Q&A with John Murphy, CEO, Prime Creative Media

“B2B done well has historically focused on supporting industries and companies. It’s been our guiding purpose at Prime Creative Media, and as a result our commercial model is remaining strong, even in these tough times.” Prime Creative Media CEO John Murphy explains why the B2B publishing industry will emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic stronger than ever before.

Australia’s largest B2B publisher, Prime Creative Media prides itself on specialising in integrated marketing solutions for companies in high-growth industries, such as mining, advanced manufacturing, transportation, food and beverage, infrastructure and resources, and commercial road transport.

John Murphy, CEO, Prime Creative Media
John Murphy, CEO, Prime Creative Media.

In less than two decades, CEO John Murphy has built the company from humble beginnings to a team spread across Melbourne and Sydney managing more than 27 mastheads, 80+ digital platforms, and dozens of industry events. 

In the last 12 months alone, the company has acquired five titles in addition to launching new products and increasing the frequency of others. 

TMSN Editor Lyndsie Clark caught up with Murphy to chat about the importance of building industry confidence, being flexible with clients, and the role that B2B publishers’ grounded reporting will play in helping companies recover from the crisis. 

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

John Murphy: Our editors and journalists always work really closely with our industries and clients to ensure our content hits the mark and keeps people informed. 

We’ve made a concerted effort to focus on supporting businesses with resources to make it through the pandemic, and to look at the post-COVID world, to see their place within it. 

We’ve had record breaking engagement across the brands, which indicates we’re delivering what our readers need. 

We recognise the important role we can play in boosting industry confidence, so we need to strike the balance between being positive but also aware of the present challenges, and I think our editorial teams are doing a great job of getting that balance right.

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

JM: Tough times can really cement relationships, or do the opposite, and we are doing everything we can to be proactive, get closer to our clients and do what we can to support those that are struggling. We’ve increased our own marketing investment, releasing a series of resources through our Engine Room to not only support the industries we serve, but the marketing managers we work with. 

We are completely committed to our clients and our industries and we have been reaching out at all levels of the business and doing what we can. We are sensitive to each individual business – some people need support with trading terms, others need us to help promote their new business initiatives through editorial. 

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

JM: We put out an early Message from our CEO to our partners back in March and we had a great response from our clients, and the communication hasn’t stopped since. 

It’s important for us to be communicating the temporary nature of what we are going through and that the road to recovery is shorter for companies who continue to market and don’t do the marketing equivalent of pulling down the shutters. 

We have thousands of clients and I’ve been reflecting recently on the ones that continued to advertise with us throughout the Global Financial Crisis and I am really pleased to say those companies are the ones that bounced back fastest and have gone on to great success. It makes a huge difference if clients are able to have that continuity of message in the market, so we are certainly encouraging that with clients and prospects at the moment. 

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

JM: As a company we want to nurture our people and come out of this with a team that is even more committed to the business and the industries they serve. 

We’ve always prided ourselves on having a close-knit team, even through our acquisitions, culture has been really important to us, and I am pleased to say the past couple of months have brought our people even closer together.  

I’ve been delighted by the efforts of our team, the crisis has brought out the very best in them. In every part of the business we have individuals pushing hard and doing more so that we can be successful and deliver for our clients.

From a product perspective we want to develop stronger relationships with the market through our products and people. To be honest, we are now focused more on the medium to long term goals. We are looking at where we want our products to be once we are out the other side of this pandemic forced downturn. 

People will need our platforms to reach their markets more than ever in the foreseeable future with the reduction of travel and the increase in people working from home.

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

JM: B2B done well has historically focused on supporting industries and companies. It’s been our guiding purpose at Prime Creative Media, and as a result our commercial model is remaining strong, even in these tough times, because we’re well placed to support our advertisers and their industries. 

In B2C media, the commercial model is around the volume of readers. It’s been sad to see, on some outlets, that the result of this model has been the diminishing quality of reporting over the years, manipulating news for click rates. It’s now almost a cruel joke, that as readership in B2C is going up, advertising is dropping, because the commercial model was never about supporting those companies that paid their bills.

There will always be a place for good independent media, however the commercial model will have to change, which will topple many media outlets as they struggle to find a way out. 

For us, we can continue the approach that we’ve developed over 20 years, and play our part in keeping the Australian economy strong. Some media professionals have looked down on B2B media over the years as a second-class level of media – I see that changing in the years to come, where we’ll be able to compete with B2C for the highest level of talent and market share. 

Also our grounded reporting – which focuses on supporting the industries rather than sensational headlines – will be a welcome guiding force in the recovery. 

Quality B2B media has always played an important role in brand selection within the buyer journey and will be more valuable than ever. Done well, the engagement with audience, the social proof we provide – who uses what and why – is powerful and helps our clients generate sales. 

I suspect we will see further consolidation in the Australian publishing sector and we will certainly be looking at what that means for us and opportunities for further expansion in B2B. 

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

JM: Over the journey we have seen many publishers preference digital over print, but that’s not the solution. Digital is an important part of the marketing mix and a channel we use very effectively, but we are still finding print is achieving cut through and engagement with the market better than ever. 

There is no doubt our clients get the best results through a mix of print, digital and events. 

I think many publishers will need to improve their product offering in the digital space, having a digital product is not enough, it needs to be relevant and effective. We are driven to get exceptional results for our clients and this is best achieved through our multi-channel approach with quality journalism.

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