Wisconsin Real Estate Magazine 10-Year Anniversary


 Rob Uhrina  |    January 06, 2014
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A lot has happened over the past 10 years ‚ÄĒ smartphones, social media, Facebook, YouTube, text messaging and the evolution of Google apps and cloud computing. In an age where technology is moving in dog years and gadgets are now part of our culture, we‚Äôve witnessed 10 exciting years of Wisconsin Real Estate Magazine.

It began with an interview

So how did the magazine start? It began in May 2003. I was in the middle of a job search and applied for the WRA’s VP of Marketing position to oversee the association’s in-house publications. My initial interview was with then-president Bill Malkasian. We spoke about the organization and what it needed. 

During that interview, I remember Bill taking out a newspaper ‚ÄĒ slightly faded in color with several foldout sections. At first, I thought it was an appetizer menu for a local restaurant, but Bill explained that this was the WRA‚Äôs member publication for which I would be overseeing. Bill asked for my opinion. I knew that job interviews were sprinkled with subtle quintessential trick questions. Was this mine? So with a wink of the eye, I asked Bill to clarify whether ‚Äúmy opinion‚ÄĚ should be presented as a politically correct response or something that reflected more criticism. He pressed me for an opinion.¬†

I told him I was surprised that members would pay nearly $300 and this was the best flagship publication the organization could produce. He grinned a little. ‚ÄúIf this publication is in fact the vital link between the member and the state organization,‚ÄĚ I said, ‚Äúthen its shelf life is probably pretty short due to its format.‚ÄĚ

Despite its visual pitfalls, I felt the content drafted by the WRA staff seemed very timely and relevant. The publication‚Äôs format just needed a visual overhaul. At that point, I pulled out some magazine samples ‚ÄĒ one in particular was a four-color consumer catalog I worked on with a previous employer. The catalog was a newsstand-quality piece: extremely flashy and put together well. Almost instantly, Bill exclaimed, ‚ÄúYes! This is exactly what I am looking for.‚ÄĚ He then asked me what the WRA needed to do to get to this level. I asked him about the department‚Äôs staffing situation. He explained that the WRA‚Äôs marketing department did not include a graphic designer at that time. It was a concern of mine because that‚Äôs exactly what the association needed to maintain such a product. ‚ÄúBut you can change that,‚ÄĚ he said. And on that day, between two guys who just met each other, the vision was born.

A new publication adventure

I started working at the WRA several weeks later. My first project as a WRA employee was to lay out the foundation for the magazine you see today. We renamed it ‚ÄúWisconsin Real Estate Magazine,‚ÄĚ officially ending the former ‚ÄúWisconsin REALTOR¬ģ.‚ÄĚ We envisioned the editorial to have a broader focus, on not just the association, but on the entire industry. Under the direction of Bill and then-Chairman Corky Hellyer, we hired a graphic designer, commissioned outside writers, delivered a new budget to the board of directors, and created a plan for offsetting costs with a new advertising model. It was game-changing.

January 2004 marked the first issue of Wisconsin Real Estate Magazine. It was mailed out to nearly 15,000 readers. The launch also brought about a new online edition of the magazine, where stories could be read in advance of the print edition. I heard a rumor that Chairman Corky Hellyer was so excited about the new magazine that he took it with him to the National Association of REALTORS¬ģ annual convention to share it with other association executives. Corky‚Äôs enthusiasm signaled a high bar, and from that point forward, the goal was to be ahead of the curve ‚ÄĒ not chase it.

Not long after the launch of the magazine, I had one of the most humbling experiences in my career. The WRA received a phone call from an association member who wanted to talk to a manager about no longer receiving her magazine. She asked me why she was dropped from our mailing list, quite livid in tone. Without being able to submit a response, she added that there was another publication she received anyhow that was even better, called Wisconsin Real Estate Magazine. I didn‚Äôt know how to respond at first, but I simply told her that the magazine she was referring to was the replacement for Wisconsin REALTOR¬ģ. The conversation quickly shifted from contentious to delightful, and it‚Äôs one I will never forget, a true compliment that the WRA was on the right track.

Ongoing process

Each year, we survey Wisconsin Real Estate Magazine readers. In October 2013, 98 percent of our readers reported that they were either satisfied or very satisfied with the product ‚ÄĒ the highest percentage of satisfied readers we‚Äôve ever collected. We believe that in order to succeed in the magazine business, we have to design our publication around our readers‚Äô interests and what they like most so we can evolve our reporting focus. Your feedback and continued advisement have helped us develop and enhance the product we have today.¬†

In a world where everything is electronic, it is a privilege to know that we are one of the few state associations in the country that still produces a monthly print newsletter by the demand of our readers. 

Every year, the WRA prepares its annual budget. Almost always, I field a question or two about whether we should make the magazine electronic only. My response? If members wish to receive the electronic edition of the magazine only, they can choose this option by customizing magazine delivery preferences using the WRA website. Out of nearly 13,500 members, only 86 have ever opted out of the hard copy ‚ÄĒ a true testament that your feedback keeps us on the right track. I thank each of you as readers for the privilege to serve you over the past 10 years. We are still just as thrilled to deliver this publication to you as we were in January 2004. On behalf of our entire editorial team, we thank you for a decade of success!

Rob Uhrina is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications at the WRA.

Wisconsin Real Estate Magazine Fun Facts

  • The entire magazine, which includes 13,500 copies, is printed in one hour.¬†
  • The magazine is developed and designed entirely by two staff people in the WRA‚Äôs marketing department.
  • One-third of the magazines are distributed in the Milwaukee area.
  • Nearly all magazines are 32 pages. The biggest issue had 52 pages, which was the WRA‚Äôs 100-Year Anniversary issue in April 2009.
  • Of the six publications produced by the WRA, Wisconsin Real Estate Magazine is the only one distributed in print format.
  • 98 percent of Wisconsin Real Estate Magazine readers were either satisfied or very satisfied with the magazine in 2013 ‚ÄĒ the highest percentage of satisfied readers ever collected.¬†

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