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Creating a personalized media brand

Mar 4, 2011
by Lou Dubois, '06

Vreeland bucks media trends by making Atlanta magazine a success

Despite many news outlets claiming that print media and magazines are dying, there are certainly success stories. Talk to industry insiders and they’ll tell you the magazines that will succeed are ones that are smart, creative, niche-based and personal to their readers. One of them is the Atlanta-based Occasions Magazine, founded by 2002 Flagler graduate Heather Vreeland in early 2009.

Occasions was originally a web-only idea by the communication major, who previously served as a director of marketing for a spa company and a bridal consultant for David’s Bridal. Vreeland wanted to focus solely on weddings before she discovered that there was a craving for events of all kinds by local residents. She also noticed a hole in resources for the Atlanta area.

“When I started really looking at it, there was no comprehensive resource for people planning events here other than, my main competitor,” Vreeland said. “But because The Knot is a major national brand, they don’t have that local knowledge and touch, and sometimes it was really tough for people here to find exactly what they were looking for.”

After Vreeland created the website, she started cold-calling local businesses and visiting them to explain her business model and generate leads. But she quickly realized that selling a web-based property could only net so much revenue. Rather than visiting clients to sell cheap online advertising, she began securing $4,000 to $6,000 annual contracts to advertise in print. When she printed her first issue in July 2009, she had over 40 advertisements.

“I know this is going to sound terrible, but when I go to industry events and people ask about revenue and advertising, the expectation is you’re going to say it’s bad,” Vreeland says. “But for me, it’s been great. I think for some of the big national brands it can be tough. I’m not Condé Nast, though. When I talk to advertisers, they’re talking to not only the publisher of the magazine, but the editor as well. It’s a unique business interaction, and I think that personal touch gives them added comfort in their investment.”

Today, the magazine is described as a print and online editorial resource for Atlanta event planning.

Looking back on her days at Flagler, Vreeland fondly remembers her classes with communication professor Rob Armstrong. She speaks of Armstrong not only as a professor, but as a mentor who helped her get an internship at the CBS News affiliate in Jacksonville. After six months as a broadcasting intern, she realized she was more interested in the business end of the business, and all of that has come full circle now that she works on both the business and editorial side of her publication.

In terms of future growth, Vreeland would like to take her brand to additional cities and regions where similar services will be needed, but to grow organically without losing the personal touch.

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