How Rockwell Automation’s magazine became a powerful thought leadership tool

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Rockwell Automation in Milwaukee has published a custom print magazine, The Journal, for 22 years. The Journal has been a trusted source of news, information, and education about factory automation.

Cultivate recently caught up with Stanley A. Miller, Rockwell’s Global Customer Communications Editorial Lead, to learn more about how The Journal has helped Rockwell be perceived by their customers as an innovator and thought leader in this important high-tech manufacturing niche. Once you’ve read his comments, you’ll see how your company can have this, too.

Cultivate: Who is the target audience of The Journal?

Stanley Miller: The Journal, which is published by Rockwell Automation and Our PartnerNetwork™  educates industrial automation professionals such as plant managers, safety professionals, industrial engineers, and other technical personnel.  Its content focuses on automation industry news and machine control trends, and technology from Rockwell Automation and our partner companies.

The free magazine’s goal is to serve as a customer retention tool by demonstrating that Rockwell Automation is a key automation industry thought leader.

We publish it six times per year and it has over 40,000 subscribers in North America. In addition, we produce 30 eNewsletters that are distributed to 30,000+ subscribers globally.

Cultivate: How many partners are currently in the network?

Miller: There are about 500 member companies in the Rockwell Automation PartnerNetwork™, which include authorized Allen-Bradley® distributors, system integrators, OEMs, strategic alliances, Encompass™ reference products and licensed developers.

Cultivate: With the partner ads in The Journal, is it a self-funding publication?

Miller: Yes. The print and digital assets are supported completely by advertising revenue from Rockwell Automation and participating members in the Rockwell Automation PartnerNetwork™. Only Rockwell Automation and its member companies in our PartnerNetwork™ are allowed to submit editorial content and to advertise.

The digital publications produced by The Journal include “Fundamentals Series” educational, on-demand webinars; eBooks; videos; 30 eNewsletters; and an iPad app. We also have a website and a proactive social media program specifically for the publication.

Cultivate: The Journal was launched at the dawn of the smart factory revolution in 1994. To what extent has this publication helped shape this revolution?

Miller: Our readers are responsible for keeping production lines running cost-effectively while at the same time safely producing quality products in a sustainable manner.  All of this is accomplished in alignment with their companies’ profitability goals. The Journal’s objective from the beginning has been to help our readers do just that. As we have exchanged and shared information through this educational platform, it’s played a key role in keeping industrial automation professionals informed about trends, technology and methodology developments.

Cultivate: Rockwell’s commitment to The Journal has been exemplary over the past 20 years. How has it been able to maintain that commitment, despite the ups and downs of manufacturing and the global economy?

Miller: Our management has always felt a responsibility as a corporate citizen to help the industry innovate and evolve. Rockwell Automation’s management has always viewed The Journal as a key educational tool for the industrial automation industry as well as an important communication vehicle for our company.
The reach of Rockwell Automation and its PartnerNetwork™ is global, so we all make use of our staff’s experience and knowledge, as well as the expertise of our industry contacts, to provide resources that can help automation professionals succeed. This, in turn, helps the entire industry.

The Journal is a key communication tool to share what we learn, what’s going on in the industry and how our readers can benefit. That makes it an important and valuable resource, so it’s well worth it for the company to maintain that commitment.

Cultivate: To what extent has The Journal become a sales tool for Rockwell Automation?

Miller: The objective, non-promotional way in which the editorial content is presented creates goodwill with our readers and demonstrates that we really are trying to help them. That goodwill, and the confidence in the quality of information they’re getting, helps them trust Rockwell Automation and its PartnerNetwork™ when the time comes for them to purchase industrial automation solutions. We give a little and get a lot back

Cultivate: How big has it become as a thought leadership tool for Rockwell?

Miller: The editorial themes of The Journal are planned annually in line with company thought leadership topics. The cover story of each print edition showcases the depth of our knowledge and experience. Each issue also includes numerous how-to articles, case studies, trend updates, and reports about the popular Rockwell Automation show, our Automation Fair® event.

Readers appreciate the educational aspect of the content. In fact, readership surveys and anecdotal feedback shows us that readers view The Journal more like a regular industry trade magazine rather than a custom magazine published by one company.

Cultivate: What’s next for The Journal? The 20th anniversary article quotes Executive Editor Theresa Houck: “We’ll continue to expand our digital offerings in ways that help readers get information how, when and where they want it.”  What forms do you foresee that taking?

Miller: Very soon, we plan to launch a free smartphone app to make The Journal even more accessible to more people, both on the plant floor and at home. Because we’ve heard from readers that The Journal provides educational value to them in their jobs, we want to get it in the hands of as many automation professionals as possible when they want it, and how they want it. This further supports our goal to help readers keep production lines running cost-effectively while safely producing quality products in alignment with their companies’ profitability goals. It’s been a win-win for everyone involved.