Exec Stories - Neil Braidwood

By : PPA Communications

In the first of a series of blogs to get to know the PPA Scotland Executive Committee better, Chairman Neil Braidwood tells us what got him into magazines

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Neil BraidwoodTell us about yourself and why you love magazine publishing.

I’ve always been interested in design from an early age. We even had a magazine project when I was at primary school. Mine was quite ambitious – The World from 1900-1970. However, after a brief spell as a graphic designer at the Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh, I started a course in Media & Production Design at the London College of Printing in 1985. I already knew that I wanted to be involved in magazines – I loved The Face and Design magazine – but one day I saw a copy of teenage magazine 19 in a shop, and it had an acetate cover with the logo and cover lines screen printed on top. I just had to work on that magazine! Luckily my course included one of the first ‘industrial placements’ – six months working for a nominal wage – so I called 19, and started the next day!

After college I worked for five years on various magazines in London before moving back to Edinburgh in 1994 to become Design Editor of Scotland on Sunday newspaper. Working on a fast-paced weekly taught me production skills I never knew I had – and set me up for starting my own contract publishing business in 1999, CMYK Design. Initially, this was just me in my front room, but the company grew to a team of around eight, offering editorial, design, print and advertising solutions. We picked up some awards along the way on behalf of our clients, and even had a couple of our own magazines. I joined Connect Communications in their Edinburgh office in October 2015, bringing with me the goodwill and clients of CMYK.

 

What’s your role at Connect – what do you do day-to-day?

My job title is Creative and Publishing Manager  – I am an account manager, but also a designer, so quite unusual in the business. I can deal with clients, write and layout pages. I guess it comes from running my own company.

When I left CMYK, all of my clients came with me, so I am still responsible for magazines that I have been helping produce for over 15 years. I still speak and meet with those clients, project manage and design their magazines from start to finish. In addition, I account manage one of Connect’s biggest clients. We produce a significant amount of communications material for this organisation, and part of my job is ensuring those jobs are completed on brand, on time and on budget. This involves close liaison with the rest of the Connect team across both our offices.


What are your thoughts on the direction of the magazine publishing industry?

Magazines still have a real place in society – especially printed magazines. Organisations still love having a paper publication in their hands and they have real value for specific audiences. It’s something tangible, and often, in the case of many titles, a necessity – as the audience may not be online, or the magazine is a free pickup.

In terms of employment in this industry, that is more challenging. When I embarked on a career in magazines, I was pretty much in a minority. Now, getting into magazines (or even starting your own magazine), is very popular. There are more magazines launching than closing, but too many journalists and designers. Graduates need to make themselves stand out – by being multi-taskers like me! As publishers become leaner, they require staff that can turn their hand to anything – whether that is being able to interview someone and take their picture for the magazine, or design a piece of print and realise that as a digital product too.


How are you supporting the industry as part of your role on the PPA Exec Committee?

My role on the Executive Committee has allowed me to do some teaching at Edinburgh’s Napier University, where for the past two years I have taught the third-year Journalism students magazine production skills on a live project. I also work closely with the Publishing MSc course, where I am one of the dissertation supervisors.

I attend industry events with Nikki and help spread the message that PPA can help large and small publishers with things as diverse as distribution, or trademarking.


What can people contact you about if they want to?

I am happy to discuss any aspect of magazine publishing – I’ve come across lots of challenges over my 30-year career, and have either found a solution or know someone who might know a solution! One of the biggest learning curves I have had was when I took over Scotland Outdoors magazine during my time at CMYK. As a paid for subscription title, it was different to other publications I’d worked on. One of the first things we did was rebuild the website, creating unique content, videos, an events calendar and shop – while linking everything with our various social media channels. The whole process was just like creating a magazine – just in a different way.

 

To contact Neil with your thoughts on PPA Scotland and what we can do to represent the industry better, email: neil@connectcommunications.co.uk

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