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Rising Stars Confirm We’re in Good Hands —Michelson

November 2009
THE PRINTING industry could very well serve as the poster child to represent a profession that is suffering from an inferiority complex. We remain on the defensive when talk turns to how print fits into the modern media mix, despite the fact that print elicits higher emotional and response rates compared to electronic advertising. We battle misconceptions as being environmentally unfriendly when, in reality, paper producers are at the forefront of recycling and renewable energy efforts; computers and servers consume huge amounts of electricity, largely powered by fossil fuels; and Internet spam, in fact, wastes an estimated 33 billion kilowatt hours of power annually.

Don’t get me wrong. Despite all of the recent consolidation, there are still too many printing establishments chasing the shrinking pool of marketing budgets. Also of concern is where ink on paper fits within the digital revolution that is rapidly altering how people communicate. Emerging social media such as Facebook, Twitter and the like is more than just a passing fancy. By the same token, though, the “20 Under 40” rising stars profiled on the following pages validate that our industry does possess 20- and 30-something-year-old professionals with the brain power, leadership skills and tenacity to tackle these challenges and ensure that marketing services providers remain viable. 

They understand their mission: Evangelize how print, combined with electronic messaging, gives marketers the knockout one-two punch they’re seeking. As Quad/Graphics’ Kelly Vanderboom, 35, points out, “I share Joel Quadracci’s vision for the future of print, which is using data-driven technologies to create targeted, relevant print messages that are meaningful to the recipient and that complement other forms of media.” Jim Flaherty, 31, owner of an Allegra Print franchise, adds, “As a provider of marketing materials, we need to branch out into other forms of media, including video, Web, e-mail, etc.” 

Likewise, reflecting on how full-color printing capabilities continue to be pushed further downstream into the hands of consumers, 32-year-old Ellen Gillespie advises that printers must prove to clients why “do-it-yourself” is not necessarily the best solution. “If we can provide them with better print quality, papers, finishing and faster service, we will ensure that commercial printing is always in demand.”

Several common themes permeate among the up-and-comers profiled. One is their unwavering commitment to team building within their respective organizations. Hire the best people possible, give them all of the tools and ongoing education they need to perform their jobs, but then get out of the way. They also acknowledge that printing is a very service-intensive business, one that requires close and creative interaction with customers. These future leaders realize, as well, that their long-term business success mandates hard work, flexibility, integrity and a sense of passion. They found out, early on, that excelling within the printing industry is not for the faint-hearted.

Call this issue’s cover story a feel-good piece if you want. But I can’t think of a better time when printers—many feeling under the weather and more than a tad worn down by the recession—needed a shot in the arm to feel a greater sense of pride and optimism about the prognosis for their chosen profession. Perhaps, just what the doctor ordered.
Mark T. Michelson



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