When Peggy Walker joined Vance Publishing Corp. last year in the new role of VP-custom media, she traveled extensively to allay fears at the company's 28 titles that someone from corporate was going to take over their business.
"I did an awful lot of work going to trade shows and spending time with editors, publishers, salespeople and research people," she said. "There really is a good way you can work with a corporate person."
That face time is expected to come in handy now that Walker is the corporate person at Vance, having been tapped to succeed longtime president-COO Michael Ross. Publicly she didn't take over until April 1, but internally she's been on the job since last fall.
Her priority is to accelerate growth at Vance, whose titles include Modern Salon, Accessory Merchandising, The Packer and Dairy Herd Management.
Walker immediately began working with Vance's strategic management team, focusing first on the company's 18 food and agriculture magazines. As a result of that study, the company announced in late January that it would restructure and consolidate its food industry titles into one business unit. It also announced plans to sell Cotton Farming, Peanut Grower and Rice Farmer . In April, Vance formed another new business unit by joining together its Decor and Industrial Divisions to create the Interiors Group.
Walker plans on taking a critical look at other divisions, too, but she does not foresee additional divestitures. While pleased with the strength of Vance's printed products, Walker is well aware that the company is heavily dependent on ad revenues, so she wants to expand the product mix.
"We're looking at the markets that we're in," she said. "Are the industries themselves consolidating? Are they fragmented and, if so, how can we grow? We want to find the drivers in the industry."
In her short time in custom media, Walker discovered that many Vance titles had been offering custom media as an outgrowth of publishing, so her role was to clearly identify and position the sector as a growth vehicle for the company. "Being decentralized, no one was getting up and looking across the building, pulling it all together and positioning it," she said.
Walker has decided to give that same attention to digital products and has created a new position, VP-digital media, to work with all divisions in product launches. "When I first came to the company, I thought maybe it lagged electronically," she said. "Now, we're making investments."
Before joining Vance, the 25-year veteran of b-to-b publishing served as VP-group publisher for the National Underwriter Co.'s insurance magazine division in Cincinnati.