Kent Johnson, CEO of Highlights For Children, on Publishing During a Pandemic
Faith and learning to adapt, two things that CEO Kent Johnson and his teams at Highlights for Children are having and doing to continue to publish during this pandemic. I spoke with Kent recently and he was candid and very grateful for his team’s ability to continue with quality content despite the stress and disruption of this terrible crisis. He said nothing would change about their publishing schedules for now and was very thankful for the online products that Highlights offers for children and that they were doing so well in this day of homeschooling and isolation.
Having a degree in physics, Kent said he believes and enjoys data-driven thinking and decision-making, but with the pandemic, his idea of leadership for himself and his company is through transparency and much more frequent communication to the company.
“I try to focus all of us on our mission and remind us all that however hard it is today, we’re going to get through this as a country. We’re going to get through this as a global, interconnected human population. We have to keep our faith, but be realistic and do the best we can every day.”
Indeed, Kent. We will get through this together.
On how Highlights for Children is operating during this pandemic:
"All things considered, we’re operating pretty well. We have great leadership from our governor here in Ohio. We jumped on the idea that we had to be fully remote pretty early in the process. We trusted our teams and empowered our IT and leaders to get us working remotely. I was just amazed at how fast they did it. After the initial adrenaline of the change, we’re now in the stage of trying to figure out how to get used to it, be productive and be well-balanced in this virtual office environment. I’m impressed with our team and happy that we’re adapting as well as we can."
On whether he is considering any changes to publishing schedules or frequencies due to the pandemic:
"For our magazine business, we’re keeping our print publishing schedule the same as always. And I will say, there was a technology task to get our editorial for our magazine product development to work remotely, because the designers work with such big files and important technology systems. So, that was also a transition that I’m happy to say we’re on the other side of. But we’re keeping our print schedule the same."
On whether Highlights’ worldwide publications have been impacted by the pandemic:
"Our international business is really important to us from a mission perspective. I think we’re still trying to understand the impact globally on our business. I will say that maybe as a company we had sort of an early insight into the impact of this pandemic. One of our key customers, a really valued partner for us is based in Wuhan. And we’ve worked with them for many years to get our Highlights/High Five content and other early childhood content to preschool kids in China. So, we both had the early view of what happened to business as Wuhan and Hubei province shut down in China."
On what keeps him up at night:
"Uncertainty. It’s probably keeping us all up at night. We have to take this day-by-day with faith that the purpose of our company is important today and will be important on the other side of this. I lose a lot of sleep thinking about our people, hoping our people are keeping a balance in their lives so that they can perform well and maintain their mental and physical health and an effectiveness in their lives as a whole, across their families, extended families and their colleagues at work."
Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D. is the founder and director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi’s School of Journalism and New Media. He is also Professor and Hederman Lecturer at the School of Journalism. As Mr. Magazine™ he engages in media consulting and research for the magazine media and publishing industry.