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Senior Editor, Printing Impressions Magazine

Printers’ Pulse

By Erik Cagle

About Erik

Erik Cagle is senior editor for Printing Impressions magazine. He has reported on the graphics arts industry for 11 years.


Toshiba, USPS Woes a Call to Arms...So Answer

This past June, Michael Makin—Printing Industries of America's grand poobah—had a heart-to-heart chat with Bill Melo, the marketing head at Toshiba America Business Solutions (TABS). The National No-Print Day, a campaign authored by TABS, was the topic of conversation.

Melo was, undoubtedly, taken aback by the sheer decibels ringing through his ears, courtesy of the printing industry. His intention, and the purpose of the National No-Print Day campaign, was to focus on how the office marketplace could cut down on needless paper waste. The video created for it was cute, seemingly innocuous and wholly unoffensive. It was soon taken down and the campaign scrapped. TABS may revisit the topic down the road, but I doubt it will want to re-open that old wound.

As a custodian for the industry, Makin did an awesome job. But, as is the case with many challenges facing our industry, the guns are always pointed in the wrong direction (oftentimes, at one another). We seem to have the reactive posture down cold, but it's the proactive (gee, how I hate that word) stance that needs a major overhaul.

The problem isn't with this Bill Melo. The real issue is the hundreds and thousands of Bill Melos around the country. It's the mounds of misinformation pulsating through the veins of people with good intentions, but simply terrible solutions, to rectify what is viewed as a problem—in this instance, paper waste.

It's been two months since TABS slunked away with tail between its legs, taking a teaching opportunity with it. And yet, we've learned nothing. At the height of this controversy, many noted printing and paper experts were spewing reasons why this insipid, goofball campaign made absolute zero sense. But who were we telling? Each other, for crying out loud.

Can I get an amen from the choir? Of course you can. Now start preaching to those who need our salvation. Or vice versa.

I don't want to get into partisan politics here, but this U.S. president and Congress seem to be in no rush to solve the dilemma facing the U.S. Postal Service. As they sashayed out of Washington, with swim trunks and Montrachet in tow, the senate and house stooges called back, "Let us know when you're completely out of money." Nice. And par for Congress' course.

I am a huge Patrick Donahoe fan. This man has been blunt and forthcoming about the Postal Service’s financial position. Huge changes are needed. How we go about it needs to be hashed out. Nothing is happening and, quite frankly, it's looking as if we're going to exit 2012 without true postal reform.

Donahoe, the postmaster general, is just one man. He's not being heard by the general public, despite his countless warnings of armageddon. And now that USPS has crashed, we're all going to be guilty of letting it burn.

We don't need press releases. Save the Webinars. No white papers on the benefits of keeping the mailing industry healthy. What the printing, paper, mailing and associated concerns need is a united, national voice.

The citizens of this great land need to know the vital importance of printing, paper and mailing to the jobs of hundreds of thousands of fellow Americans, not to mention the economy. Now is the perfect time to launch a full-fledged media blitz. And, we need to throw money at it; we're talking big bucks for network advertising. We, collectively, have the resources to unleash a powerful, fact-laden campaign that can cast printing, paper and postal in a positive light.

The country is going to be weary of what is shaping up to be the ugliest, mud-slingingest presidential election/street fight in our lifetime. So now is the perfect time to illustrate, on television, just how great a role these industries play in our daily lives and what would be the consequences of losing them. We need a strong, positive message delivered by a voice  Americans trust (think James Earl Jones, Morgan Freeman) that dispels some of the misgivings we, as a country, have about paper usage, so-called junk mail and the post office.

I've cried wolf on this subject before, but our tires are losing tread, and we can no longer afford to huddle up in our respective silos. Don't count on people to take to the Internet and do their own research on the subject. We have an image issue, and unless you like seeing political cartoons of dinosaurs hauling USPS mail sacks, I suggest mobilizing sooner than later.

We have the creativity. We have common interests at stake. We are interwoven. Let's take the message that we matter out to the masses before it's too late. Because, right now, the only people being heard are the naysayers.


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