Monday, August 22, 2011

The Changing World of Print Buyers: An Interview with Margie Dana

I was a fan of Margie Dana years before adopting my alter ego of D. Eadward Tree, so it's a real honor to be able to interview her. And the honor is doubled because she also published an interview with me today on the excellent Web site for Print Buyers International, in which I reveal why I write under a pseudonym and what I would do if I owned a printing company.

Margie has been a friend and advisor to those of us on the "buy side" of printing since 1999, when she started her weekly Margie's Print Tips e-newsletter that is still going strong today. Her goal all along, as she says, is "to educate customers and manufacturers about each other . . . to build bridges and eliminate misconceptions."

She keeps finding new ways to build those bridges and eliminate misconceptions, such as by founding Print Buyers International, writing two books (Put It on Paper! The Newcomer's Guide to the Printing Industry and Print Buying Made Simple), and writing and blogging for the printing industry's top trade publication and web site, Printing Impressions. As if that weren't enough, she'll be hosting PBI's 2011 Print & Media Conference next month and will soon be publishing her third book.

Not print-centric
Dead Tree Edition: How has print buying changed since you switched from being a print buyer to being a writer and head of an organization?
Margie Dana: I guess the biggest difference has to be the impact of the Internet. It’s opened doors we never had in my print buying days. Think about what’s at our fingertips now – it’s all there, if you know where to look. More recently, the popularity of social media and social networking means there are more ways for print buyers to connect with one another. That’s big. And of course, since print volumes are down, it’s had a significant impact on the roles and future career paths of buyers. Most professional buyers are no longer print-centric. They are becoming media generalists bit by bit – which is good for their careers.

Dead Tree Edition: So do you see many people who were print buyers taking on more non-print roles?
Margie Dana: Absolutely. Many buyers if not most have seen their roles expand into newer media as well as marketing, design, web work, project management, mail/fulfillment management, and so on.

Multi-tasking experts
Dead Tree Edition: What exactly is a print buyer?
Margie Dana: The person in a company, agency or other organization who has primary responsibility for managing/handling the production of printed materials for his or her employer. It describes a function – not to be confused with a title. It is highly misunderstood and under-appreciated. The majority of print ‘buyers’ I know are much more than purchasers. They are their firms’ de facto printing experts, skilled in sourcing, negotiating, budget development, paper specification, design software, production scheduling, troubleshooting and so on. Many have editorial or design responsibilities. They help determine what print projects are appropriate for a particular campaign and are responsible for making them a reality. Multitasking experts, they are internal liaisons with editors, designers, IT units, and management – as well as liaisons with all vendors.

Dead Tree Edition: What inspired you to start Boston Print Buyers? (and how did you move from "Boston" to "international"?)
Margie Dana: I thought you’d never ask. I had been a corporate print buyer for over 15 years, first for Boston University and then for MFS Investment Management. I loved it! I left in the late ‘90s because our son was then school age, and I wanted to be there for him. But I also wanted to work and decided that since there were no resources for print buyers, I might as well start a group. Boston Print Buyers had bimonthly dinner meetings, always with an educational discussion led by a sponsoring firm. A few years later, a friend convinced me to produce a conference. By that time I’d traveled to both England and New Zealand to speak to print buyers and printers. It was clear that print buyer issues and trends were universal, so I decided to change the name to reflect that.

Dead Tree Edition: What exactly is PBI?
Margie Dana: A professional association that caters to those who work with printers and related graphic arts firms. We hold an annual 2-day conference as well as 1-day conferences. We’re a major resource for print customers as well as printers, actually. We offer education and information for these professionals. When I write or blog, I reflect the current mood and trends of professional print buyers and printers, too. Member benefits include serious discounts on all products, services and events, premium membership in, and a yet-to-be-announced Buying Power Program with a leading online print service provider. PBI members get first notices of job openings and free resume review by yours truly. In 2012 we plan to host a one-day PBI Conference in Boston and are discussing plans for the same in the Southeast and on the West Coast.

Extremely influential
Dead Tree Edition: What is the most important thing that printers should know, but generally don't know, about print buyers?
Margie Dana: They do a whole lot more than source print, and most print buyers are extremely influential in their organizations. Print buyers get short shrift by many sales professionals in this field, and it seriously bugs me. They’re believed to be gate keepers not decision makers, and I protest loudly. I dare your readers to attend our upcoming conference in Chicago on September 13–14 and take a look at who those “print buyers” are: senior-level career professionals with significant responsibility and clout in their organizations. They don’t have their heads in the sand when it comes to the future of print and communications.

Dead Tree Edition: What is the most important thing that print buyers should know, but generally don't know, about printers?
Margie Dana: They’re all different. Experienced print customers know this, but new buyers and designers don’t. They perceive printing as a commodity and don’t know how to begin sourcing print efficiently. I guess that’s why I’m in business.

Dead Tree Edition: Are most print buyers concerned about environmental issues? Do they just follow whatever sustainability policies their employers have (or don't have) or are many of them going beyond what is required of them?
Margie Dana: Sustainability in this field is a funny topic. It is currently not one of the hottest topics, if you follow discussion trends in blogs and LinkedIn Groups. Buyers who as individuals are green “activists” are more likely to make it a priority in their roles. It does remain a very critical issue in higher education (no surprise there). And as you pointed out, if there are corporate sustainability policies and guidelines, print buyers adhere to them.

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1 comment:

Mike King said...

Thoroughly enjoyed reading this interview as well as Dana's interview of you.....both are insightful!