Some of the sillier headlines I have seen in recent months is the assertion that 'Print is not dead'.
But it's a popular saying. A Google search for "Print is not dead" gets you 666,000 results. It seems to be a widespread preoccupation.
Yet clearly for communicators print is going to be around for a long time - possibly way past the date when most of the social media geeks have retired. Why?
We've been looking for a client at the reasons why print still plays a central role. And we seem to have identified a number of consistent themes which we've put together into our checklist for deciding is print should be part of your communications strategy.
It's hard to escape this argument but sooner or later someone comes up and suggests that there could be big savings to be had by cancelling the printed magazine. Or even worse, the cost of the printed magazine is factored into the business case for some groovy IT project.
A quick trawl around the bulletin-boards will uncover most of the counter arguments to this one i.e.
- Have you factored in the inevitable cost of people printing out pages on thier local laser printer
- What is the cost of people not seeing vital information because it is not lying around in rest rooms etc.
However, beware. In my experience it is always hard to actually justify the cost of a print magazine on financial terms alone. Quickly you find yourself doing maths like dividing the budgert by the total number of readers and arriving at a rather embarrassing figure.
If you find yourself backed into a corner on this one start looking for some diversionary tactics!
Next up ask how many people really have digital access in your organisation. For starters you can probably remove industrial staff and then you can discount all the people who have notional access but in reality are never going to go out of their way to read up on discretionary issues. I'm talking about staff who have a pc they can look at on their breaks in a crew room or people who are on the road all day long. The truth is that when you only have a few minutes a day to look at the work network, the news pages are going to have be pretty damn exciting to get your to check in.
Ask if a printed publication would be a better way of getting to them? It often is.
By contrast it's worth considering whether you can realistically get a print publication out there. Are you relying on your drivers to remember to drop a few copies off when they visist different sites? Or maybe you don't have a reliable list of sites or locations anyway (which isn't the first thing anyone would admit but it happens). Or maybe sending material to home addresses send some people into fits of violence.
The point here is to ask whether it is worth the effort of developing a hard publication if you just can't reliably get it to everyone.
To be honest, it's hard to beat the buzz of seeing your picture in print along with a story about your heroic contribution to the business. It's not all that easy to send your mum a dozen copies of the intranet is it?
If your business relies heavily on celebrating contributions by people, or perhaps your strategy is all about showing how regular staff are making a difference, print could well be very valuable.
Some organisations are defined by their brands - and it's not just FMCG businesses that depend on a consistent drumbeat about what the organisation stands for.
Obviously a brand is more than a logo or a visual identity, but a physical manifestation of the brand is a very potent way of reminding people that they are all working under one banner. Something you can touch, that isn't laid out according to a template devised by the IT team and which follows a clear VI policy is very valuable.
Often we are only interested in the events and news from the areas nearest us - I read somewhere that in offices most of us don't interact much with anyone who sits further away than the nearest coffee machine or 30 metres (whichever is closest).
If the organisation is very localised there is a possibly strong argument against developing something which talks about things happening 31 metres away (or even further!). There can be sound reasons why a global message isn't relevant so you'll need a pretty strong argument for rushing off to the printers to get a 32 page magazine produced!
In short if your people can't read, should you be writing it down for them?
This is actually a more widespread issue than many people sitting in homogeneous offices in the West might think. In places where education levels are low or where multiple languages are spoken you have to work pretty hard with paper to get your message over.
I've seen some impressive work done with cartoons and photography - it's not a show-stopper. But, if other, more immediately routes are available, it's worth asking if a print communication is really going to work.
I know one retailer who produced a weekly tabloid full of pictures of staff from all over the UK. When you're working in small teams it's nice to know that there are other people out there - many who look just like you! I know another organisation where the monthly magazine gets sent to home addresses in overseas offices because staff like to show thier families that they work for a substantial organisation.
I think print is alive and kicking and reports of its demise are highly premature.
However, good comms people have always been careful to assess their options - I hope this little list helps prompt some challenging questions.
PS Thanks to Ellie for her typo spotting. It seems I'm on a one man mission to kill off the English Language!