Mollet: trade must give 'thought leadership'

Incoming PA chief Richard Mollet says the publishing industry needs to get hold of the public debate around issues facing the industry, principally digital. He was drawing on his experience as public affairs chief at the music industry trade body the BPI.

"It's important for us to give thought leadership, because it is very easy for other people to define you. You go on any music blog and you'll see people saying record companies are dead, you don't need them any more, they are old fashioned - and they define what's wrong with the industry.

"Sometimes we've been a bit slow on the music side to say 'no, this is it actually, we know what we're talking about, you don't'. Very often these people are jaded, failed rock stars from 60 years ago who've got a hostility to the sector. So, in the same way, it's for the PA to have thought leadership on that, to say 'this is what publishing is about, it's absolutely in no way an old-fashioned business just becuase digital technology has come on—in fact, it's all the more important' - and set the terms of trade in that debate."

Mollet outlined other goals during his interview with Bloomsbury's Richard Charkin, who is also the PA's newly-appointed representative to the Federation of European Publishers and the International Publishers Association. The men chatted in front of a live audience on day two of Frankfurt.

Asked by Charkin how to stop defections from the PA he said 'There are two ways you deal with that. One is by constantly showing value for money. People need to know their membership fees are being put to good use, whether it's the copyright portal, effective lobbying, effective export trade promotion, whatever it may be. To my mind the PA is showing that.

"The other way is continually being relevant. The worst thing a trade association can do is go off on its own tangent and forget to to talk to its members. The BPI was very good at keeping members engaged and I certainly want to bring that to the PA, so there is a constant conversation."

It was pointed out by Charkin that the subs rate has not gone up in 10 years. "If I were you I'd be shouting quite loud about that," he advised.

Asked how he would like the PA to be viewed in five years time Mollet said: "I'd like it not to have had any major defections. And publishing - yes it faced the same problems as music but through the innovation of the companies and the continued engagement with the government about making sure the copyright law was in the right place, and in all the debates that we're going to have in the next five years, you can look back and say 'we always heard publishing's voice, we always heard how important it was, we always heard what a crucial sector of the economy it was."