Q&A with Annie Ferguson, Great Southern Press, CEO

“Our strength as a business has always been our relationships with our customers, and our thorough understanding of their businesses, their challenges, and their goals for growth.” Great Southern Press CEO Annie Ferguson talks about the impact of COVID-19 on its business and client relationships.

Founded in 1972, Great Southern Press (GSP) has grown from humble beginnings. Its founder, Barry Wood, was a pipeline construction worker who often found that he was in the know when it came to the latest project news. So he started producing a newsletter via typewriter on his kitchen table. Since then, the company has grown to produce energy and infrastructure titles and events in Australia and around the world.

Annie Ferguson, CEO, Great Southern Press
Annie Ferguson, CEO, Great Southern Press.

CEO Annie Ferguson continues to lead the company with Wood’s core value of building strong relationships with industries and the companies within them.

TMSN Editor Lyndsie Clark caught up with Ferguson to chat about the challenges and opportunities that the impact of COVID-19 has had on GSP’s B2B titles, and how it has solidified the publisher’s relationship with its readership and advertising clients.  

Lyndsie Clark: How are you making sure your content is relevant right now? 

Annie Ferguson: Our editorial team is working double-time to stay on top of the news that is most relevant to our industries. 

We have increased our frequency of publishing across all of our websites and social media feeds, and are reaching out to all of our clients more frequently to get inside information on how their businesses are faring in the crisis. 

We have seen many of our clients come to us to get a better understanding of how the wider industry is coping, demonstrating the importance of a trusted news source in the midst of a crisis.

LC: How are you working with your advertising/exhibiting clients to get through the pandemic? 

AF: Our strength as a business has always been our relationships with our customers, and our thorough understanding of their businesses, their challenges, and their goals for growth. 

Right now we are focused on nurturing those relationships. We are working hard to understand the rapidly changing needs of our clients and creating customised marketing strategies that take into account their budgets, goals and the challenges of the current environment. 

In some cases, we have regular clients that are sick of being stuck at home and just want to have a chat, and that’s fine too!

LC: What is your message to your readers and clients during these times? 

AF: There has never been a more important time to market your business! When faced with a crisis, the first instinct of many business managers is to cut marketing budgets. 

We would encourage our clients to think of marketing not as an expense, and instead think of it as an investment in your future. 

While we have challenging times ahead of us, all signs are pointing towards Australia emerging from this crisis in a much better position than other countries around the world. 

That means our economy will begin to bounce back once restrictions lift, and the companies that maintained their presence during the quiet months will be first in line for contracts when they become available.

LC: What are the short-term goals that you want to accomplish for your brands during the pandemic? 

AF: We have some very exciting short-term goals for our business. We are taking advantage of the downtime to tackle some long-overdue admin projects, brand improvements, and long-term strategic planning. 

Our major goal is to emerge out of COVID-19 as a lean, mean machine with efficient internal processes, a unified vision for our future, and ready to rapidly grow in the post-coronavirus world.

LC: Where do you think the B2B magazine sector is heading beyond COVID-19? 

AF: In the past several years we have seen businesses increasingly direct their spend towards live events. While this is a great strategy, as publishers and marketers, we know that the best strategy is multi-channel marketing that includes trade shows, print and digital components. 

With so many trade shows being cancelled in the wake of COVID-19, we’ve seen a huge turning of the tide back to print and digital. This is great news for publishers, and a great opportunity for our industry generally. 

I think the end result will be the B2B magazine sector working with clients on a less transactional basis, and moving towards a more holistic model where sales teams work collaboratively with internal marketing teams to develop highly custom long-term strategies.

LC: How do you think the relationship between print and digital channels will change? 

AF: It’s difficult to say. I feel like people have been saying ‘print is dead’ for my entire life. That doesn’t seem to have eventuated and as someone that is deeply passionate about magazines, I’m not sure I’m able to give an objective answer about their future! 

But I do feel that this crisis will show marketers the importance of a marketing strategy that includes multiple channels. I believe the biggest shift will be a stronger uptake of social media marketing.

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