In Folio:’s first-ever association magazine survey [December 2006, page 26], respondents said working with their board of directors is a challenge. Politics, lack of publishing knowledge and editorial micromanagement featured high in responses. While stressful board relations may not be an industry-wide problem, anecdotal evidence reveals that the issue is hardly uncommon. However, there are things an association publisher can do to create a constructive relationship with the board. The least of which, importantly, is pushing for full autonomy.
Board involvement in editorial production and review varies. Some act as an editorial advisory board. Others go as far as reviewing copy prior to publication. In some cases, it’s enough for an association publisher to draw a line in the sand. "I went to a session once at SNAP that was about how to deal with your board as an association publisher," says Robert Fromberg, editor-in-chief of Healthcare Financial Management, the 33,000-circ. publication of the Healthcare Financial Management Association. "The tenor of the session to me seemed to be ‘Keep those people out.’ I had to stand up and say, ‘Can I just tell a different story here?’"
Fromberg, who notes that he has a particularly smooth relationship with his board, says that his chairman writes a regular column for Healthcare Financial Management. While this might sound like a cringe-worthy idea to some, Fromberg counters that it accomplishes two things: The board has a manageable stake in the magazine and he can leverage the chairman’s considerable industry insight and member focus for strong content. "In my experience, the chairmen have had very interesting themes they want to pursue that are important for the readers," he says. "Association publishers should recognize that their boards are successful, smart, savvy people who have market intelligence and who probably have great people skills, and it would behoove you to listen to them and make use of what they have. That’s also a way of earning respect from the board."