How Does John Wilson Do It–And Why?

In my email box I retrieve regular missives from John Wilson, editor of Books and Culture, highlighting the current set of articles his team of writers has produced. There’s always something interesting and worth thinking about in the magazine—I greatly enjoy it.

But the emails themselves: chatty. Informal. Even—yes, personal. And that has always affected me. Mr. Wilson talks about where he’s been, what conference he’s attended or spoken at, who he’s been visiting, whether his wife (Wendy!) went along, what’s happening in Chicagoland, whether his baseball team is winning, what he had for supper and the mileage on his car between oil changes (OK—I made up the last two.) I like the chatty informality and I think it serves the broader goal of building the relationship between the reader and the magazine, by way of the editor.

If I can get to know the editor, if he is a kind of sharp, grandfatherly-type with a range of interests, who is constantly meeting people, then maybe, just maybe, I’ll have enough faith in the magazine to buy a subscription and read it.

So far so good.

But Books and Culture is not John Wilson’s property—it is owned by Christianity Today, a corporation for which I have great regard. And yet, much of an editor’s whimsies and fascinations find their way into a magazine. So it is with Books and Culture, or so it seems to me. Books and Culture has a personality very different from the Sister/Mother/Flagship publication Christianity Today. And that is at least partly due to Mr. Wilson’s chatty writing. In my work as a communications consultant, I struggle to help clients understand just how far relationship-building can go in their communication efforts. Many resist showing personality (especially regulated medical device clients) and many still believe communication is a one-way street. Not that everything must be chatty, but there is an enormous magnetism to human connecting with human.

Thanks, Mr. Wilson, for showing how an organization can be human.

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