree, the publication does tend to skew young. Most of our subscribers are in the 18-25 age range. However, we encourage seasoned professionals to subscribe to keep them up-to-date on how public relations students are being educated and what the latest trends in the industry are, according to its youngest/newest members. Just because someone is a seasoned professional doesn’t mean they can’t learn something new.
POP: Looking over the first issue, it appears that a lot of your reporters are current students (as are you). How are you and your staff going to be able to balance school, internships and the magazine?
BUZZ: Our staff, except for the regular columnists, changes month-to-month. Not everyone participates in every issue. Those who have time contribute, and those who don’t, don’t. We have a list of about 100 individuals interested in writing for Buzz thus far. So, we do not foresee any problems in filling every issue, even when the same people don’t participate each time.
Now I can’t speak for others, but balancing my time between school, work and Buzz happens to be my forte, and it’s an excellent learning experience. I find I work best under pressure, when I have several deadlines at once. Time management is a skill every one of our writers and subscribers should have.
POP: Since most staffers are currently students, does that mean there will be large turn-over rate as staff graduates? How will that affect the consistency of Buzz?
BUZZ: Absolutely not. Actually, many of our writers are not students. And those who are wish to remain occasional contributors once they graduate. True, the first issue was written by many students, but the second issue is about 50/50 between students and professionals. We encourage many professionals to be at least occasional contributors because it’s a great plug for your company.
POP: The hot thing in public relations and marketing communications right now is blogging – how come the magazine has not launched a complementary blog to the magazine?
BUZZ: Since the idea for Buzz only just came about in late July, I’m impressed that it’s come as far as it has in the short amount of time. I really didn’t know what to expect. I knew the interest existed in the student population, but there’s still the matter of getting word to them (which as I said, we’re still working on). You never know. A blog might be in Buzz’s future, should the talent to produce it come along at the right time …
POP: Any further thoughts or comments you would like conveyed to the audience?
BUZZ: BuzzMagazine.net is simply the online version of our publication. We put the articles in two columns because they are long, and we felt that format would make them easier to read.
Buzz is mostly meant for younger members in the field (18-25), but can also be a useful source for seasoned professionals in gaining insight into what public relations education looks like today – what they can expect their newest recruits to know.
The magazine is an interesting concept, even if it has an uphill battle (for magazine statistics, you must check out Sumir Husni's Mr Magazine site). I wish them best of luck, and sure, I'll send them PR news for POP!, or even write for them once in a while.