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Alison Branch, Park Communications
At work with

Alison Branch, Park Communications

We start this busy week with a visit to the printers. Park Communications have established a niche for themselves printing indie magazines, with recent projects including Another Escape, Rapha’s Mondial, Wrap and Sidetracked. Such projects have just won them the title ‘Magazine Printer of the Year’ at the PrintWeek awards. They’re also a key supporter of our ModMag conference. Managing director Alison Branch shares some print advice and discusses the future of print.

Where are you today?
This morning I’m in my office

What can you see from the window?
I’ve a glass fronted office and look out to our business development team and through our board room to a tree outside. I’ve become very fond of the tree –it brings the seasons into my working day. Customers are our heartbeat, so much of my time is spent alongside our customer facing team… it’s fun to be alongside such a good team… even on a Monday morning!

Are you a morning or evening person?
Morning for sure, and daylight and summer. The long dark nights are not for me.

What was the first magazine you remember enjoying?...
So embarrassing to admit….it was Jackie and similar titles for young teenage girls. I loved to tuck myself away when the new issue arrived.

Mondial 01 Cover
What’s your favourite magazine this morning?
This has to be Rapha’s Mondial. Am a keen cyclist and love to mountain bike, but you don’t need to be a cyclist to love Mondial – great articles, imagery, tactility and even smell through the range and choice of materials. It stimulates and attracts all the senses. You just have to keep picking it up for another browse…..

It’s been a tough time for printers. What do you think makes the difference between succes and failure in your industry?
It’s true, it’s been tough. The over 12,000 printers a few years ago has reduced to 8,600. The successful businesses keep 100% customer focused… tracking and responding to how customer’s needs are changing and then ensuring service delivery is second to none. A good example is how we at Park have adapted to the independent magazine market. Tiny a few years ago, there are now new titles coming out every month. By adapting our service to the needs of these new publishers, we’ve become the primary print partner of choice. These new customers tell us that the high production value and extra touches of creativity we bring, enhance brand and attract more advertising.

This customer focus then has to be backed up by constant attention to good process and being more efficient.

We were delighted that our support of the magazine market was recognised at the PrintWeek awards, the most prestigious print industry awards. Last week the judges awarded Park ‘Magazine Printer of the Year’ for the second year running.

RAYS5852Which mags have you got going through the presses this week?
This week it’s Printed Pages, Puss Puss, Superyacht Owner and Vector but it could be one of forty titles across consumer, customer and business titles. The new magCulture ‘Independence’ book is also on press this week. Customers often like to press pass a cover and first text section. Being so close to central London, means we are easy to get to. It also gives me and the rest of the team to opportunity to meet customers face to face, which is a pleasure.

Print technology seems to be forever improving; is there a finite level of quality that will be reached, or do you see it continuing to improve?
Quality has improved massively over the years. In the seventies many of the printers were still letterpress, then film came in and now we work without film and there is 3D printing. New technology will enhance quality further so to be at the top of the game printers need to keep up with the latest technology.

This year, our spend on new kit and software has been close to £3m. Equally, or maybe even more interesting to customers, will be the new ways that print can engage the senses and link to other media. New papers, new materials and new colours. Papers designed to entice the readers sense of smell. The building of micro circuits into print and paper, micro circuits that communicate with phones, ipads and websites without the need for an App…. the future will be exciting.

What’s the most common mistake/misunderstanding you encounter from magazine publishers when they use your services?
Every magazine is different and we work to help add the extra touch of uniqueness so there are not really common problems. However we always suggest that our customers look out for the following:

• That they are using the correct image profile for each of coated and uncoated papers. We can help if they’re not sure how to do this.

• Be aware that a double-page image will reproduce differently on the inner cover and first/ last page of text if the cover and text material are different stocks.

• Be mindful when creating artwork for the inner cover, that there is a 7mm binding hinge along the spine on the inside front and back covers.

What are you most looking forward to this week?
ModMag15 will be a highlight… a great line-up of speakers and our stand of samples always attracts lots of visitors. There’s never a dull moment here at Park, as all our projects are largely bespoke. Achieving a particularly challenging customer requirement and passing on their thank you email to the rest of the team has to be one of the greatest pleasures.

What are you least looking forward to this week?
Spam email. Despite our firewall and religiously unsubscribing, I still receive 50 or so a day. Spam email is the new junk mail… such a waste of time and can cause you to lose sight of the email you do need to read.

What will you be doing after this chat?
Our vision is to keep improving in everything we do… our offer to customers and how we deliver this, so Mondays are for meeting with the sales team and our managers to review and plan.

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