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Savvy Buyers Being Let Go —Dana

February 2010

ONE OF the casualties of print's decline in corporate America is the corporate print buyer. As companies reshape their marketing strategies to embrace newer media—at the expense of print—their need for employees who only specialize in sourcing print will shrink. Or disappear altogether.

It's easy to understand, but oh-so-painful to witness.

I'm thinking about the professionals throughout every industry, in organizations large and small, whose role it is to source and manage their employers' printing needs. They typically work in marketing, corporate communications, purchasing or creative services.

Their titles may or may not include the words "print" or "production."

They're self-trained print aficionados. They've carved a niche career out of years of focusing on print manufacturing trends and how to sniff out the perfect print providers.

Print's Shifting Role

When Frank Romano, professor emeritus at RIT, conducted a print buyer survey in 2008, there were roughly 23,000 full-time print buyers across the United States. Add to that another 60,000 who bought more than $5,000 of printed materials every year, and perhaps as many as one million more who bought less than $5,000 of print annually.

Personally, it's the 23,000 full-timers I'm worried about. Their jobs are most vulnerable. And what about their career prospects?

Regardless of when the economy improves, it's unlikely that print's ranking in corporate marketing campaigns will shoot back up to the top. Print now shares a seat at the table with other marketing media.

A big challenge for companies is how to get the mix of media just right. Should you implement a social media campaign? Jump into e-mail marketing? Launch a corporate blog? Host tweet-ups and other hip events? Fortify your Website? And where does print fit into all of this?

Print will take on a supporting role. And, as this shift takes place, professional print buyers are finding that their roles are shifting, too.

Who Loses? Print buyers. It's presumptuous to predict which print buyers are most likely to lose their jobs in this economy. It may be the senior-level, most experienced and best-paid buyers. It may be those who devote 100 percent of their time working on print.

I'm currently conducting an e-survey of my print-buying community to ask those who have lost their jobs to share information about the circumstances in which they were let go. Hopefully, themes will emerge that will enlighten all of us—particularly other print buyers who just might avoid the same fate.



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