Weighing In

Progressive print leaders discuss issues of the day
February 12, 2023

The print industry faces many challenges in the current landscape. However, progressive printers simply view challenges as opportunity.

We sat down with three industry progressives to get their take on everything from the environment to data. Chris Casey, Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Creative Digital Printing in Las Vegas, Anne Fouss, Director of Marketing and Business Development for Kenwel Printers, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio, and Dean Petrulakis, Senior Vice President, Sales at Lake County Press in Waukegan, Illinois, all shared what they are doing to move forward.

How are you addressing the increasing demand for sustainable and eco-friendly printing options?

Chris Casey: With our inkjet water-based ink and our excess paper recycling process, we have become as eco-friendly as possible. We leave no stone unturned when it comes to the environment these days.

Dean Petrulakis: The key is driving awareness amongst my customer base about the sustainability of print in general. There is a lot of false information and greenwashing out there that gives print and paper a bad rap. My job is to let my customers know that they can feel confident they are investing in an eco-friendly process when they print with us. And it’s not just about printing on 100% recycled paper. We can help our customer tell an environmental story in terms of the sustainability practices of the paper mills and printers. They can feel confident that if they are questioned by their customers, they are able to answer them with certainty that they did no harm to the environment by printing the piece their customer is holding in their hands.

Anne Fouss: Kenwel uses paper sourced from sustainably certified forests. We have also invested in equipment that is more efficient and uses less energy to produce printed materials. Sustainable and eco-friendly printing options are constantly evolving—identifying and implementing new initiatives are ongoing..

How are you using data and analytics to inform your business decisions and better serve your customers' needs?

Casey: We are always investing in technology that increases our productivity, which helps pricing and the bottom line. It has become a natural progression to see it in our business decisions, but we still rely on our experience and intimate understanding of the market.

Petrulakis: Data is everywhere now and as a business we rely on that data to inform our decisions about processes, equipment upgrades and a variety of factors. The key is having people who can look at that data in the context it’s meant to be viewed and make sense of it. Otherwise it’s just a bunch of numbers.

Fouss: Data and analytics are important—they may not tell the whole story but provide a starting point. We use data and analytics to determine how well we are doing in a particular market or where we need to focus more of our attention. We can see customer and operational patterns that tell us where we need to improve.

How are you leveraging digital channels, such as e-commerce and social media, to reach and engage with your customers?

Casey: While we always strive for face-to-face interaction, we have embraced both LinkedIn and Google to reach out to new prospects and deepen our engagement with current clients.

Petrulakis: Personally I use LinkedIn every day to engage with my connections and potential customers. I try and provide as much value on the platform as I can and I stay away from selling on there. Sure, I use it to connect with new potential customers, but I don’t do any selling there. It ruins the spirit of the platform. As a company, we do the same thing. We try to provide valuable content to our followers and inspire them. We do that through a mix of educational content and by showcasing fun projects we have worked on.

Fouss: Over the past year we have been more consistent with posting on social media. We are engaging with customers, our business partners and industry peers. We use social media to learn more about our customers and provide better support to them. We have seen an increase in followers. E-commerce is something we are still researching and evaluating.

"Data is everywhere now and as a business we rely on that data to inform our decisions about processes, equipment upgrades and a variety of factors."

— Dean Petrulakis, Senior Vice President, Sales, Lake County Press

How are you investing in your workforce to ensure they have the skills and training needed to succeed in the evolving print industry?

Casey: We are committed to making cross training our goal. We want people to understand a variety of aspects of the business and that results in everyone becoming more than one asset tool in our company. We think it also keeps people mentally stimulated.

Petrulakis: Our management team does a super job of making sure our key department leads are staying current and always learning. They attend educational conferences regularly to learn and stay current with trends. They are also encouraged to think outside of the box and bring ideas from other industries that could help us. Sometimes the best ideas come from outside of your industry.

Fouss: Everyone has a different learning style. If someone shows an interest in learning more, we do our best to direct them to the appropriate resource for guidance. Kenwel has over 400 years of combined experience; people are used to problem solving and figuring out things on their own. As we think ahead towards the future, we will need to give more attention to onboarding and integrating those who are not as experienced or come from a different background. When people have worked together for so long, they don't always realize all the things they know or don't know.

How do you see the role of print evolving in the future? Will it continue to be a significant medium for communication and marketing, or will it become less relevant?

Casey: We truly believe that print is alive and well! We are seeing an amazing trend where shorter runs with more compelling content and design is making an impact. The need for short-term inventory is becoming more relevant day by day.

Petrulakis: I see print exploding in the next 5-10 years. We have hit a tipping point in our society with digital overload. Print owns a smaller share of the total marketing pie than it used to and that will continue to be the case. Digital tools like social and video are very effective and will continue to gain popularity as marketers get even smarter on how to use them. But many people who ran from print completely are realizing that if you want your brand to be relevant and trusted, you must find a way to use print in a smart and thoughtful way and integrate it into your mix. Direct mail is booming and will continue to grow. Privacy and data concerns give print a super opportunity to shine. I don’t know of a single direct mailer that caused a data breach or hacked somebody’s email! The last three years have tested our trust as a society and we are holding close to us the brands and people we trust the most. Same holds true for print. It has always been a marketing method that you can trust.

"When people have worked together for so long, they don't always realize all the things they know or don't know."

— Anne Fouss, Director of Marketing & Business Development, Kenwel Printers, Inc.

Fouss: Print will always be relevant—it is EVERYWHERE! I think more consideration will be given to how print is used to complement or enhance other communication forms. I can also see a need for “print experts” to be included earlier in the marketing communications planning process to optimize use of print and educate on how to achieve the best results. There are so many ways print can add impact—it makes sense to consider all the different options, production processes, and costs involved at the beginning of any marketing or communication initiative. Building community—working together with our customers and industry partners to solve problems is how I see the role of print.