It is designed to be a week like no other. This fall, Sept. 30-Oct. 4, Printing Industries of America (PIA) is organized “Print Powers America Week,” the first initiative that encourages companies throughout the supply chain to join in a unifying effort to go all in for print. The campaign is asking companies to host an elected official on a facility tour, promote the positive aspects of the industry on social media and to engage employees as part of the grassroots process.
The week-long celebration is part of PIA’s “Print Powers America,” an advocacy initiative launched last year to leverage an impactful mix of lobbying, grassroots action and public affairs. PIA’s goal is to strengthen the nation’s public policy commitment to the print and graphic communications industry and enhance its profile as a driving force in the American economy.
Print advocates like Lisbeth A. Lyons believe that trade associations are uniquely positioned to facilitate a united message that focuses on industry first; company second. For industry leaders wanting to get started in advocating their profession, the “Print Powers America” initiative is a great place to start.
While it is a PIA program, it’s not limited to PIA members,” says Lyons, the association’s VP of Government & External Affairs. “The financial support of ‘Print Powers America’ are scalable to company size so that individuals, small businesses or large corporations can all participate equally. It’s a one-stop shop for policy education, grassroots calls to action and industry promotion.
And in what Lyons calls one of the most hyper-politically divisive times in her 20 years in Washington, D.C., she says it is more important than ever to unite the industry around the positive role of print. Take a recent bill introduced in the California Assembly that would make the state the first in the U.S. to mandate that retailers offer digital receipts as the default to customers starting Jan. 1, 2022. Customers will still be able to request a paper receipt in lieu of a digital receipt. Bill advocates say it will help protect consumers and workers from the toxins that often coat paper-based receipts, while also creating substantial environmental benefits.
But as Lyons points out, that depends on who is making the connection. According to a recent survey by Consumer Action, not everyone wants to go digital. The survey shows that 78 percent of people who get paper bills in the mail said they review the transactions on that statement. Only 43 percent who use electronic delivery said they go online to review transaction details.
“Educating and engaging employees on how public policy decisions impact the company’s bottom line, which ultimately affects their personal bottom line, is key to building industry advocates,” Lyons says.
“You can’t expect employees to advocate without providing an explanation of the public policy challenge and solutions so that they see how it connects to them and to their families. Again, it all starts with promoting print’s positive values: relevancy, sustainability, accessibility and reliability.”
To include advocacy on your to-do list, you need a certain bit of tenacity. Advocacy thought leaders like Mark Pitts knows that keeping the value and utility of paper products close to your heart means you have to understand its criticalness to the industry’s future.
As the executive director, Printing-Writing, Pulp and Tissue for American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), Pitts is on the front lines for many of the industry’s advocacy efforts. A national industry trade association, AF&PA helps public policies that promote a strong and sustainable U.S. forest products industry in the global marketplace.
Today, the U.S. forest products industry accounts for approximately 4 percent of the total U.S. manufacturing GDP. Industry companies produce nearly $300 billion in products annually and employ some 950,000 people, exceeding employment levels in the automotive, chemicals and plastics industries. If you want a snapshot of its scope, the industry meets a payroll of approximately $55 billion and is among the top 10 manufacturing sector employers in 45 states.
The enormity of those numbers means industry advocates must stay in front of the myriad changes in policies that can impact the bottom line. “Free and fair trade, a competitive tax system and regulatory reforms and process improvement are among the public policies we are working to advance,” Pitts says. “With those tools in hand, our member companies will have the support they need to make new and innovative products that meet the changing needs of new generations.”
Another group pushing the power of paper to the industry and consumer masses is The Paper and Packaging Board (P+PB), otherwise known as the Paper Checkoff program. Created in 2014 with authorization by federal legislation, the group helps promote the use of paper products and paper-based packaging by highlighting the value they bring to our daily lives.
Part of the group’s efforts is “The Paper & Packaging — How Life Unfolds®” national marketing campaign, which promotes the benefits and value of paper and paper-based packaging through emotionally rich stories featuring animated characters to generate awareness of and engagement with consumers.
“People want to use paper, the oldest technology, and perhaps the most accessible,” says Joan Sahlgren, Senior Director of Public Relations, Paper and Packaging Board. “We make sure to offer them tools they can use to help them succeed and to highlight through video and far reaching advertising and other marketing tools, just how important paper is in their lives.”
STAYING AHEAD OF THE CURVE
Change and opportunities can come quickly, so standing at the ready is always the best course forward. That’s why groups like Two Sides North America are vital to the industry’s advancing advocacy initiatives.
Two Sides President Phil Riebel believes that being able to respond quickly by innovating their products to be more sustainable is something every company must embrace. He says being able to better capture the ROI of print when it comes to marketing, selling and getting people’s attention is critical. Print wins over digital in this area.
“It’s all about spreading the word to as many people as possible,” Riebel says. “I think over the past seven years since Two Sides launched, we have made a difference and reached many people inside and outside our industry, including the marketing departments of the world’s largest companies. The key is to join a network of like-minded professionals, get involved and share the message to educate the masses.”
With its work on five continents, Two Sides has become a global force in helping promote the sustainability of print and paper, including the many social benefits of print such as learning and literacy. It has also spearheaded an aggressive campaign to help remove or change the anti-paper and print environmental claims many brands use to promote digital services over paper-based communications.
To date, Two Sides has worked with more than 440 large companies—many of them Fortune 500 brands—to prevent greenwashing and help modify their message so that they focus on facts and not cause unwarranted damage to the print, paper and mail value chain.
The biggest step to joining in the industry’s advocacy efforts is taking that first step. Find a group to support and make the call. Join a board or task force. Share regular updates. “It’s important to provide knowledge and training to your employees so that they can be ambassadors of the positive aspects of print,” Riebel says. “That’s a good start.”
Your 3-Step Plan to Industry Advocacy
Becoming an industry advocate is as easy as getting started. For some, it is a mindset, embracing the task and passion, and moving forward. Courtesy of Eric Schaumburg, founder & CEO, Eventr.io, here are three pieces of advice to get your started:
1. THINK BIG, AND DIG DEEP
As an industry advocate, it is not all about your business. You must consider the challenges and trends impacting every business in your industry. Go through the problems and innovations thoroughly, and develop ideas that can benefit everyone.
2. BUILD PARTNERSHIPS WITH OTHER ADVOCATES
Find like-minded industry people who are advocating for different needs and discuss ways to work together on everyone’s behalf. Seek out individuals with solid influence who are capable of making changes.
3. TACKLE INCONSISTENCIES IN YOUR INDUSTRY
Don’t be afraid to be a disruptor. Speak up and speak loud. Innovators are the ones who succeed