How to Get the Most Out of Your Publishing Strategy Day

July 24, 2017 Rachel Smith

As a journal publisher within Wiley’s society services team, the aspect of my role I enjoy most is working with our publishing partners to help them refine their vision and draw up strategic Journals Strat Meeting.jpgdevelopment plans for their portfolios.

Over the last 12 months I have been involved in strategic planning with a wide range of partners, from large membership organizations such as the International Federation of Structural Concrete, to smaller charities such as the Antipode Foundation. We recognize that for many of the people we work with, publishing is only one part of their busy jobs, and it is rare that they can take a whole day to focus on the longer term development of their publishing program. Feedback from people involved in strategy meetings shows that visiting the Wiley offices and hearing from a range of experts from different parts of the business is incredibly valuable. For the Wiley team it helps us understand our partners better – and I always find it inspiring to see how what we do fits into the much bigger picture.

Preparing for a Strategy Day

The process works best when we work together beforehand–ideally at least 2-3 months in advance – to define the key questions we want to answer on the day. The Royal Statistical Society, for example, wanted in particular to look at emerging fields of research, and how their portfolio could be developed to ensure that researchers would find a natural home for their work in these areas. For other journals it has been the appointment of a new editorial team, or a significant anniversary that prompts the review. In general, however, common themes have recently tended to be in the following areas:

  • Attracting the best research and increasing impact;
  • Planning for growth: expanding to cover new areas and reaching out geographically;
  • Opening up access to research and data, and ensuring policies and processes are fit for a sustainable future;
  • Optimizing workflows to increase speed and improve service to authors and reviewers;
  • Ensuring the goals of the portfolio reflect the organization’s overall mission;
  • Increasing member engagement with the publications – as authors, readers and citers;

From this we will prepare a structured agenda, and invite the people whose opinions and experience will be most valuable to the discussion. The next few weeks are dedicated to background research, and gathering data to be circulated to participants in advance: much of this will be quantitative and benchmarked against competitors, but we also seek a range of expert opinions where possible too.

The Strategy Day

During the day itself, we often start by defining the vision: I like to ask society officers and editors what they would like to be able to say about their journal, and then we can discuss what needs to change in order for that to be true.  Asking the question “if money were no object, what would you do?” also helps to identify overarching goals, so we can prioritize areas to invest the resources which are available.

We then use a ‘strategy canvas’ to ensure we cover the key questions from all angles:

  • Who are the individuals we are trying to attract, and what are they looking for? For example, reaching Early Career Scholars is often a concern, and Wiley’s work on persona development can help with understanding expectations and motivations of individuals in different countries and career stages.
  • Who are your competitors and what are they doing well? What are the gaps?
  • What opportunities do advances in technology open up, and what are the risks that we need to mitigate?

It’s not necessarily all about the journal, either – we know that access to a journal is one of the key reasons for joining a society, but a society needs to offer a range of services and benefits in order to engage and retain its members. So we can look at the website, newsletter, social media presence, book series, CPD offerings and overall membership package. For many societies a print journal has been a significant component of the membership package for decades, but as demand for print falls this can reduce costs and free up money to reinvest in other areas.

Beyond the Strategy Day

And of course it doesn’t end there! While we expect to agree upon the overall goals during the day and the broad objectives we will work towards over the next 3-5 years, a prioritized timeline of activities takes longer to draw up and will – by definition – take longer to implement. In recognition of this, the London Mathematical Society have set up a smaller working party who have met regularly since their strategic retreat, to take forward the key ideas and maintain momentum.

If you have published with Wiley for a while you will be familiar with our regular reports which cover the main publishing metrics such as reach, readership and citations. Over the next few months we will also be rolling out access to our new Wiley Journal Insights tool, so our publishing partners can check the latest figures for themselves throughout the year. However, for tracking progress towards specific objectives agreed as part of a development plan, we will agree a set of measures to report back on.

Plans will naturally evolve over time as new opportunities arise and impacts of actions become clear, and we expect to review these regularly with our partners. But having a clearly defined vision and set of overarching goals – agreed together on the basis of in-depth analysis and discussion – is invaluable in shaping our activities and priorities.

Image credit: Arash Hejazi

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