Is It time To Retire Your Print Communication?

Virtual show of hands: how many of you still use print newsletters? My hunch is more than a few of raised your hands. Now, for those of you who did, when was the last time you quantified their impact and engagement?

Adaptistration People 133Print newsletters and/or magazines are one of those odd evolutionary throwbacks in the world of arts communication.

In their heyday, they were the apex predator of engagement and status. But once the meteor that was digital marketing struck, it signaled the print giant’s extinction event.

Having said that, they aren’t dead yet. I have clients that continue to see crazy high engagement levels from print communication. Granted, they tend learn more toward service organizations as opposed to straight-up arts orgs, but they also take the time to do a critical task I wish more groups paid attention to: measuring ROI.

Granted, measuring impact for something like print communication is almost always more involved than comparable digital platforms.

That reason, in and of itself, is enough to prevent most orgs from tackling the task. And when combined with the few squeaky wheels complaining when the print channel goes missing, it can be enough to simply turn a convenient blind eye and let it continue to occupy a line item in your annual marketing budget.

If you find yourself in that group, don’t forget one of the most useful tasks you can leverage to snap out of that malaise is to design your content toward conversion goals.

Just because it’s a newsletter doesn’t mean you should avoid calls to action and relations conversion goals.

But since it is print, you’ll need to do a few additional things to make sure you are tracking engagement as best as can be expected. Consequently, you need those conversion goals to be something you can track.

  1. If you’re driving them to a URL, make sure it’s not the default page URL. Use a custom landing page or a link tracking service.
  2. Drive them to subscription and/or donation forms. Many forms tools and online donation products can be set up with unique URLs so the concept is similar to the previous point, but in this instance, you’ll be able to find out exactly which of your print communication subscribers is engaging. Pro tip: a no-cost and no-extra work option is to include a field to capture a special offer code only used in the print format.
  3. Request social media action. Granted, this one is a little more difficult to differentiate but one low hanging fruit option is to include a hashtag only used in the print format.
  4. QR codes. I know, I know. There’s a lot to hate about QR codes but this is one of those rare instances where they can be useful.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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