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Company magazines between past and future

03 December 2020
copertina magazine blog2

In an era in which everyone, including companies, are able to count on a large number of digital channels to communicate almost in real time, at a superficial glance the less "modern" means of communication might look anachronistic.

But yet, to make a musical metaphor, just as vinyls do not stop exercising their fascination in music lovers of all ages, in the same way there are “analog” instruments which keep representing an interesting communication channel for companies. And no, we're not just talking about vintage charm, we are talking about real utility.

So this is the case of company magazines (or house organs), i.e. publications created by companies for different purposes, sometimes intended for internal use only, other times spread to a larger number of recipients.

Company magazines which made history

A means of communication that has existed for a long time, but which continues being used in various fields, both in Italy that abroad. Many top Italian companies kept using it over the years, especially since the second post-war period. At the time, it was just the largest companies that chose to use this medium, which became a way to communicate between different departments and figures of the same company. In the most "enlightened" cases they were also used to promote a cultural and social dialogue between the sector to which the promoting company belongs and other areas, even if apparently very distant, as in the famous case of La civiltà delle macchine: the information periodical of Finmeccanica created between 1953 and 1979 (and then returned in 2019), which could boast of collaborators such as Alberto Moravia, Giuseppe Ungaretti and Carlo Emilio Gadda.

ho 130

source: http://www.houseorgan.net/it/gallery/civilta-delle-macchine_6_26.htm

It is enough to read an extract of the letter (letter, in italian "Lettera", was also the name of a column in the magazine) written by Ungaretti on the first issue in order to figure out the essential role which was attributed to La civiltà delle macchine, and which went beyond the simple informative purpose:

«The magazine which begins its publications with this issue, and which you direct, aims to draw the attention of the readers also on the amazing faculties of aesthetic innovation of machines. I would also like it to draw the attention to another order of problems: the problems linked to the human aspiration for justice and freedom. How will man manage not to be dehumanized by the machine, to dominate it, to make it morally a weapon of progress?».

Also Pirelli, with the homonymous magazine published between 1948 and 1972, stood as a "bridge" between technical-scientific culture and culture in general, and also in this case we find among its literary collaborators some renowned personalities such as Eugenio Montale and Umberto Eco.

Pirelli-house-organ source: http://www.houseorgan.net/media/formato4/ho_503.jpg 


These are certainly very "high" examples, which seem to belong to a world that no longer exists. Anyway, even in more recent times, we can find examples of companies that have used house organs not only to keep updated employees, collaborators, partners or customers on new products and projects, but also to contribute to the debate on the most pressing issues of their sector. And this is the case, for example, of Henkel Life (Henkel's magazine, in which a broad focus on sustainability emerges) and of Gente Barilla, the magazine which has been discussing news related to changes within the company over the years and references to wider topics, for example. The themes have been always linked to the sector to which they belong, such as food education and sustainable development. 

The functions of company magazines nowadays

The experiences of big brands and their publications can teach to all companies, the large and the small ones, the international and the not international ones, that a house organ can have different purposes and functions. In particular, every company should use this means of communication for three fundamental reasons:

1) Inform your employees, partners or customers about the changes and news in progress. It is true, the digital world gives us the opportunity to exploit faster and more practical channels, but it is also true that more substantial and structured periodical publications allow us to realize a focus and to present different themes in a single "container", giving recipients the opportunity to dedicate themselves to it when they want. The different contents, put together with criteria and connected to each other, will allow the reader to have an overall view and to better figure out where the company is going, and who orbits around it.

2) Involve employees and collaborators in the culture and in the vision of the company. As seen also in the cases mentioned above, the house organ, even if widespread "only" among employees, represents an excellent opportunity to share the company philosophy and to involve all those who work for it. It is like the logic of Internal branding: the employees who feel motivated and involved and that know and share the values and objectives of the brand, not only do work better, but can also become the best testimonial of the brand itself.

3) Join the debate and dialogue on pressing issues which affect the belonging sector. Discussing major issues in a company magazine and showing the company's commitment, allows the company itself to strengthen its brand awareness.

Last but not least: if the print is not convincing, you can always use the online version of your company magazine. That is what Henkel does, for example, with its eMagazine called Henkel Life Global, but also Wikipedia (and from an online encyclopedia we could not expect anything different), which in its  The Signpost publishes interviews with collaborators and corporate news.

The signpost wikipedia

Print or digital, intended for internal or external circulation, a company's magazine is an interesting communication channel that, resisting the sudden changes of our times, can be part of a strategy to be adopted in the present and in the future.