Saturday, December 3, 2011

Johnson Publishing Company – Overcoming Crisis

To review - In 1942 with a startup cost of $500.00 Johnson Publishing Company (JPC) was the brainchild of John H. Johnson. JPC’s current work products include Ebony/Jet magazines and Fashion Fair Cosmetics. The combined value of these brands is estimated at well over 700 million dollars. Almost 75 years later JPC is the largest African-American owned publishing company in the world.

Fashion Fair Cosmetics - Black is Beautiful

The organization has certainly seen its share of crisis mostly having to do with finances and dwindling print circulation.  JPC has always been privately held so the day-to-day workings are not as transparent as those of its publicly held peers.  A bit of research uncovers that the current crises that JPC must navigate has several facets, among them are proper and prompt compensation to its writers and vendors (the focus of blogging rumors), reinvention to remain relevant to current and future readers, adopting digital and social media platforms/practices and remaining solvent through tough economic downturns both internal and external.

Fortunately crises as they relate to JPC may be a lot easier to survive than those of other companies we have studied. This is simply because they are not too scandalous in nature, and no harm has been done (death or physical injury). The only real damage for JPC comes in the form of public/stakeholder perception. With a good strategy along with prolonged efforts that manage measurable results these particular crises can be easily overcome.

Beginning with the death of the founder John Johnson in 2005 JPC has undergone drastic change from the top down. Unfortunately, this has been painful in many obvious aspects but after the of death of Johnson, it was essential to remove the cobwebs. Rodrigo A. Sierra, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, states, "Digital has not been where it needed to be for the company, I don't think that Johnson Publishing Co. has done a good enough job with the digital efforts to move the brand forward and monetize that side of the business".  Admitting errors, Crisis Management 101.

The solution to most all JPC “crisis” issues is found in the following excerpt of the Argenti reading, “the perceived loss of control, fueled by stakeholder empowerment, may be the biggest psychological impediment to widespread adopting of strategic digital plans”.  (Argenti P. 238)

The recent partnership with JP Morgan Chase signals a new chapter.  Although the terms have never been disclosed (JPC remains the majority stock holder) the involvement of an outside influence can only enhance JPC’s perspective and open the doors to new ideas. JPC has only to embrace the effort.

In the past JPC has been the sole leader in the field with no discernable competition. Most all efforts that came after molded themselves after the JPC model. Although imitation is considered the sincerest form of flattery, this flattery has seen JPC resting on its laurelsThis has JPC losing its younger audience to other increasingly influential print, broadcast and web based efforts geared toward an African-American audience. 

 Jet Magazine - Catering to a Younger Audience

JPC must acknowledge that African-Americans do not have as desperate a need for empowerment and acceptance we did in the past (that said, it cannot be overstated that empowerment efforts must continue unabated), that many more entities are vying for our attention and money and the new JPC target demographic is tech savvy and get their news from mediums other than print. “Considerations” aside now is the time to act.

Make no mistake JPC is by no means headed toward extinction. The fact is that our class assignment(s) called for both an objective and critical analysis of our subject and I have attempted to do just that.  I make no apologies to JPC regarding what was uncovered from that analysis or to those sensitive to the issues that have been raised. Keep in mind either way; I don’t make this stuff up. I just comment on it!

Ebony Magazine - Celebrating 65 Years of Publication

If JPC never implemented an aggressive digital strategy it has easily another 25+ years to still be viable. This is because at its core the primarily print readership is older and will still be loyal to the brand. They/We will never forget where we came from. That will make 100 years, a full century in the business of catering to an African-American interest. John Johnson always believed in African-Americans as consumers particularly when it was not fashionable or politically correct. NO OTHER MONEY MAKING ENTITY CAN ATTEST TO THAT.

This in itself will go down in the annuals of American business history, must less Black history. What John Johnson and Johnson Publishing Company have done in modern times to enhance, expand and advance the cause of those who were stolen from Africa and force into 200 years of slavery in America can never be fully appreciated by a general market audience. One who “poo-poos” the idea that JPC does not have a real digital presence does not have a clear idea of the greater good John Johnson and his company has done to cleanse and heals sores that others made and allowed to fester. I conclude that JPC has and will continue to do well!

NOTE: Thanks to everyone who read "Welcome to My World".  Your comments were most appreciated and respected. I learned a lot from reading all of your blogs at least once. You have greatly expanded my world. Again many thanks!


Works Cited:
Argenti, P. (2009) Digital Strategies for Powerful Corporate Communications. New York: McGraw Hill