Following our PPA Independent Publisher Awards last week, we spoke with Ivor Eisenstadt, Managing Director of MGP, PPA Independent Publishing Company of the Year 2020. He explains how the company has changed and evolved over the last year, his advice to other independent publishers and what it means to win this year's award.
What made you want to work in the publishing industry?
I have a brother who was the M in A&M Publishing who was not only successful and fulfilled but had a lifestyle that allowed him to spend time with his family, enjoy time consuming hobbies and go on exotic holidays. I was in the Pharmaceutical Industry working long hours, under high pressure with demands from multiple sources, for limited reward and with no end in sight. I left when I had the opportunity to ‘take the money’ as a result of a job change due my third merger, and having an idea for a publication.
Chart your career from the start to where you are now.
After University I joined Schwarz Pharma as a sales rep before being promoted to Regional Manager and then Sales Manager when I was 28. I loved selling and it helped me develop many of the skills that I have needed throughout my career. I moved from Schwarz to Stuart Pharmaceuticals, which was part of ICI, where I was in a series of roles in marketing, sales management and then ICI International Business Management.
I was headhunted to be Sales and Marketing Manager at Kabivitrum in 1990 and following that I worked briefly as a consultant to the A&M directory Pharmafile before setting up MGP with my wife Rosie in 1994. Our first publication was a healthcare directory, Medendium. We initially worked from our dining room but when Rosie announced that she was expecting our third child, and my response was ‘it isn’t in the business plan’, we moved out into offices and built a team around us. In 1997 we successfully launched Guidelines, a directory of clinical guideline summaries and the business has been promoting best practice in healthcare through a range of multi-platform titles and projects ever since.
How does it feel to win PPA Independent Publishing Company of the Year?
Fantastic. It is great recognition for the MGP team who, like the rest of the publishing community, have worked tirelessly to overcome technical difficulties, communication problems, resource issues, isolation and great uncertainty. I feel very proud to be working with such a talented and dedicated team. We have been promoting best practice in healthcare for over 25 years and never has there been more of a need for healthcare professionals to have access to robust, evidence based, authoritative clinical information. The PPA independent publishing company of the year award is wonderful recognition of the part that we have played in helping to meet this need.
What value do you find in being a member of the PPA?
The PPA connects us to the rest of the publishing community, providing us with tailored training programmes, relevant webinars and events that support our learning. The PPA has also supported us with recent issues that we have had with the Royal Mail and in campaigns that we have fought in the past such as promoting the value of advertising. They provide an invaluable service, particularly to the independent publishing sector.** **
How does the MGP of 2020 look different to the MGP of 2019?
We are working from home, have merged our publications and digital teams to create a more seamless digital first approach, we have launched a new title in Guidelines for Pharmacy, we have redesigned our Guidelines for Nurses website, pivoted to a virtual Guidelines Live, increased our projects portfolio, grown our webinar capacity, rebranded Specialised Commissioning as Specialised Medicine, grown our headcount by 11%, MAT sales by 9% and MAT net profit by 21%.
What initiatives have you been most proud of over the last year and why?
Our partnership with Antibiotics Research UK (ANTRUK) to fight antibiotic resistance which included generating significant national coverage of the extent of abuse that doctors endure when not prescribing antibiotics.
We launched Guidelines for Pharmacy at the end of 2019, receiving an overwhelmingly positive response from pharmacists with over 250,000 total handbook referrals per issue and capturing 7% of the pharmacy print advertising market in the first 9 months of this year.
We hosted our first Guidelines Live conference at Olympia in November last year, moving a free conference into a paid-for event which saw a five-fold increase in attendance, 145% revenue growth and was shortlisted for PPA Event of the Year. We then pivoted to run a hugely successful 2020 virtual Guidelines Live event, with sponsorship up, delegate numbers up and overall revenue up.
However, I am most proud of our response to COVID-19 in which we have been providing authoritative COVID-19 best practice support to healthcare professionals including guidance summaries, articles, videos, webinars, newsletters, resource centres, directories and sponsored projects. They have never more badly needed timely, authoritative, evidence based clinical information and we have supported them throughout, increasing our readership and audience numbers as a result.
What advice would you give to independent publishers trying to navigate these turbulent times?
1) Stay flexible, embrace new opportunities, don’t be afraid of change
2) Recognise and promote those who can best handle and manage uncertainty
3) Make a point of supporting your team, ensure that they feel connected, part of the company and looked after. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
4) Accept that people make mistakes, especially when working remotely. Have a ‘no blame’ culture so that errors are flagged early and not covered up.
5) Build client trust by owning up to mistakes, resolving them quickly and going ‘above and beyond’
6) Build partnerships, learn from, and support each other.
What’s on your radar?
We have all been working from home since March and have pivoted to the office being a resource for those that either can’t work from home, have issues working from home or need face to face meetings. Although it works well it is hard to assess what we might lose in the long run from this approach. Assuming that the vaccines do their job then how should we move forward with office working? What will be best for the team and what will work best for the business?
What magazine would you stockpile?
I subscribe to the Economist and the New Scientist and have piles of them around the house. I also stockpile our monthly journal Guidelines in Practice, the monthly what’s showing programmes for our wonderful Berkhamsted Rex cinema, the RSPB Nature’s Home magazine and InPublishing. I also have Spurs programmes going back many years. I like to read magazines and I like to stockpile!