Print versus Digital… An Interesting Conversation

I had the opportunity this past week to partake in a discussion hosted by the Chicago Chapter of the American Marketing Association. It was part of a Nonprofit Shared Interest Group, and there were probably about 30 of us that were in attendance. They had invited two people to speak – Kate Jacobs, the Marketing and Communication Director at Boy Scouts of America Chicago Chapter and Mark Ruthman, Manager of Digital Publishing at the American Academy of Pediatrics. Following their introduction and summary of what they are currently doing to market their organizations, all of us then were able to interact with questions and our own insights.


I first of all found it interesting that the majority of attendees were other printing companies like myself, or individuals that worked in communications for various associations. I think all of us were genuinely interested in hearing what the two speakers had to offer about their organizations and how both of them found a good mix between the use of conventional print work and the digital online options. Kate shared some unique campaigns that she had initiated and how together with print and digital, they were able to get fantastic response and engagement from those that they had targeted, and the result was a large increase in new kids within their programs. She shared that they looked at the specific communities where they felt they would have the best potential based on population and existing membership, and then focused on these first. Mark also explained how their different publications included both print and digital versions, and that they would be looking at the engagement from each of these to best determine how they might be offered in the future. He also shared that they were able to analyze this through Google Analytics, especially for the digital formats.

Both speakers also talked with regard to the various audiences – especially their demographics and how the age difference impacts how they would format their materials – recognizing though, that just because millennial’s tend to be more digitally orientated for example, that does not mean that all of them look for the same messaging formats. As they say, one size does not fit all!

Perhaps one of the strongest take-a-ways that came up in discussion was that regardless of what media format you look to use, the most creative campaign is the one that will engage the most response! And to take it a step further, those creative campaigns that did in fact include both print and digital, were the ones that did the best. An example of this was a printed paper airplane that was distributed by the Boy Scouts of America that created a great way for the kids to get involved, and then post images of themselves online to share with others. This concept also encourages the concept of peer-to-peer” marketing, one that the ALS Association capitalized on with their Ice Bucket Challenge! This is where digital marketing can have a huge impact and allow something to go viral.

I have written about the need for integrated and cross-media marketing many times and in fact advocate for this approach whenever possible. With all of the media options available now, it really is not a matter of picking which one to choose, but really more important to determine the ideal audience for your communication and look at how it is they want to be reached. Then, if you can also include multiple touches and even encourage interaction from those that you target along with being creative, then that is when you will be most effective!

What will your next campaign look like, and how can you be creative within both print and digital?



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