The New Quarterly tools social media for supply chain

cmuss    February 22, 2015

Organisation name: The New Quarterly: Canadian Writers & WritingTNQ-logo-master (1)

Industry: Publishing

Contact: Pamela Mulloy, Editor

Sophie Blom, Managing Editor

Web References: The New Quarterly

Description of how social media is used for business performance

The New Quarterly is an award-winning Canadian literary magazine located in Waterloo, ON. For over 30 years The New Quarterly has been publishing fiction and poetry by new Canadian writers alongside established writers, and as a brand has extended to include a digital edition, three contests, and a writer’s festival.


The New Quarterly issue #133

In simple terms, The New Quarterly (TNQ)’s supply chain runs from Writer to Submissions Manager to Editor to Layout Designer to Printer to Mailing and Distribution to Consumer. There are many points of contact through their process.

Writers snail mail their work to TNQ, where the first point of contact is the Submissions desk. After that the manuscripts are read by the appropriate team of editors (Poetry, Fiction or Non-Fiction), who reply, often also by snail mail. For those Writers whose work has been accepted, the manuscript goes to the Editor, who arranges the work for the issue, employing discussion between the Writer and the Editor, through email, regarding various elements such as copy editing, and visual displays. Then the elements of the issue are electronically sent to the Layout Designer, who renders and returns the finished issue file to TNQ for additional editing. Once the digital file of the issue is complete, it is electronically sent to the Printer, who ships the finished product to the TNQ office. From there the issue goes to the Mailroom (which is emailed a list of subscribers’ addresses) and the Distributor, is uploaded digitally, and, finally, reaches the Consumer.

TNQ’s main supply chain process is complex, and they don’t touch additional but equally important tasks such as corresponding with subscribers, donors and advertisers, securing artwork for the cover and inside the issue, and generating content for the website, and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Board meetings, subscriber care, advertising, contest administration and organizing an annual and ever-growing three-day festival also come into play.


Many ways to interact with TNQ

Collaboration is a major part of TNQ’s success, and a lot of that collaboration is done through email, the key player in online communication. Most TNQ conversations occur through email since the physical office is staffed by just four people, but the brand is additionally supported by a slew of volunteers.

What was life like at TNQ before email became popular? Past TNQ Editor Kim Jernigan recalls, “I think we spent less time on correspondence than we have since the advent of email. That’s partly a function of the growth of the magazine’s reputation—as the years went by, the submissions pool grew.” The benefits of email at the beginning of TNQ’s life resonate today, as Jernigan adds, “Email made it easier to correspond with even those writers we weren’t publishing but to whom we could provide some useful feedback and encouragement, easier and cheaper, because postage has gotten more expensive over time.”

The advantages of social media in supply chain management are numerous. Connecting to and collaborating with contributors, editors, distributors and consumers, especially nationwide or international, is otherwise challenging and costly. There is a definite paper trail. Says Managing Editor Sophie Blom, “With my own experience, I would say that ease of document-sharing and accessible user data are the greatest advantages to using social media in the supply chain. Being able to engage with our audience directly would be less meaningful without social platforms, and nearly impossible without email. Communicating with contributors to the magazine without email, I do not even want to think about.”

Adds Editor Pamela Mulloy, “The idea of communicating instantly through Twitter and Facebook is a great advantage over traditional marketing tools, mostly because of the reach – our writers are spread across the country and not necessarily in pockets that we could easily reach by traditional method. It’s also instant, readily accessible, and cost-effective.  Although I’m not directly involved in it, I am a Facebook user (mostly a watcher) so I see how this is a powerful communication tool, not only to advertise big events like festivals or contests but to celebrate individual successes.”

Blom has strict rules for workday email inclusion, “For reading and answering email, I ruthlessly restrict myself to 10 hours a week, (two hours a day), for work. It’s difficult.” She has a colour-coding strategy for managing her incoming email based on deadlines, and relevancy of information to current projects. “If my number of coded emails goes over 15 I know it’s crunch time. I also have my smartphone on hand so even if I’m in the process of writing a long email like this one, I can see, read, and answer any emails that come in if they’re quick things, like subscription inquiries, without disturbing my flow.”

Mulloy’s job requires that she spend more time on email correspondence than Blom, and her strategies reflect that need, “I have a bad habit of answering emails on demand if I can because I think it will just take a few minutes. If I need a more thoughtful answer the opposite is true – I procrastinate. I will schedule in those more thoughtful responses so that it becomes part of the list of things to do. If I’m facing a deadline or have other priorities I’ll try to answer emails before I leave home so that when I sit down at my desk I’m working on a non-email task. I feel like email is like crack, (not that I know how that works from experience!) once you start it’s hard to stop, and I see myself losing an hour by deciding to answer that one email. So, in a nutshell, I schedule the work tasks in during optimum working hours and answer emails before or after.”

Devising a strategy for using email in the supply chain allows the company to incorporate a strategy for when not to use email. There are a number of reasons that TNQ will choose snail mail, phone or face-to-face contact instead, such as that sometimes email goes unchecked, the receiver does not read the entirety of the email and misses instructions, and the secure and appropriate passage of sensitive information excludes email as an option. As described by Mulloy, “It can replace a conversation, and increasingly I will just push the computer away and pick up the phone, especially if it is a tricky or sensitive issue, where I need clarity, or if I want to make sure of a quick response to something. The use of emails does mean that there are a lot more conversations that wouldn’t otherwise have taken place and this has put a lot of pressure on the workday. Sometimes I wonder what people did with their day before emails!”

Furthermore, she muses, “I wonder if the pressure to communicate becomes so great that we sacrifice depth with breadth.”

Social media is not always an advantageous medium in the supply chain. For this reason TNQ has left some aspects of their supply chain untouched by social media such as using snail mail to send out subscription renewal notices, an annual donation request letter, but most noticeably, the submissions process.

TNQ’s fiction and poetry content is largely generated through submissions mailed in by Canadian writers from around the country, and the world. Yes, you read that correctly, “mailed”. Mulloy explains that TNQ is not setup to receive submissions electronically because editors are not required to be setup to read submissions electronically, and so receiving a hard copy at the start reduces time needed to process the submissions, and  printing costs. Additionally, the ideal is that writers who have to put a greater effort into submitting their work will endeavor to submit their best. Contest entries are submitted electronically because contestants pay to submit their work, so TNQ ensures convenience, and also because submissions have to be formatted and logged upon arrival for blind judging.

In addition to communicating with consumers and contributors through traditional social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, TNQ recently incorporated Submittable, a cloud-based online submissions management tool, into their contest submissions method. As well, TNQ is looking at future uses of social media for their supply chain as they consider revising their digital strategy and updating the digital edition of the magazine. The goals of these revisions are to grow the audience, and to further engage directly with consumers. Explains Blom, “TNQ has a reputation for doing things a little differently and never shying away from change.” One platform that Blom has her eye on is Wattpad, an online community of readers and writers, with its physical office in Toronto, ON. Blom sees Wattpad as a community made of passionate writers and a relationship with TNQ would connect these writers with the print market – a large part of TNQ’s mantra.

The considerations for further digital development come from the fact that TNQ is pleased with their digital representation and achievements so far, but recognize that both TNQ’s digital edition and website are losing functionality in consideration of the present capabilities of digital innovation. Ideas for change brought forward are considered and researched with regards to TNQ’s mandate to support emerging Canadian writers, and to maintain an active role in the local community. 

Lessons for Others

Social media requires scheduling and organization in order for it to be an effective business tool. Supply chain management often includes online collaboration, and strategy is no less important here than in social media for marketing. Plan according to the necessity of collaborative correspondence in the project.

It’s worth repeating that social media correspondence creates a paper trail, making it easy to review a conversation and eke out the next steps and instructions, recall what topics have already been addressed, and allow for dialogue to happen when each party can fit it into their schedule, rather than waiting for a time when everyone is available.

Mulloy says, “I’d say like anything in the office from telephone to computer, [social media] is a tool, so you have to determine what is required then figure out what tool to use. Don’t let the tool be the beast you have to feed. Keep things manageable, focussed to needs and concentrate on getting the message and consistency right.”


Submitted By: Catherine Muss, SMBP student, University of Waterloo

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