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Stephen Lotinga: the first 100 days

Stephen Lotinga: the first 100 days

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Stephen Lotinga, 11 April 2016

Approaching my 100th day at The Publishers Association offers an opportune moment to share my first impressions of the job and to set out some priorities for the future.

In politics, where I’ve spent much of my working life, the 100-day milestone is often seen as a bellwether for future success. The rationale being that at this point in an electoral cycle you are at your strongest and most able to get things done. In reality such pressure often leads to early mistakes as politicians rush around in a flurry of policy announcements designed to demonstrate activity rather than truly understanding what they are doing.   

With this in mind, and being new to publishing, I decided that my first few months could be best spent listening to my members and to as many people from across the industry as were prepared to put up with me. I wanted to find out how your businesses work; the pressures you face; what it is that people value most about the organisation; and what we could be doing better. After all, The PA belongs to our members and if we’re not responding to what they need most from their trade association then we will fail.

Many people in the industry have already been enormously generous with their time and I will strive to meet with many more members in the coming weeks and months. What’s been slightly overwhelming so far has been the warmth of the welcome I’ve received and the sense of goodwill towards the future success of The PA. It’s made me realise just how much people who work in publishing care passionately about the success of the industry.

What’s been clear in these initial conversations is that while many people are immensely proud of the industry they work in and how it has adapted to technological challenges, they acknowledge there is a lot more we can do to ensure it gets the recognition it deserves.  It’s also been welcome to hear that The Publishers Association is still greatly valued by our members, which can only serve as a tribute to my predecessors and those who still work here.

As Chief Executive of The PA, my guiding principle will be to ensure that every single member, however large or small, knows at the end of the year that they’ve been getting value for money from their trade body.  Having run a small business, I know the importance of ensuring that every single penny is spent wisely and contributes to the bottom line. While I believe we already add a lot of value to our members there is still much more we could be doing to provide the best service possible.

There are three priorities in particular that I will be focussing on to ensure that this happens:

Firstly, I have no doubt that the industry is at its strongest when it acts with one voice. The combination of academic, education and consumer publishers of all sizes speaking together is very powerful. The PA has played an important role in the past ensuring that the industry is heard in the halls of Westminster and Brussels. One of my main priorities will be to ensure that the voice of publishing continues to be heard loud and clear.  At a time when economic growth is the number one political priority, it’s more important than ever that people understand the incredibly important contribution our industry makes to the economy both directly and indirectly.

Secondly, I want us to refocus our efforts on the role we can play in providing insight to our members to help their businesses grow. Our expertise in understanding policy and market research, through to more practical business and legal advice, should help our members navigate an increasingly complex business environment.

Finally, I want to take a hard look at the services we currently provide our members. I believe there continues to be a role for us in bringing businesses together to save money and pursue collectively beneficial activities, such as our work with the Copyright Infringement Portal. But we have to ensure that any services we provide keep pace with the membership we serve and their business models. I feel that there is a lot more that we can do to develop new services and reduce our reliance on membership fees.

My desire as CEO of The PA is to ensure that the industry and by extension, The PA, continues to thrive. To achieve this we will need to ensure we are relevant to the future. This will involve some change but I have no doubt that it will be led by and for the benefit of all our members.

This article first appeared in the Publishers Weekly/BookBrunch London Show Daily at the 2016 London Book Fair