Behind the Virgin Australia Magazine launch

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Deputy managing director Clare Brundle reveals how we get ready for take off with a new client.

Clare Brundle

Nothing gives me greater professional satisfaction than winning a new client and launching a new magazine for them. I’ve gone through the process dozens of times over my 20-year career and it just doesn’t get old. Why? Because every client is totally different, what they bring to their industry party is different, and what they’re ultimately trying to achieve is different too.   

The process has also become so much more exciting in an age where content’s status has been elevated within the marketing mix and a single channel point of view just won’t cut the mustard. A brand’s magazine needs to be viewed – both editorially and commercially – as part of a connected multichannel customer experience, sitting within a broader content ecosystem. And this is just what we presented to Virgin Australia.

Our first cover for the new Virgin Australia Magazine.

But enough of the marketing speak: what does this mean in reality and where does one start with a launch? Here’s how we do it at HGM:  

Step 1: Get to know our client, who they are and what they want to achieve. 

With Virgin Australia, this involved a series of one-on-one meetings with key stakeholders and agency leads as well as half-day sessions with a much broader group from across multiple divisions. Essentially, these were "get to know you" sessions where the HGM team were able to present our credentials and a few initial creative ideas but, more importantly, we had the opportunity to hear firsthand from Virgin Australia about anything really important – including company values, operational needs, legal requirements, brand guidelines, key partnerships and business priorities.   

Step 2: Get to know our client’s audience, who they are and what they need.

The sweet spot of content marketing is where a brand’s expertise intersects with the needs of their customer (or guest, in Virgin Australia’s case). Therefore, it’s important to feel like you’re on first name terms with your client’s customers – or at least have a crafted persona of their customer based on sound research and data – and identify what type of content they might crave. Lucky for us, Virgin Australia has a talented Insights team who were able to provide us with what we needed to complement our own qualitative and quantitive research.  

Step 3: Combine all that we’ve discovered and create a content playbook. 

Think of this as a set of brand guidelines for content. Our playbooks start with a channel-agnostic view, clearly articulating details around key personas, content pillars and tone of voice before deep diving into channel-specific formats and design elements such as colour palette, iconography, illustration and photography. 

An example spread from the Virgin Australia magazine  A spread that captures our exciting new aesthetic.

Central to our vision for the magazine was to “bring back” the Australia to Virgin Australia with a greater focus on local stories and homegrown heroes, while injecting more of Virgin Australia’s personality through our editorial angles, tone of voice, and specially commissioned illustration and photography.

Step 4: Assemble our team and get cracking 

An all-new editorial team was assembled to execute HGM’s vision; a team of individuals with very different personalities, interests and skill sets but all sharing the same passion for travel and quality content. 

Among them is Editor-at-large Georgia Rickard who was recruited from her role as contributing editor to Tourism Australia, while the new magazine’s Editor Krysia Bonkowski spent the previous three years at Jetstar magazine. Together they’re responsible for delivering a multichannel content plan, including a monthly magazine and digital content. HGM Sydney’s seasoned Art Director, Dan Morley, leads the creative direction of the magazine, bringing valuable experience from our other successful launches for Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism, Luxury Escapes and Flight Centre, while Melbourne-based Lauren Casalini heads up the HGM sales team nationally, working closely with the commercial lead at Virgin Australia to go to market with a united and clearly defined commercial strategy for maximising revenue across the airline’s assets.  

Step 5: Stop, evaluate and listen

So the first issue of the magazine has landed with all KPIs met… what’s next? It’s important to take time to pop a cork and celebrate the first of any client project being delivered successfully – often involving a few too many late nights and chocolate-based dinners to hit the deadline – but the truth is that any launch is just the very start of the journey. 

The world of content is always on and clients are ever evolving, so there’s no such thing as "set and forget". It’s important to put processes in place to ensure that you’re constantly reviewing how you could be doing things better, as well as add value, or you’ll just get left behind. And in the case of Virgin Australia, our seatbelts are fastened and we’re ready for take off with many exciting plans in the pipeline.  

Clare Brundle, deputy managing director 

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