How a printing firm should boost its PR

During a Share to Benefit meeting in the BMPA office, the members discussed how Indian print firms ca n promote practical and affordable methods of improving performance and bringing in extra business

10 Oct 2012 | By PrintWeek India

Imagine: A printer and his entire team works tirelessly over the past few months to produce a job for a very fussy customer that exactly matches their creativity, price and perhaps environmental criteria. The run has been completed, you’ve billed the client, and the feedback once the job has been delivered is stellar. Job done. Or is it? 

In this day and age of branding and image building, I think not.
Printers are advised to accrue value from a success story as much as possible. That is, with new business  getting tougher and tougher to come by these days, a happy customer can be valuable currency, enabling a printer to show off to current and prospective clients, thus bringing in more business.
It would be much effective if your customer sings your praises in the form of a well-researched and structured, sophisticatedly written case study.
Identify the ideal story
Choose an innovative yet impactful example. The best case studies will be the ones where a big brand or top MNC has entrusted you with a service that other print firms are contemplating, but need a little boost to sign up for. Case studies can be time-consuming to research and to write; so it’s important that you identify two-three examples that will be of broad enough appeal to make producing them worthwhile, but unusual enough that they will grab people’s interest and demonstrate the innovative added value on offer. Remember, no one wants to read, or will be impressed by, case study after case study about run-of-the-mill print jobs being completed because that is what print firms are expected to do. Think of your favourite restaurant; and its favourite dish. Either you pick the most popular dish on the menu or a gourmet specialty. You should not select both.
Check if the client is happy
Always make sure that the case study is reader-friendly. For a start ensure, your customer is comfortable (and happy) with the platforms you will be communicating their details on. Some customers might not want to be included in an award entry or have their case study posted online; or a media report, so it’s important to cross check with the client. Recently there was report in The Mint on annual reports. Both Parksons Graphics, the print firm and the corporates who commissioned the annual report were comfortable (and happy) – and gave the green signal for this feature. One reason is, the team at Parksons had ensured that the customer isn’t going to have to share confidential or sensitive information for the case study to work. Parksons reassured their clients concerned by eliminating the possibility of excluding any detail, and getting a full copy approval.
How to write the piece
Start work sooner rather than later, once you’ve decided on a particular project, strike while the iron is hot. A wonderful story I’ve heard is how Narendra Paruchuri of Pragati Offset examines each and every print job that is produced in his press. And then everyday he selects the best job of the day; and keeps aside a few print samples. This is meticulousy documented and archived and stored. When these samples are required for an Award entry or to show-case to clients during a presentation; the print samples are available; and they are in pristine condition.
The point is, leaving it too long before you ask the customer and your colleagues for help will mean that the details won’t be as fresh in their minds, so start work as soon as the job has been successfully completed.
The other key thing is – ask lots of questions. Merely because you’ve produced it does not make it the best print job in the world. Put yourself in the end customer’s boots. To use a cricket metaphor, the end customer is interested in how many runs Sachin Tendulkar scores and what impact it had on the final result. The end customer is not interested in the how Sachin’s bat was manufactured; and how many fibres were interlocked; nor the special grade of adhesives in Sachin’s shoes. He wants to celebrate the fours and sixes by the Little Master.
To achieve this, get an idea of how the job was executed from a colleague or a print master in the company, but be sure to get the whole story from the customer to ensure that the case study is written from their perspective. Ask them what the original brief was, what challenges were overcome, what options there were for fulfilling the brief, why certain choices were made, what the result was and what the benefits were. Include plenty of hard evidence to prove what was achieved. The more you can emphasise what the results were for the customer, the better. This is what prospective customers will be interested in.
Remember it’s Sachin’s hundred we are interested in. Not the background of his bat manufacturer in Ludhiana.Therefore ask the company for statistics on how effective the job has been, such as how much less costly the job was than the customer had expected, how quickly it was delivered or, in the case of a direct mail piece, how much higher the response rates were than the customer had anticipated. You might want to include a ‘key benefits’ box-out, clearly summarising what was achieved.
Include testimonials 
Remember that the reason a formal case study is so much better than just anecdotal evidence from your sales team, is that it is a way for you to promote yourself through the unbiased – and so much more persuasive – medium of your customer’s words. Be sure to include lots of quotes. Don’t shy away from asking the top man in a company to give a quote. It’s much easier to get a quote from a Kumar Mangalam Birla or  Azim Premiji than the manager in these firms.
Structure the case study in three sections 
Remember the fact that you are telling a story when you write the piece. The reader needs to be led logically through its beginning, middle and end; starting with the problem that existed, the solution you provided and the result it then achieved. This will give the story a narrative structure. Be sure to strike a balance between including a good level of detail, to ensure the reader is not left with unanswered questions at the end, and making the piece accessible enough that it doesn’t bamboozle all but the most experienced and tech-savvy print buyers. Once you’ve finished writing, proof-read it thoroughly for grammatical and factual errors, and then send to the client for approval.
Consider including an attention-grabbing headline, something catchy like ‘New print packaging boosts sales’, or “Salman Khan admires print poster of his latest blockbuster” will be much more effective than ‘X company produces yet another print job’ or “X company produces second generation of hybrid raster due to isolated dot reproduction.”
Remember to include pictures, get stunning images of completed job and its implementation, in a retail setting for instance, or with a product manager or brand specialist giving a testimonial holding the sample or standing proudly by it.
Pictures will make the document much livelier and more enticing to read. After all, print is a visual medium, a picture will better showcase just what was achieved.
Getting the story out
Use PDFs as a marketing tool. PDFs are a convenient way to email and print case studies as you can incorporate both text and images into an eye-catching format, rather than rely on the recipient to Word documents and picture attachments.
Choose recipients judiciously, make sure you’re targeting companies that might be interested in harnessing for themselves the key benefits outlined in your case study. In fact, a lot of companies reserve case studies for use in one-to-one meetings with clients, where a print-out of the case study PDF acts as strong marketing collateral that the customer can then take away with them.
Incorporate case studies into sales pitches, make your work go further by editing the case study into bullet points for the sales team to use, where relevant, in presentations.
Post them on your website 
Some companies protect these with a data wall, whereby the viewer has to enter their details to read the piece, this can be a good way of gaining data on who’s potentially interested in this offering.
Present them live at conferences and exhibitions
Joint presentations between you and a client at trade exhibitions such as a London Book Fair or a German Book Fair are a great way of showcasing your success story. I’m quite impressed with stories of Indian print firms at lifestyle trade shows, PhotoFair and food shows. The main thing is,  conversations you’ve had to produce in the initial case study will pave the way for a successful presentation.
Compiled by Faheem Agboatwala, director, Hi-Tech Printing Services and chairman of BMPA’s StB Forum