The Comeback

Trust in print rises

Jeff Ekstein calls it the “mail moment”—that time when something special or eagerly anticipated hits your mailbox. Everyone, Ekstein says, has had a moment like this. The item is personalized, has sentimental meaning and delivers the kind of response that only a printed piece can.

Don’t kid yourself—these moments have had their share of close calls with obscurity during the meteoric rise of the Digital Age. But Ekstein, President of Willow Printing Group in Toronto, says print always seems to give us a moment of clarity—one that reminds us of the power it still holds. “You have one chance to make a first impression. And we continue to find print allows us to do just that. Some may call it an ‘old school’ approach these days, but if anything, print is a great way to get your brand in front of people in a timely, memorable way.”

The third-generation owner of Willow Printing has had a front row seat to the marketing world’s fickle dance with the best way to engage with today’s consumers. Take the early days of email, when the simple click of a button could send thousands of emails in lieu of spending countless dollars on postage. And then, in the wake of email boxes filled with scores of messages, scams and hacks, print found its way back into the distribution cycle.

“Print and printers are trusted again,” Ekstein says. “In what is an extremely transparent world, where you can Google anything—true or not—people are looking for ways to build trust. COVID didn’t help anybody. And so, when it became harder and harder to get face-to-face with anyone, people were looking for ways to make those connections. Print has always been a way to provide value—a way to provide transparency in your messaging.”

One of the most powerful components print provides is the way it effectively complements the integrated approach marketers need to solidify their messaging. By integrating print and digital elements strategically, printers like Willow are creating cohesive and comprehensive marketing strategies that showcase the powerful advantages of each medium. “Digital approaches like email are effective when people know who you are,” Ekstein says. “Print is an ideal way to make an introduction. You need both approaches because you need different ways to keep people engaged.”

In a time when brands are searching for more transparency, print materials help create a tangible and memorable experience, while digital media offers interactive elements, enhancing overall engagement with the audience. “Print is a way to get back to people in a more transparent way,” Ekstein says. “It helps you do what you say you are going to do in a time when the ‘spray and pray’ approach of digital doesn’t always work.”

A phoenix flying in the sky

Among the many industries the Prisma team works in, the healthcare market is defined by the need to be accurate in every step in the process. What Prisma CEO Robert Anderson has found along the way is that there have been instances with other print providers saying they are HITrust or HIPAA compliant and they are not. To reestablish the trust in the clients they work with, Prisma uses the documentation, workflow and workforce that understands the true meaning of security when handling complex healthcare data campaigns.

Prisma works directly with some of the largest healthcare providers in the country to understand the intricacies of their communication/marketing projects and help build trust and success for clients. The approach—led by print—helps all parties build trust and common goals. “Trust is paramount in the print industry, which is why we have built trust with our clients over the 23-plus years since I have owned the company. Our clients want transparency for timing, pricing and deliverables of their projects,” Anderson says.

As early adopters in the digital marketplace when it launched its proprietary brand management software dokshop in 2001, Prisma continues to win by leveraging digital technologies for speed and accuracy. To complement this, the Prisma team still builds trust with its customers through effective in-person and electronic communication.

The approach is embedded in the way Prisma works to establish itself as a true partner of its clients, not a transactional commodity. Its solutions executives are focused on helping its clients grow their businesses. This approach translates even through virtual barriers. “We find that truly understanding the challenges or pain of each of the verticals we serve helps us craft meaningful communications,” Anderson says. “We are empathetic to the chaos which exists in the marketing logistics world and work to provide individual solutions based on each client or industry’s needs.”

If there is a strategic blueprint Prisma uses that could be replicated, it is in the way the Phoenix-based printer leans on its thought leadership and educational content to fortify its credibility in today’s marketing landscape. Anderson says the approach is critically important, especially as Prisma sets itself apart by not positioning the brand as a transactional commercial printer, but rather a full-service marketing logistics solutions provider.

“We use our clients’ successes as evidence of the benefit of working with Prisma,” Anderson says. “Transparency and clear communication are crucial in a digital world. We meet frequently with our clients virtually or in-person to seamlessly project manage all aspects of their projects. We begin with the end in mind so that we can troubleshoot any and all obstacles timely and transparently. My best advice is to always put your clients’ needs first, and remain transparent and honest in all communications. If you can empathize with your clients and understand their pain points, you’ll be able to build that trusted partner relationship.”

Despite the digital shifts that continue from time to time, printers like Willow and Prisma understand the need to place print in the forefront as an invaluable tool for building trust and engaging with customers. “Time and time again print has proven to be one of the most trusted forms of communication, across all demographics,” Anderson says. “Our clients are understanding the digital fatigue their customers experience and leveraging print communications is more effective to bring their ‘message to market.’”