Joanna Prior, Managing Director of Penguin General, reflects on her time as President of the Publishers Association
This week my year-long term as President of the Publishers Association came to an end, leaving me feeling a mixture of regret (not long enough to have achieved anything at all) and relief (quite a big responsibility to carry alongside the day job). Looking back, much has changed in those twelve months: the election of a Conservative government, a Labour mayor in London and the promised EU referendum coming to dominate political debate and our airwaves. In such changing times, it is more important than ever that the PA delivers its message about the value of our industry and steadily shapes the wider policy agenda by ensuring that our collective voice and in particular the importance of protecting copyright is heard.
In the middle of my term, it fell to me to find a new Chief Executive for the PA as Richard Mollet left us after five years. It was a responsibility I felt keenly, but the appointment of Stephen Lotinga as the new CEO, from the world of government affairs and communications has given us a fresh set of eyes and a new perspective on the challenges and opportunities for UK Publishing, which is exciting as we face the future.
As a sector, we continue to grapple with some of the big challenges we face, from ensuring we are more diverse in our recruitment to communicating with more impact the innovative and evolving nature of what we do. Given the shifting shape of our markets, we’ve had to show ourselves to be flexible and agile, whatever our size or whichever sector of the publishing business we’re in, to respond to the different ways readers want to access the great work we publish. Our success at this, the innovation and imagination publishing brings to the process of connecting up writers with their readers is something we are only just beginning to articulate well. Under Stephen Lotinga’s leadership, I trust that the PA will take a stronger lead in telling the stories that ensure everyone, most importantly decision and policy makers, authors, agents and consumers, understand the true value of Publishing.
This value cannot I believe simply be measured by our economic scale – the £4.4bn of sales – considerable though it is; but also by our impact in cultural terms, through the creativity we nurture and underwrite; and in social terms too. There is a sense of purpose that drives our industry – a belief that what we do is important and our products life enhancing. For me personally this links most obviously to the Reading for Pleasure work that the industry is engaged with.
I am particularly proud of the work we’ve undertaken in this area. We have seen much greater collaboration between various literacy charities; the growth in impact of some of our long-running campaigns and some truly inspiring partnerships with publishers and retailers. We still face huge literacy challenges in this country and I do believe that part of the mission and responsibility of the PA is to advocate for the importance of reading well for all citizens – so that everyone can unlock opportunities and realise their potential – as well as enjoy the entertainment and comfort throughout their lives that reading provides. And it goes without saying that we don’t have a business without readers.
It’s been a pleasure to work with the senior executive team at the PA and I will continue to do so as Past-President for another year, whilst wishing a successful tenure to Stephen Barr from Sage Publishing who takes up the Presidential reins.
For more information about the Publishers Association Annual General Meeting, which took place on Wednesday 18th May, click here.