I ought to be in pictures

October 1, 2008

Johnson’s World by Steve Johnson

I just bought a new digital press. As I'm a digital printer, this should come as no surprise.

Whenever we install a new press (or new bindery equipment, or new software, or another building) we take pictures. Lots of pictures. Pictures of the equipment being rolled off the truck. Pictures of riggers putting it in place, and pictures of technicians assembling and installing the machine. Pictures of trainers and pressroom personnel looking intently at monitors. Lastly, we always get a picture of yours truly, the president and CEO, in front of the new equipment as it runs merrily along.

This newest digital press turns out incredible color images, but the press itself has turned out to be less than photogenic.

Instead of one or two installers, a half dozen people showed up to bolt the press together. When they walked in the door, we thought our plant was being hijacked by escapees from a chain gang. It was explained to us that the extra men were trainees who would learn their new jobs by installing our press.

Great. We could have taken photographs of them huddled in our parking lot smoking cigarettes, but we decided against it.

Next, the trainer showed up. We tried to photograph him working with our people, but he acted like a 12-year-old at a family birthday party, refusing to let us take any pictures with him in them. Where do they find these people, anyway?

That left only the presidential portrait for the press release.

Say ‘cheese’!

I remember Bob Murphy, when he was chairman of JapsOlson, released a picture of himself hanging off a massive new press like a train conductor shouting, “All aboard!”

I thought that was great. Like me, Bob sent out a press release and a photo for every new installation. You can only take so many smiling-in-front-of-the-new-press photos without going crazy. I guess the “freighttrain” picture was his way of living on the wild side.

We use several photographers, including Jessica Pinkous, Copresco's computer guru who also is a freelance photographer. See her work at www.jessicapinkous.com.

In this case, I wanted something out of the ordinary, so I called Marcus Sroge of Pearl Moon Photography, who specializes in photographing dancers, models, athletes and — now — me.

He took the photo shown here. Yes, I'm standing on top of the press. We were just trying to do something a little different. That shot is from a previous installation, two years ago.

To most people, all these machines look alike, and nobody (least of all our customers) care what they look like anyway. For the new press, my plan was to reverse the photo, since our new press has the delivery on the operator's left, instead of right like the last one. While we were in Photoshop we could also change the machine color slightly, and add a few more flecks of gray to my beard.

It would have been interesting to see if anyone noticed.

What we actually did was better. We took a few photos of me standing next to, and then sitting on, the new press. Next, we took more photos of me next to the new press holding samples of books printed on the press. From here we moved to shots of me standing amongst a pile of samples, with no press in sight. This was the shot we used.

The moral of the story

People like pictures, so take a picture. People like to know what's going on, so send out a press release. Just make sure the picture and the story are about what concerns your target audience.

My customers care deeply about what I can print for them on this new installation. I've told them nothing about output speed, but I have noted our increased capacity, which means faster turnaround. I'm not pushing the brand or model, but I am pushing quality, with specific examples for clients with tricky logo colors that previously were a challenge.

We don't talk about sheet sizes, but instead show a picture with finished printed samples. Who cares? Anyone who wants to print one of these products, and just as important, prospects who need to know we can print such products, now, and they should talk to us again.