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Ten things we learned at the IPG Autumn Conference
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Posted by IPG
Our Autumn Conference on Tuesday 19 September provided IPG members with countless insights. Here are just ten of our favourites

1 Small companies can be big brands

The Autumn Conference’s popular first keynote speaker was Richard Huntington, chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi. Branding is sometimes seen as the preserve of huge corporates, but he exploded this and several more myths—like the idea that every brand needs a purpose, or that promoting one requires a lot of advertising. “Brands aren’t just fluffy, they’re among the most potent tools of any business,” he said. “Anyone can achieve good branding with a bit of hard work and audacity.”

2 Marketing is mobilising

Facebook’s Ed Couchman ran through some of the ways that social media platforms like his have transformed marketing. With more and more people browsing on smartphones, marketing must always be optimised for mobile, he told publishers. At a time when people are bombarded by text, pictures and videos, it needs to stand out, too, and making content personalised and relevant can help with that. “Online marketing needs to capture attention finger-stoppingly quickly,” Couchman said.

3 Independent booksellers are in good shape

The Autumn Conference had a special extra dimension this year: the presence of some of the country’s best booksellers through an initiative with the Booksellers Association. One of them, Nic Bottomley of Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath, said the independent bookselling sector was increasing in both confidence and professionalism. He urged publishers to support independents by installing the BA’s ‘Find Your Local Bookshop’ button when selling books online, and recommended using the Edelweiss platform to improve communications between publishers and booksellers.

4 Publishers need freelancers and non-execs

Two morning sessions looked at the value of bringing outside talent into publishing. More than nine in ten IPG members use freelancers now, and Whitefox’s John Bond said they would become even more prominent. He advised publishers to brief freelancers clearly, fix the costs, give plenty of notice and provide feedback. IPG patron Martin Woodhead followed with a session emphasising the value of non-executive directors, who can provide support and encouragement during challenging times in particular, their fees usually paying for themselves many times over. “The non-executive director is the best kept secret of many successful companies,” he reckoned.

5 Publishers can sell more books through the media

Three of the best-received sessions at the Autumn Conference came from speakers working in other media. Nick Sidwell of Monwell, the company behind the Guardian Bookshop, and Leena Normington, formerly of the Telegraph Bookshop, discussed how the retail operations of newspapers can lift sales of books featured on the review pages. Later, BBC Radio 4’s Di Speirs highlighted book-related programmes across her station like Open Book, Book of the Week and Book at Bedtime, and encouraged publishers to pitch their titles selectively. “Radio 4 is fuelled by authors and books… we’re hungry for ideas,” she said. John Lomas-Bullivant of Kickback Media meanwhile gave the Conference some good tips for selling film and TV rights, which can also result in extra sales if the resulting film or programme is a hit.

6 Higher Education is in flux

Constantly shifting policy, Open Access and Brexit are just three of the challenges facing academic publishers at the moment, and all were aired in a Conference breakout session with Wonkhe’s David Kernohan. As the IPG's academic and policy correspondent Richard Fisher notes in his round-up of the Conference’s three academic-themed breakouts, Tim Williams of Fox Williams Independent Publisher of the Year Edward Elgar Publishing showed how well independents can respond to digital disruption, while Mandy Hill of Cambridge University Press admitted how change can be a challenge for even the largest publishers.

7 Children’s publishing is diversifying

Diversity is one of the biggest issues of the day in publishing, and a breakout with consultant Joy Court and Janetta Otter-Barry of IPG member Otter-Barry Books looked at how it is starting to be achieved in children’s books—though much more remains to be done. “All children should have the chance to see themselves in books, whatever their cultural background,” said Otter-Barry. Broadening horizons of a different kind was the theme of another breakout, with Diane Glass of the ISC Consultancy, who shared advice for getting books into schools around the world.

8 The IPG’s Skills Hub is here to help

Nosy Crow’s Tom Bonnick and Bloomsbury’s Nina O’Reilly gave the Conference some tips for using the wealth of professional development content available on the IPG’s Skills Hub, and emphasised its value to experienced as well as novice publishers. If you have not yet explored it, sign in and take a look round now!

9 The way we work is changing

The Future Laboratory’s Trevor Hardy rounded off the Conference with a fascinating look at working habits and environments of the future. He explored how technology has transformed the nature of interaction at work, and highlighted the concept of ‘bleisure’—a fusion of our business and leisure lives. In response to that, companies are starting to reengineer their offices so that people can stay at their creative best, he suggested. “Workplaces are becoming more intelligent, connected and human-orientated."

10 It was the biggest Autumn Conference yet!

With more than 300 delegates, 17 different sessions and 21 speakers, this was the biggest Autumn Conference in the IPG’s history. It was particularly encouraging to discover that two in five of those at the Conference were attending an IPG event for the first time—the first of many, we hope! The next big IPG event for your diary is our Annual Spring Conference from 7 to 9 March 2018.
The IPG Autumn Conference was sponsored by Ingram Content Group, which showcased its global supply chain and print on demand services, and PLS, which highlighted its new PLS Permissions tools. You can read more views on the day via #ipgac on Twitter. For our gallery of photos, click here.

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