The Definition of Success
Merriam-Webster’s marketing philosophy doesn’t involve pushing one medium over another, according to Pelkey. Rather, the company responds to what its customers respond to—which continues to be an overwhelming favoritism for print. Approximately 90 percent of its revenues are still derived from print, says Pelkey.
The publisher’s new media strategies haven’t caused any profound technological challenges, as most of its products were already produced by database-driven publishing tools that were easily adapted to electronic output, says Pelkey. Instead, Pelkey says his greatest challenge has been in managing fluctuating inventories when customers have multiple formats from which to choose.
A Man of the People
From a chance transition from the machine-tool industry into the world of publishing, and from print-only to multimedia content production, Pelkey has faced his share of challenges. He credits his colleagues who offered support, taught him what he needed to know, and encouraged him to make his own new discoveries.
However, one mentor, in particular—a colleague from those early days at Field Publications—gave him essential advice that he’d follow throughout his career: Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
“When I started out in publishing, I didn’t know a thing about the graphic arts, but I learned at a very early age that you have to ask questions. That’s the best way to learn and grow,” Pelkey says.
These days, Pelkey offers advice of his own to his industry friends: Network as much as you can. He stays active in the book community through organizations like Bookbuilders of Boston.
“I don’t have any problem conversing with my competitors and sharing ideas in a forum like that. And I’m a big believer that you have to take the time to develop real relationships with your suppliers and vendors,” Pelkey suggests. “I know that when I call the plant manager down at Quebecor, he’s going to take my call. He knows my business, and understands that if I’m calling, there’s a good reason for it.”