It’s time to Fight Back

“I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Howard Beale screamed those words at the top of his lungs in the 1976 movie Network out of frustration about the depression, inflation, and the oil crisis.  These days I’m “mad as hell” but about all of the dis-information about the fact that printing is dead, paper kills forests, and the Post Office is on it’s last leg.  I’m mad that we’re not doing much to stop it with the facts that print is alive, paper promotes forests, and the Post Office will be here for a very long time.

We complain about it, we hope it will stop, and we shake our heads when we hear it but what do we do about it?  We print little buck-slips that have slogans about what’s good about print and we distribute them to ourselves.  Does the expression “singing to the choir” ring any bells?  We look to the paper companies with their deep pockets to stop the bashing of our products.  We hope the postal service will step up and lobby congress for help.  We look to our trade association for an answer but even there we seem to be fighting an uphill battle.

Ben Cooper and The Print Council have started to do something about stopping the flood.  At least now there is a central location for all of the “facts” about our industry.  The facts are that we ARE a green solution, we ARE able to deliver a higher ROI to our customers, and we ARE relevant as a communications tool in this internet age.  Our problem is that we are doing a TERRIBLE job of communicating this, and we are supposed in the communication industry!

In discussing this problem with my peers in printing and paper industry there seems to be an attitude that it will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to communicate our message in order to stop the flood.  Most of us ‘over 50’ think the only way to combat a trend on a scale such as this is to hire a big ad agency to make commercials to air our views.  Our own association president wanted to buy radio ads touting the value of print but soon realized that we would get so little bang for our buck that it wasn’t worth the effort.

But we shouldn’t give up, we just have to stop thinking like the old guys we are and start thinking like our kids.  In 2010 the Internet, the medium that seems to be our biggest enemy, can be our biggest ally in our fight to have our point of view heard.  We have to stop thinking that we need a big budget “Got Milk” type of campaign and start thinking like Pazazz Printing up in Montreal who made the YouTube Video called “Print’s Alive” that’s been seen by over 200,000 people so far.

But I don’t want to hire a filmmaker to make me into a YouTube star, I’m too busy running my own small business.  I don’t have time to do all the social blogging that is necessary to stop the flood of information about how bad we are.  And since we can’t afford the proper ad campaign we need to start looking at this like a political campaign.  As in politics, we have a cause and we want to influence the public; but our opposition has a cause too and they want to influence the public.  Here’s a newsflash…they’re winning.

If we start to view our problem in political terms instead of commercial terms a solution starts to appear.  There is a saying that all politics is local and, lucky for us, most printing is local too.  According to PIA in 2008 there were over 36,000 printing companies in the United States employing almost 1 million people.  Every one of those million people, and their families, has an interest to keep Print Alive.  The trick is how to call them to action and how to convince them that their action will count.  In 2007 it was proven that grass roots politics could elect a politician from Illinois with a funny name to the highest office in the land and that campaign gained steam due to the power of the internet.  I ask you, if it can happen in politics why can’t it happen with our cause?  Why can’t it start now?  Why can’t it start with you and me?

For about ten minutes a day and the price of a lunch, here’s what you can start doing today:

  1. Comment on every blog or news story that says printing or paper is bad. Linda Bishop sent me a link to a Bloomberg News article about a law firm that had decided to go “paperless” because they had a mandate to be environmentally friendly and they could market their firm more “efficiently” with email.  I took 5 minutes to write my comments on their blog stating facts I picked up from The Print Council about how they had their facts wrong.  Just like taking the time to reply to an email, you can take ten minutes to reply to a news story you disagree with.  It’s easier than you think.
  2. Subscribe to newsfeeds about printing. Google News allows you to create a custom section of their online “newspaper”.  I have one on printing so I am always getting news about printing.  Just last week a news story came up about a video game manufacturer that was doing away with their printed inserts because, as their press release stated, they wanted to “support the environment and not kill trees”.  I commented on their news release that they were not killing trees and in fact they were hurting the environment by not using paper.  I suggested that a more transparent press release might have stated that they were no longer printing their inserts because they could save a whole bunch of money, but I don’t think their audience wanted to hear that.
  3. Hire a summer intern to blog for you. There are plenty of talented kids in top journalism schools near you who know how to write, know how to blog, and just want some summer spending money.  Pay them $10.00 for every comment they post, $50.00 for every story they write about the good things you are doing, and $100.00 if they can get that story picked up in a printed version of a paper of magazine.  For about the price of a business lunch, here’s what I’d ask them to do:
    • Comment on blogs and news stories that are incorrect.
    • Email stories to us owners so we can comment on them also.  Include suggested sentences to use in our comments to make it easy for us to reply.
    • Interview our peers and us for success stories about printing and paper and post favorable news .
    • Post facts from The Print Council around the internet on a regular basis.
  4. Get your local and  national trade association to hire their own bloggers. Guess what?   There are a lot of unemployed journalists out there these days.  Newspapers across the country have been trimming their staffs for decades and there are a lot of talented writers hungry for a job.  Since very few in our industry are large enough to hire our own PR agency, why don’t we group together to hire one together?  I’m not talking about hiring a big agency and paying for suits to tell us what we want to hear, I’m talking about a posting on Craig’s list for a proven blogger to do the same thing on a local and national level.  Those of us who belong to PIA pay dues to our association, let’s put the pressure on them to use the internet to combat the mis-information out there today.  We should have a Facebook page that is a fan of printing and a fan of paper.  We should use Linkedin on a regular basis to get information to our intern bloggers.
  5. Step up and be a thought leader on today’s communications. Read “Made to Stick” by Chip and Dan Heath.  Read “The New Rules of Marketing and PR” by David Meerman Scott.  Read “The Long Tail” by Chris Anderson.  Read what these leaders are saying about how you and I, the lone individual, can change the world one sentence at a time.
  6. Just Do It. Like one of the most successful marketing companies in the world suggests – don’t make excuses anymore, let’s Just Do It.

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. Don,
    Great piece. I like how you identify the problem, take personal responsibility and then offer some solutions. Nice job being the change you want to see. And nice job being the thought leader you are.
    -David Lecours, Creative Director, LecoursDesign

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