Steve Schrodt, University of Nebraska Kearney
Gerry Pinela, The City of Torrance
Karin Tarter, Albuquerque Public Schools
Joanne Rotert, University of Missouri-Columbia
By developing and offering cross-media services, an in-plant can bolster its reputation, revenues, and long-term relevance.
Recent IPG articles “Cross-Media and the In-plant” (December 2011) and “Developing Cross-Media and Marketing Services” (March 2012) offer excellent explanations of what cross-media is and why shops should develop these services.
Getting into cross-media often isn’t expensive or difficult. For example, Quick Response (QR) codes can be created easily, even using free software. And by enhancing capabilities, an in-plant sells itself to its customers.
Several years ago, University of Missouri Printing Services found the perfect test-case customer for its cross-media services: the in-plant itself.
“We proved to ourselves what we could do, while showing our customers what we could do for them,” relates Joanne Rotert, who handles the in-plant’s customer service and marketing.
Printing Services promoted its involvement in a procurement vendor fair via a mass e-mail blast to faculty and staff, 350 of whom are the in-plant’s primary customers. “We included a link to a specific landing page with a printable coupon that could be brought to the event for a free poster,” Rotert explains.
The shop tracked 96 hits to the Web site. “35 people brought in the coupon and many others requested a coupon at the fair,” Rotert recalls.
Those who redeemed a coupon could then enter a drawing for a desk clock. “I entered their drawing information into an Excel file and we created a thank-you postcard with variable-data printing, including a pURL that led to a personalized landing page using Flash animation,” she recounts.
Customers who answered the postcard’s questions—intended to ascertain their knowledge of Printing Services and reveal their printing and promotional needs—were rewarded with personalized note cards. The in-plant is now using QR codes on its calendar and its DigiPrint price sheet.
Moving into cross-media was not expensive, Rotert notes.
“The most costly component is the time it takes to set up data files for variable data,” she points out. The in-plant’s electronic prepress specialists handle cross-media design and variable data, while the internal support system administrator also creates QR codes, pURLs and landing pages.
Unfortunately, Rotert acknowledges, as Printing Services ramped up its cross-media capabilities, university-wide funding cuts created a new roadblock.
“Departments started producing reports and newsletters online only,” she states. “Our argument is that print is still reliable and remains one of the biggest pushes to the Web. People still make decisions based on print.”
QR Codes Galore
It has been smoother selling for the University of Nebraska Kearney’s in-plant, which has cultivated cross-media clients across campus. The shop has cracked QR code creation.
“We’ve been putting QR codes on printed pieces, especially to recruit new students for undergraduate admissions, for at least two years,” declares Steve Schrodt, manager of Printing Services, Advertising and Creative Services.
The impetus for offering cross-media services was internal. “One of our developers got into QR codes and we started integrating them into pieces,” Schrodt recalls. “It wasn’t a hard sell to clients, considering all the kids with Smartphones and iPads.”
Currently, the shop is refining its code design. “When we first started, we might just have included a general QR code that led to the undergrad Web site, whereas now we’re mailing very specific codes that lead directly to particular pages—an online registration form, for example,” Schrodt explains.
“With cross-platforming, we’re keeping print relevant,” he continues, noting that the shop just installed a new digital press in December. Print volumes are up at the in-plant and the shop is mailing the same number of pieces as it did the previous year.
“It’s addition by subtraction,” Schrodt summarizes. “We may not be printing application forms any more because—thanks to us—everyone is registering online, but we’re printing more direct-mail pieces.”
Schrodt lauds his director and the department for promoting and educating clients on the benefits of using cross-media promotions and communications.
“At this point, QR codes are on 70 percent of admissions jobs,” he calculates. “And we use QR codes on everything from business cards to pocket folders.
“Sure, we could just give a Web address on a printed piece,” Schrodt laughs, “but for the kids, doesn’t a QR code just make it a little more fun?”
Printing to Promote a New App
In some cases, a customer gets the cross-media ball rolling. The City of Torrance’s in-plant “checked out” its first cross-media job in 2011, when the City Librarian approached the print shop to design buttons for a Torrance Public Library mobile application. The library system, part of Community Services, outsourced the app’s programming, but wanted to keep this design work in-house.
“[The client] wanted to keep costs down and maintain control of the design,” asserts Gerry Pinela, Central Services supervisor, General Services. The in-plant had already earned the library’s trust and respect as a print provider.
The shop’s graphic designer worked with the librarian on the custom design of buttons for item search, hours and locations, library events, account status and renewals, connecting to Facebook, and contacting a librarian.
The job also included a 41⁄4×11˝ publicity bookmark with a QR code (supplied by the programmer) that was distributed at all Torrance libraries. The QR code led to a link for the library app. “1,000 bookmarks were ordered and are almost gone,” Pinela reports.
“As soon as I knew the app had been released, I scanned the bookmark and downloaded the app to my phone successfully,” he adds. Now, the app boasts more than 1,000 downloads by Apple and Android users.
Does Pinela believe that the project required a print component? “Absolutely,” he declares. “There was no better way to point the public toward the app.”
The in-plant also produced a survey bookmark and promotional posters with QR codes for the library system. And Pinela has noticed the increased incorporation of QR codes and Web site references into numerous customers’ print jobs in 2012.
“Since, we have looked into doing [QR code creation] ourselves,” he notes. “For example, our IT department asked if we could print QR codes on the backs of business cards. We definitely foresee doing that down the line.” IPG