Behind the Headlines With National Journal President Kevin Turpin

Building an effective communication strategy is the key difference between companies that are successful and those that aren’t. So how do you ensure that you stand out?

Kevin Turpin, president at the National Journal, details his vision for the company with a focus on innovation and creativity.

In this interview, Kevin discusses his career with National Journal. He reveals how his values of growth and innovation brought him to the outlet and are guiding his actions today as president. He also delves into the challenges of creating an effective communications strategy while outlining how to find success, especially in a hyper-partisan environment.

How did you get your start in communications?

Like many college grads with a liberal arts degree, I got my start in media because National Journal was one of the first job offers I received when graduating from Georgetown. I was agnostic to the industry I worked in at the beginning of my career, but was more interested in finding a culture that fostered learning and growth. National Journal was the perfect fit for that criteria. I have stayed in the media/communications field because the industry is constantly changing and it’s a great environment for developing innovative products to serve interesting audiences.

What has been your favorite moment or accomplishment thus far with the National Journal?

My favorite accomplishment at National Journal was launching a new product called Policy Brands Roundtable in 2013. It’s currently one of the fastest growing and most profitable products within the entire Atlantic Media Company (National Journal’s holding company). I feel most fulfilled when I can identify a problem that our target market (public policy professionals) is dealing with and work with my colleagues to successfully provide a solution to that problem.

What do you hope to accomplish in your new role as president of the National Journal?

My number one goal as president is to foster a culture of growth and innovation that continues to build creative products in service to DC public policy professionals in new and exciting ways. The goal of our entire organization is to support the workflow of DC public policy professionals by making them more effective and efficient. Over the past five years, we have launched seven new products squarely focused on that goal.

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What are some of the biggest challenges facing governmental reporting today? How can these challenges be overcome?

I think the biggest challenges in reporting on politics and policy is that it is difficult to gain and maintain the trust of your audience. We do a survey called Washington in the Information Age that studies the media consumption habits of public policy professionals (hill staff, federal agency staff, and private sector policy influencers in DC). One of the most telling things within that study is that every group is saying that they are going through at least eight different sources of information a day to learn what is going on in politics and policy. When following up with some of our survey respondents, they expressed a need to fact check every piece of information that they receive because of the amount of information out there that they think has inherent bias. This environment makes it very difficult to build loyalty because the audience is always skeptical.

One way to overcome this challenge is by focusing on fact-based reporting that examines all sides of a particular issue. Throughout our 40 year history here at National Journal, we have been known for that style of reporting. It is this quality which has become even more important in this hyper-partisan environment.

In your previous position as the senior vice president of strategy and operations, what did you find to be some of the key components for a successful strategic communication strategy?

The insights that the strategy is built upon are the key differentiators between a strategy which will be successful and one that will fail. Insights based on a combination of market knowledge, research, and instinct make a strategy stand out and lead to success. For example, the National Journal Members connected to our research product portfolio are often striving to learn unique information about their audiences. With that knowledge in hand, they are able to cut through the communication clutter with a targeted, successful strategy.

Now that you’ve identified those components, how do you execute them successfully?

My team does a great job executing strategy by ensuring all of our decisions are driven by a deep knowledge of the top challenges our market is facing in any given year. For example, before we launch a product we have an extensive internal process that begins with interviewing our Members regarding the most challenging areas of their work. After completing the next phases of our innovation process we build prototypes that our clients help shape to make sure we are entirely meeting their needs. Our client-centered approach to product development allows us to communicate clearly about our unique value proposition when we publicly launch any new product.

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What advice do you have for those looking to begin a career in this field? What about those looking to advance their careers?

My advice for those beginning their career is to be the person who will step up when there is a call to take on challenging projects. This will help you to organically grow your skills and make you valuable to your organization. For those looking to advance their careers, I recommend being solution oriented. People often lean towards identifying roadblocks to a business being successful, but individuals who can identify a challenge and come up with a recommendation on how to meet it differentiate themselves and make themselves valuable.

Rapid Fire Round

1.If I could go back in time, I would travel to…. Ancient Egypt. I would want to witness all of the innovation that happened during that time.

2. If I was a superhero, my powers would be… the ability to make people genuinely happy at a moment’s notice.

3. My favorite subject in school was… History

4. My hobbies outside of work include… Golfing and obsessing over the Georgetown Hoyas basketball team.

5. I laugh most at… my 4 month old son.

6. My favorite season is… Spring

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