Lack of communication is a recipe for disaster

Ultimately, as publisher, I must take responsibility for this series of mistakes that resulted in a botched cover.
Scott Holstein
850 Business Magazine publisher Brian Rowland

About now you might be asking yourself the question: "Why am I looking at the cover of the last issue of 850 across from this page?" Well, I'm going to tell you why. And I'm going to share a few points about the tangible and, more importantly, the intangible aspects of the relationship between a vendor and client that are critical on so many levels.

It began at 6:30 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 24, when I made my daily stop at the post office on my way to work. I always add myself to the mailing list for our magazines so that I can personally track their travel time in the postal system. On this morning, I opened the box, pulled the newest issue out, looked at the cover and felt like a sniper had hit me directly in the heart with a kill shot. The mailing label was placed directly on the most essential element of the cover image — an oyster fisherman in his boat — and for all practical purposes completely mitigated the message and the impression we wanted to deliver to the 15,000 business and community leaders who receive each issue of our magazine.

The cover of any magazine provides the most important first impression to the reader. Your initial reaction to our cover image and copy sets the tone of the issue and hopefully draws you inside to read the stories that  are researched and carefully written by professional journalists. In this case, a one-by-four-inch mailing label prevented that from happening, which is why I am running it again so you can focus on the cover and see our intended message.

This type of image only comes when the moon and stars are perfectly aligned and our talented staff photographer, Scott Holstein, is in the right place at the right time. On this particular day Scott rose early to drive to Eastpoint, where he planned to spend the morning on the water, documenting the craft of oystering, which has changed very little over many decades. This is a very labor intensive job that has provided a living for generations of families along the Forgotten Coast.

Scott goes to a photo shoot knowing the direction of the story that his photos illustrate. He utilizes his keen sense of observation and special photographic techniques to capture a series of images that our creative staff can utilize to bring the words and story alive on the pages of the magazine.

On this particular day, it was clear and sunny when he departed from shore. By mid-morning a fog bank moved in off the Gulf to envelop the oyster boats in a misty haze. Within a second, Scott seized the moment to capture the essence of this story in a single frame. And the designers and editorial team took it to the next level with the right words and placement of type. Please take a moment now to look deep into this image and wording to "feel" what this industry is experiencing.

What could have been done to avoid this misstep? Communication and logical thinking.

The postal service has pretty stringent regulations with regard to the placement of a mailing label.  It must be on the bottom one-third of the cover and placed horizontally.

Okay, we know the rules. So now what?

First Mistake — We did not specifically instruct our mail vendor where (or where not) to place this label. It most certainly could have run over the UPC code or in the water to the lower left. Across the UPC would have been the first call.

Second Mistake — Our mail vendor, who has worked with us for 15 years, could have made a far better call. Or, if there was a lingering question, picking up the phone and asking the client would have been a good option.

Someone consciously decided on the label's placement, and I have spent hours mulling over what thought process this individual went through before making the final decision to place it across the most critical element of the photograph.

Ultimately, as publisher, I must take responsibility for this series of mistakes that resulted in a botched cover. But I can assure you — it will never occur again. And I apologize to each and every loyal reader of 850.

Now the good news — I am very confident this issue of 850 will win awards from the Florida Magazine Association this August.

Fortunately, the judges will make their decision from a copy without the mailing label.

Meanwhile, I hope you will learn much from this issue's coverage of Pensacola, a community that is in the midst of reinventing itself into a formidable economic engine that will help drive Northwest Florida to its next level over time.

Categories: Opinion