Interview | Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Let your fingers do the walking

After the consolidation of the marketing function with Yellow Pages last July, Carmen Ciantar was brought on board as the company’s new marketing manager. In this interview, she talks about the forward-thinking company’s plans to grow further, with new staff recruitment being under way. By DAVID DARMANIN

What are your targets and aspirations? Where do you want to take Yellow Pages?
Yellow Pages is already the leader in its market. The target is not only to maintain this but also to expand to the online as well as mobile scene. We aim to take a Corporate Leadership Role within the Maltese Business Community and to be the Best Local Information Bridge for bringing Buyers and Sellers together in order to transact, through being their first choice in search for sourcing products and services available in Malta and Gozo in both print and electronic Media.
The Yellow Pages is all about bringing buyers and sellers together to transact.
The principal business objective of Yellow Pages (Malta) is to develop accurate, user friendly and regularly updated directories which meet the information needs of users in specific fields; satisfy the needs of advertisers in the most cost effective manner possible; match and exceed the best quality standards of equivalent directories produced in major countries worldwide; are right, on time, every time.
We are very proud of our enviable reputation for quality and customer satisfaction.
Several significant innovations herald this new edition of the Yellow Pages. The book is being complemented by new services that rope in mobile phone facilities so that mobile phone users will be able to access the full Yellow Pages’ information via their phone, wherever they may be, whether at home, or out and about. In addition, the practical and handy road maps usually supplied with the Yellow Pages are also available on internet and thus accessible via both mobile phones and the web.
Another new inclusion in the services of the Yellow Pages is the online web and email links which bring listed companies directly within reach of those who need them even if a consultation with the book itself is not possible. This all leads to an overall and tangible coherence throughout all the communications systems and mediums available, making the Yellow Pages a holistic service around the clock.
Yellow Pages is also presently looking towards the possibility of helping both established and new product advertisers improve on the overall quality of services being advertised through the directory, by helping them create effective websites to complement their selling techniques.

Yellow Pages is known all over the world for the way it manages its brand. How did this all start, internationally?
First was the telephone. Once Alexander Graham Bell got it working, it spread like the southern kudzu vine. In less than two years after the first “Watson, come here I need you” conversation, there were enough telephones for a “central office” and someone to connect and disconnect the callers, in1878.
The fastest growing of the new Bells was the New Haven Telephone Company in Connecticut. There were enough people “on line” to cause them to publish a little white card with the names of all 50 subscribers. The headings were divided into four sections: residential, professional, miscellaneous and essential service listings. Thus, the first phone book.
Early directories only listed names; numbers were not needed because operators made the connections for each caller.
In 1886, when Reuben H. Donnelley established the first classified telephone directory advertising, he helped create an entire industry that we know as the Yellow Pages.
No one knows for sure how those pages turned yellow. They didn’t start that way. Legend has it the printer ran out of white paper in 1883 and rather than wait weeks for a new shipment, used yellow.
Then followed research that showed that black type on yellow paper combination was the easiest to read, other than black on white.
For the most part, the Yellow Pages were the exclusive monopoly of the RH Donnelley and the telephone companies.
Then came deregulation and publishers found that selling a second, or third or fourth, book of yellow ads is very profitable.
The Yellow Pages industry accounts for more than $14 billion in annual advertising sales.

How has the Yellow Pages developed its brand in Malta over the years? Why do you think it is so effective?
In Malta, Yellow Pages is committed to establishing and maintaining a Quality Management System to ensure a consistently high quality service and on time delivery that fully satisfies contract requirements and the expectations of its customers. This is being achieved by encouraging employee involvement; continually improving the quality management system; thriving on continuous improvement and meeting objectives; continuously developing and improving relations with customers and suppliers.
Yellow Pages (Malta) is a subsidiary company of the Ark Publishing Group. It was set up in 1988 with the aim of publishing specialised titles and filling the void in the business information sector. The company produced and published The Ark Business Directory and the Trade Brand Names, in-house publications containing business information unrivalled by any other publication of its kind, and quickly gained a reputation. As a result of the company’s expertise in the printing and publishing sectors, as well as in the compilation of information, Ark Publishing Ltd was commissioned by the Malta Maritime Authority for three consecutive years, to publish their Malta Maritime Directory. In 1995 the company was successful in winning a five year contract for the publication of Maltacom’s directories. Yellow Pages Malta successfully produced and delivered over 1,000,000 directories on time, every time and to international standards. In 1997 the Company published its first edition of the Yellow Pages. In 1999 Yellow Pages Malta Ltd acquired the ISO 9001 Quality Management System and is the only publishing house in Malta and Gozo with this accreditation. In 2001 the company published its first annual Yellow Pages and distributes 200,000 directories free-of-charge to the general public. In December 2002, the company moved into new and larger premises with a complement of 40 highly trained, devoted and efficient staff. Yellow Pages Malta Ltd is a privately owned company, which is family owned but not family run. Its success and rapid growth is attributed to professional and effective management, self-discipline and a total commitment to quality and improvement.

The phone directory will no longer be published, and yet, Yellow Pages keep getting thicker and thicker. How do you explain this?
The company invests a lot in market research. The distribution of the book is audited by an auditing company so that we guarantee the penetration rates that we promise to our customers. Also the usage of the book is surveyed regularly. We publicise the results and our sales consultants create an advertising programme tailor-made for the client’s individual needs. The company adopts unrivalled business ethics stemming from hard working employees dedicated to respecting deadlines and providing a one stop shop service to all our clients. This results in the company’s continued success.

Do you agree that the public in general is becoming more and more inclined towards browsing through listings and directories on the web rather than on hard copy? How are you reacting to this?
This is true albeit to certain extents. This is the reason we are also modifying our business strategies towards the online. We were hip and visionary and went online when we saw that the potential was there. Having said this, we firmly believe that the print medium will never become obsolete and as such our aim is to maintain the quality of the printed directory while tapping into and improving our online services.

Do you think advertisers in Malta are willing to invest in online media?
Everyone is aware of the increasing importance of being present in the online world and the advantages this brings. Statistics show us that there is growth potential in the area and we are ready to provide the platform for advertisers to continue attracting new business.

How do you deal with environmental issues? Do you still collect old copies? What do you do with them?
We started our recycling program in 1999. In 2007, Yellow Pages Malta was given an honorable mention for the conservation award for sustainable development in the Environment Award for Industry. Yellow Pages Malta was recognised for its efforts in collecting the old copies of Yellow Pages during the yearly nationwide distribution. And to date, the company has collected 560 tonnes of paper; equivalent to 9,520 trees! We have not only continued this programme but have also extended it to collect all directories people leave for us. Since the inception of the recovery programme, Yellow Pages Malta has found full collaboration from the public and last year we recovered 72 per cent of the books distributed in the previous year. The programme does not make commercial sense and I can safely say that the company loses money in its implementation. The books are exported for recycling.

How many people are employed with Yellow Pages? What do you think are the fundamentals for proper HR management?
Being in the service industry, we believe that our manpower is our biggest asset. Attitude towards work and colleagues is of paramount importance for us. We honestly believe that our workplace is our second family. It is only if a person is happy at his place of work can he or she really perform to his or her utmost capabilities and also enjoy a happy personal life.
At Yellow Pages Malta, we motivate our people through making collective progress one step at a time. We are driven by every small task since this will lead us to the biggest possible success. We create the best possible work environment, advancement opportunities and most importantly stability.
Currently we employ 73 people and there are plans for further expansion.



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23 September 2009


Malta Today


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