From the Editor: Under the Radar

In-plant Graphics Editor Bob Neubauer
Trying to get by without promoting your in-plant is not the best survival technique.

I’ve heard the term “Under the Radar” a number of times over the years when speaking with in-plant managers. Often, it comes up after I offer to write an article about a noteworthy in-plant, and the reluctant manager says, “Thanks, but we’re not looking for any publicity. We’re trying to fly under the radar.”

Embodied in those three words is the desire to exist quietly in the underbelly of an organization without anyone remembering you’re there, so that hopefully you can squeak through to retirement. What happens after that? Well, that’s for the next guy to figure out, right?

I realize I don’t know the political intricacies of every in-plant, nor the impact an article might have on a jealous senior executive with an axe to grind. I also know the spotlight is not for everyone, and that some people are shy about telling their story to a stranger to have it shared with the world.

But still, I have to question whether this “under the radar” strategy really works. It’s not like you’re really invisible. Articles aside, flying under the radar implies the in-plant is not marketing itself (because then someone might notice it). So new employees will not even know the in-plant exists. Business card customers won’t know your shop can print posters too. How does this strategy keep your shop busy so it can survive?

Let’s face reality: you can’t hide forever. Your management knows you’re there. Just because they’re not talking with you about outsourcing doesn’t mean they’re not talking about it. Only by showing your strengths, plugging your services and stressing your value can you combat the possibility of closure. You must promote to make it clear you are important to the organization’s success and that your in-plant aligns with its goals. Instead of hiding, you should be involved in committees and support activities for the organization. You should be adding vital services and telling everyone about them.

Bob has served as editor of In-plant Graphics since October of 1994. Prior to that he served for three years as managing editor of Printing Impressions, a commercial printing publication. Mr. Neubauer is very active in the U.S. in-plant industry. He attends all the major in-plant conferences and has visited more than 130 in-plant operations around the world. He has given presentations to numerous in-plant groups in the U.S., Canada and Australia, including the Association of College and University Printers and the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. He also coordinates the annual In-Print contest, cosponsored by IPMA and In-plant Graphics.

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  • PMCmike

    Bob – Your comments are right on target. There are a number of reasons why print and mail facilities should be increasing their visibility. Hiding down in the basement has no long-term benefits.

    Marketing people and executives enamored with the idea of relying on the web, social media, and email to communicate with their audience may not understand or appreciate the impact of printed materials. Or they may have experienced disappointment with printed communications in the past due to poor list quality, lack of personalization, or inadequate segmentation.

    Who is going to educate these decision-makers about the value of print if not the in-plant operation?

    Your point about missed opportunities brought back memories of a personal experience where as a managed services vendor we made outreach efforts to company departments and discovered tons of work that was being sent to outside vendors while in-house equipment and staff sat idle. Because of negotiated minimum charges, the company was able to move jobs from the outside to the in-plant at virtually no cost!

    For in plant managers who don’t have the time or are uncomfortable with promoting the in-plant face-to-face, a monthly internal newsletter can raise awareness and educate potential in-house customers. I’d rather take some control over the future of my department than “fly under the radar” and hope for salvation through obscurity.