UCL Portico

A radical magazine for radical thinkers.

The new Portico has seen gifts increase
by 20%.

UCL is one of the world’s leading universities – it regularly tops global research and teaching rankings and its academics and alumni are changing the world. But UCL has a radical heart. It’s a radicalism that reaches back to the University’s foundation in 1826, and it informs students’ and alumni’s understanding of what this august institution stands for.

And that’s why it was never going to be enough to produce a magazine that looked nice and covered key messaging to keep stakeholders happy. The UCL team were clear: they wanted a magazine that spoke to its radicals.

Working in tight collaboration with UCL’s team, we undertook a forensic analysis of every element of their magazine to address a set of key strategic objectives: to highlight academic excellent, to emphasise that UCL thinkers are free to address the big questions, and to underline the fact that UCL is radical by history and personality.

We also wanted to tap into alumni nostalgia, give readers a sense of belonging to a broad alumni network, and ensure that the magazine was a conversation, not a lecture. Most of all, we wanted to do all this while putting the reader first – we knew if readers weren’t engaged we may as well not bother with the messaging.

The first step was to take a long hard look at what we were producing. Design, content, headlines, pull quotes, structure of features and of the magazine itself: everything was scrutinised for effectiveness. We wanted to breathe some life into a publication that was well designed, but wasn’t making an emotional connection with its audience.

The quality of YBM's work is second-to-none and they delivered on our objectives. But what has really impressed us has been their attention to detail, their project management and their expertise when dealing with stakeholders.

The magazine has received an outstanding reception both internally and externally. For the first time: academics have asked for PDFs of pages of the magazine to use in promoting their work; alumni mentioned the magazine when talking to student callers in our annual regular giving campaign; readers have written in to discuss features; alumni spontaneously posted images of the magazine on social media. And the total number of gifts related to the magazine increased by 20% on last year (including a four-figure donation in the post).

Portico has also enjoyed phenomenally strong results in the latest reader survey. Portico made 86% of readers feel proud of their connection; 83% made time to read it; 83% rated the story content good or great; and the average number of readers per publication was three. The survey also asked readers to describe Portico in three words. The most used words were: dynamic, interesting, informative, lively, quality and relevant – which made us smile.