Gary Johnson Wins the John Caldwell Award

By John Bienias  |  November 17, 2016

Caldwell Award image

MSP Communications, an award-winning publisher and leading content marketing agency based in Minneapolis, is pleased to announce Gary Johnson, President, is the recipient of the 2016 John Caldwell Award from The Content Council.

Photograph of Gary JohnsonThe John Caldwell Award is presented to an individual who has made significant contributions to the industry by virtue of his or her leadership and success at promoting the use of custom media as a marketing channel and a standard for work that demonstrates excellence in content marketing.

“We are delighted to honor Gary with the John Caldwell Award,” said Andy Seibert, Chair of The Content Council and Managing Partner, Imprint. “Gary has been a huge supporter of our industry and a valuable contributor to The Content Council.”

Johnson joined Mpls.St.Paul Magazine in 1977 and was instrumental in its growth and development as a leading innovator in the city magazine industry. In 1993, Johnson oversaw the creation of Twin Cities Business, one of the most awarded regional business magazine brands in the nation.

MSP Communications has been a frontrunner in the custom publishing business since 1978. In the years since, the company has established a digital content creation division that has produced more than 225 titles, platforms and brands for some of the country’s most recognized companies and organizations.

“Our creative process is unique—one rooted in the practice of brand journalism that guides highly creative execution, solid audience engagement, and drives measurable outcomes,” Johnson said. “Magazines have demonstrated for decades what it takes to earn the trust of consumers and we apply those same principles to our digital strategies for some of the most trusted and recognized brands and organizations in the world.”

Johnson also received the Milton W. Jones Lifetime Achievement award from the City and Regional Magazine Association (CRMA) in May 2016. In addition to his duties as President of MSP Communications, Johnson also teaches “Content Strategy & Brand Journalism,” in a Strategic Communications master class at the University of Minnesota graduate school.

He laid out five key takeaways from a career spanning the past four decades:

  1. “Done well, content remains the perfect catalyst for human beings. We still are attracted to magic, humor, deep thoughts, inspiration, heart and soul, personal resonance and high utility. And when we find it: we engage and trust it.”
  2. “There’s little mystery to creating content that engages. The great content lessons are before us, derived from novels, poetry, song lyrics, comedy, TV and radio programming, blogs, even great advertising.”
  3. “I much prefer the phrase ‘brand journalism’ over ‘content marketing’ because it creates a crucial linkage, the necessity to apply journalistic principles to branded content, something content marketers often ignore, which explains why only a third of them think their content plans are working.”
  4. “Content creation is like stand up comedy. You start with no physical assets. Just thoughts and ideas, which are then turned into words and images. We basically work with vapor.”
  5. “The other half of content marketing success is working with a marketer who has successfully rehabbed from the addiction of product heavy messaging and the fever of immediate transaction.”

Caldwell, an early custom publishing pioneer, passed away in 2006. The award honors his contributions to the evolution of custom content as a marketing channel. The 2015 John Caldwell Award recipient was Meredith Kopit Levien, Executive Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer of The New York Times.

MSP Communications has been recognized with nearly 1,000 awards for print and digital excellence. MSP Communications’ Vice President/Content, Jayne Haugen Olson, was named The Content Council’s 2015 Best Content Director. The international award was introduced in 2014 by The Content Council to highlight a thought leader in content creation with a proven track record in meeting and exceeding the business and/or marketing goals of their clients.

Read next: Content Marketing vs. Advertising: What’s the Difference, Again?

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