In many ways, we’ve got it easy. The concept of community lies at the heart of running, with many women starting their running career through running groups. When we took over the brand, we knew that the women’s running community was a huge, glorious thing: but that it was also infinitely diverse, made up of countless communities. Drawing these satellites towards us as a central resource would be a crucial part of our success.
First, we needed to understand two groups of people: the women who already consumed Women’s Running, and the women who didn’t. My job was to ringfence the first and harness the second (easy!); and the only way I could do that was by finding out who they were, and to begin to build trust within those groups. While we already had some loyalty, we didn’t have community: we weren’t friends yet.
We gave the brand a fresh new look, armed ourselves with experts to foster trust in our authority, and built spaces in which our audience felt safe to explore their passion for running. At the same time, we concentrated on our voice. This, we knew, was key to expressing our expertise and, crucially, our authenticity. Our portfolio is spread across a number of channels, and it was crucial that our voice was appropriate for each one. We want every runner to feel as though they are being spoken to by a friend, and in some ways this has been the easy part. Because all of us are invested in every single person who reads our content: we are women runners, we know how it feels, and we want them to succeed.
Getting that voice right is the backbone of every piece of content that we produce. Everything we create is underpinned by surveys and analytics, to ensure it’s what our runner actively wants, rather than what we think she needs. But it’s the voice we use to speak to her that’s key.
Developing that voice, building those spaces and fostering that trust took time and graft, but it was time well spent. Because the pay-off has been something quite unexpected: we haven’t built just one community; we’ve built many.
To nurture these communities, our focus now is on opening up a dialogue between us and our audience, to break that fourth wall, and to achieve growth in a more organic way. By discovering exactly who our runners are, by talking to them – and with them – as they’d like to be spoken to, and by focusing on the individuals who represent the heart of our communities, we can create content that feels like it was written just for you.
Developing that voice, building those spaces and fostering that trust took time and graft, but it was time well spent.
This article is part of our ‘Building Successful Communities’ special feature, looking at how publishers go about creating engaged and vibrant communities. The feature includes the following articles by publishers and suppliers:
Build engagement on your platform, by Sally Arnold
The money is in the conversation, by Lucy Brazier
Create spaces online to share opinions, by Gary Clement
Community first, magazine second, by Sophie Cross
Publishers are taking community seriously, by Ashley Friedlein
Find the right voice, by Esther Newman
Audience engagement is top priority, by Charles Thiede
Build connections & be interested, by Ed Walker
This article was first published in InPublishing magazine. If you would like to be added to the free mailing list, please register here.