Don’t Keep Secrets
You are the best promoter for print.
A local organization to which I belong has moved from live to online meetings. In discussing the logistics of this change with the group, one meeting coordinator remarked offhandedly, “We’re all working from home anyway.”
This statement caught me by surprise. I’m not working from home. I’m a printer, with a shop full of people, making stuff. We’ve been declared essential. You can’t run such an operation remotely.
When community groups are dominated by professionals and public-sector employees, it becomes easy for the public to fall prey to false impressions: that no one actually prints anymore and that everyone works remotely in their pajamas, filling in excel spreadsheets and dispatching emails from a makeshift office in the spare bedroom.
It's up to us, the people who, as I like to say “make stuff” to make sure our friends and neighbors know that print is alive in their communities, and that it needs their support. A century ago no one needed to point out the importance of print as an industry; it was assumed. No longer. We need to be more vocal about the important role we play. Here’s what you can do.
Do your homework.
Check out some local statistics. Be ready to spout facts and figures in conversation. How many people do print-related firms employ in your community? What is an average wage? How much in property taxes are paid to the local school district? These numbers will get your neighbors’ attention. Even if you are the only printer in town, your contribution is significant.
Identify your audience.
Where do you live? Your shop may be some distance from your house. Perhaps some of your workers come from different communities than that in which you live yourself. Your business may be prominent in its industrial area or business district, but you might be surprised how little is known about you by your neighbors. These are people you need to educate.
It’s that simple. At neighborhood barbecues or holiday parties I’m repeatedly asked, “Now what was it you do?” or “I didn’t know there were any printers left!” Don’t be shy. Push your industry. Push your company. Tell them how many square feet you occupy, and how many people you employ.
An architect or a CPA can explain what they do in one word. What you do is actually much more interesting, so show some enthusiasm and dive in.
When misstatements are repeated over and over many people just take myths for granted. “Does anyone actually read anymore?” is something I often hear. “Hasn’t all print gone digital?” And of course the old standby that we all hear, no matter what our specialty: “I thought everything was made in China.”
Invite a group to your facility.
Offer to host a meeting of the Lions, Kiwanis, Rotary or Knights of Columbus at your facility. A picture is worth a thousand words. Those acquaintances who can never remember what exactly you do will have a vivid mental picture of your facility, of the people hard at work, of the raw materials and the finished product.
Don’t forget about the boy and girl scout troops. Big machines are cool! You’ll make a lasting impression on kids who only know about desktop-sized printers. Den leaders are always looking for activities to keep the scouts busy, and those leaders are part of your intended audience.
Invite a politician to visit.
That means an elected official, such as the mayor, a councilman, or your state representative or senator. These folks love opportunities to show that they support local business. Give them a tour. Take pictures. Don’t just whisk them through the plant; introduce them to workers on the shop floor.
You should know your elected representatives anyway. The next time some bit of business-impacting legislation is up for a vote, you can call them up to make your opinion known. Once they’ve visited your business you’ll be on a first-name basis.
Worried you might annoy or bore people by talking too much about printing? Be that guy! Fact is, you didn’t rise to the top echelons of our trade by boring people. I’m sure with a little practice you’ll weave a fascinating picture of the role of your company and of the graphic arts in your region.
Don’t just be a proponent, be a cheerleader! You have a point to make, so make it, and keep doing so until everyone in your sphere of influence understands the crucial importance of print.
Don’t be put off by COVID-19 restrictions. You are a professional, you have policies in place and are taking proper precautions. Tours can be conducted in full compliance with safety guidelines. There has never been less competition for the public’s attention. Seize the day!