Here’s what a good printer-publisher relationship looks like with the lines of communication wide open.
By Joanna Brown
Lynn Pehanich’s relationship with production manager Nate Jenkins was sealed with far more than a handshake a few years ago. Jenkins invited Pehanich into a conference room at the American Academy of Dermatology to meet and greet each member of his department—nearly a dozen handshakes.
"I asked each person in that room to tell me about their priorities for working with a printer, and some of the issues they’d had with printers in the past,” recalls Pehanich, a sales representative for Michigan-based Walsworth Print Group who didn’t flinch once during that meeting. "I told them that we want to be your partner and the more information we share, the better we can be that.”
Jenkins and Pehanich agreed that successful publications are topped off by a healthy relationship between the editorial staff and the printer that brings its work to life. They shared their advice for building a great partnership during a panel presentation at the Association Media & Publishing’s Chicago Education Series July 23rd.
Choose Your Partner Well
Even before you set out to meet with print representatives, examine the way in which your department works. Knowing what your strengths are and where you need a printer to provide expertise will help you choose the right printer.
"My job is to make you look good, as much as I can,” Pehanich says. "Identify your priorities. Rank them. Do your due diligence. There are a lot of good printers out there, and we’re all a little different. Find the one that works best for you and your organizational culture.”
As an example, she explains, be honest about the way your staff works: Are you always behind schedule and need a printer with flexibility? Do you need the printer to bring strong postage and circulation expertise? Do you need to print technical images, like medical slides, with precision? Or is a low price your top priority?
One you’ve found that printer, make a commitment to each other; sign a contract, Pehanich advises. "A lot of people are afraid of a contact because they think once they’re locked in, they’re not going to get the same level of customer service. But the contract can set the tone for how problems are handled and keep the relationship dynamic.
"If you want to sign a contract, the printer should be willing to work with you—if not on price, then on other concessions that ensure fair outcomes for everyone.”
Jenkins likes contracts because they make his job easier. In an association where budgets are set a year in advance, he is confident in the allocations he makes for printing.
While Jenkins’s initial meet-and-greet department meeting wasn’t traditional, Pehanich says it is wonderful.
"I believe that communication is the No. 1 source of problems in our business,” Pehanich says. "There is real value in face-to-face meetings with all the key players so that we understand each person’s priorities, and we can be a true solution provider.”
"And honesty is key,” Jenkins adds "It will help avoid problems in the future.”
Pehanich also encourages the staff members who work on the publications – those who physically upload files and the like – to tour their printer’s facility and meet the staff who manage the production process.
She further recommends a post-production review of the printed material, be it annually, quarterly, or for every issue of your magazine. In addition to trouble-shooting, this gives each party opportunities to discuss changes in their organization and the innovations in the technologies used for production.
Deal With It
When the inevitable problems arise, address them with your printer as soon as possible. Jenkins’s team meets internally first to review their procedures before they call the vendor.
"Mistakes happen. Printing is not an exact science,” Jenkins says.
Pehanich says such a call from Jenkins sets her off and running. "What can we do? What needs to be done immediately? How can we follow up to avoid this happening again?” Pehanich outlines. "From a printer’s point of view, this is when I need to be in your face and not allow things to fester.”
As an example of this problem-solving technique, Jenkins recalls the difficulties they had in a move to use the InSite proofing system on screen. After a few less-than-perfect attempts to correct problems by phone, Pehanich sent her colleagues to Jenkins’s office to work with his IT colleagues. They adjusted a few settings and found success with their next issue.
Joanna Brown is a senior writer at Chicago Dental Society. Association Media & Publishing thanks her for volunteering to cover this education session for our members who were unable to attend.