Telling your company's story

June 1, 2009

Johnson’s World by Steve Johnson

I just read a press release from a printing company, proudly boasting that they have just installed the world's longest 41-inch sheetfed press, or some such malarkey. I have questions.

But first, a disclaimer: I am passionate about marketing. When I have good news, I publicize it. When I have bad news, I spin it. When I have no news, I have been known to make news.

The trade press (such as this magazine) love news about equipment purchases. It makes sense. The trade press makes all of its money from advertising, and the equipment folks still pay the lion's share of advertising revenue.

For this reason, when I purchase a major new piece of digital iron, all of the trade press is only too happy to write about it, even though I write for a competing magazine. They aren't doing me a favor; they're doing it for the equipment manufacturer. If I buy a new press, you bet I'll get as much publicity as I can for it.

We can't buy a new press every day, so when I do, I milk it for all it is worth. First comes the press release with pictures of myself and vendor bigwigs signing the order.

When the equipment arrives, I send out another press release with pictures of equipment on the truck, or being unloaded by the riggers or assembled by technicians. After this comes the photo of me and one of my pressmen holding a salable sheet from the new press, or peering at it through a loupe.

We'll give it a rest until we win our first award for a project produced using the new press, which merits publicity with a picture of me accepting the award. Later on, we'll do a separate news release on me sharing the award with the customer or designer.

Wow. I just milked five press releases out of one equipment purchase. Yes, I really do believe in telling my company's story to anyone who will listen.

Keep on truckin'

I can't buy a new press every day. Sometimes I have to make do with less momentous news. I think I once sent out a press release about a new postage meter. I know that I've publicized computer hardware purchases, and once I commissioned a news release about a new delivery truck.

Silly? Perhaps, but all these press releases have kept the name of my company, Copresco, in the news and in the minds of potential customers. I believe we have been so successful with publicity because we've focused on the benefits to our customers.

The new truck publicity did not interest the trade press, the truck manufacturer or our competitors. To heck with 'em all! Potential clients interested in fast pickup and delivery got the message loud and clear.

That is why I raised my eyebrows when I saw the “world's longest press” news clipping. My first thought was, “Who cares how long the press is?”

Let's think like a print buyer. Printers charge by the hour for press time. The hourly rate includes (among other things) the cost of factory and administrative overhead, both of which are usually calculated by square footage occupied by the press. Therefore, longest press should mean a higher rate, which means more expensive printing costs.

Focus on the customer

You might conclude that I'm thinking way too hard about this. No, I'm just thinking like your customers, instead of like your competitor. A headline such as “World's Longest Press” appeals to other printers, not to print clients.

I don't think this was an accident. I'll bet anyone a steak dinner that the press release was written by the press manufacturer, not the print shop.

But the printing company in question did do a lot of things right with the news release. First, they used a catchy headline. While I would prefer to see the customer benefit in the headline, at least the “world's longest” gimmick is different from the usual. Forty-inch sheetfed presses now are as common as dandelions in spring, so something different was needed to grab attention.

Second, the body of the press release, after the first few paragraphs about the “eyepopping” 127ft. length, proceeds to explain the inline foiling and coating capabilities of the new press. Further explanations follow, detailing 75% makeready time savings and convertible perfecting options. Specific examples are given showing how the flexibility and extra bells and whistles will benefit the printer's packaging clients.

Last, and most important, is the mere fact that a press release was produced and distributed at all.

When was the last time your company sent out an announcement to the media?