The Evolving Role—and Perception—of Custom Publishing: A Q&A with Craig Waller
Greensboro, N.C.-based Pace Communications has been in the custom-publishing business since 1973, when CEO and Owner Bonnie McElveen-Hunter launched Pace Magazine, the in-flight publication of Piedmont Airlines. Today, the company produces 25 magazines, including in-flight publications for Delta, United, US Airways and Southwest Airlines.
In 2004, McElveen-Hunter hired Craig Waller, a London-based custom-publishing professional, as Pace’s new chief marketing and sales officer. “When [McElveen-Hunter] had been in Europe, she saw that custom publishing had developed ahead of the U.S. model,” says Waller. “I had been involved in the growth of custom publishing in the United Kingdom … so she thought my experience would be useful in taking Pace’s development to the next level.” In Europe, compared to the United States, Waller explains, custom publications were “a much more vital part of the marketing armory. … It wasn’t brochure publishing. It was ‘proper’ publishing applied to the marketing objectives of an organization that wanted to connect with its customer base. It’s those sort of skill sets that have really developed in the last three or four years in the United States, and now there’s certainly no difference in the two markets.”
Waller spoke with Publishing Executive Inbox about Pace’s development over the last three years, his mission to change the public’s perception of custom publications and the role of the Web in this niche market.
Inbox: When people hear the term “custom publishing,” some assume the quality of the content isn’t as high as a non-custom publication. How do you respond to that?
Craig Waller: … We hire the best editors and designers that are available in the magazine world—period. … If you’re publishing on behalf of an organization that just wants to reach its customers and engage them in a reading way, then you’ve got to have the best skill sets to do that.