Print still making an impression

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  • COVID-19
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  • Nielsen McAllister news
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The coronavirus pandemic has led to much talk about what the world will be like when we eventually emerge on the other side.

For many of us, one of the big questions is whether the daily commute will become a thing of the past and working from home the new normal. Barclays boss Jes Staley, for example, is evaluating the company’s ‘location strategy’ and has said that “The notion of putting 7,000 people in the building may be a thing of the past.”

Undoubtedly the NMPR team has managed very well over the past few weeks with remote working and keeping in touch through video conferencing. Nevertheless, for me, a meeting via computer is not always ideal – for example, when people talk over each other, as we invariably do, it is easier to cope with face to face than on screen.

We are also a fairly small team and I think larger numbers may be more difficult to manage. And I am no behavioural expert, but I imagine there is a lot of body language and nuances that are missed during a remote conversation compared to when people are in the same room.

Social animals

I am sure it is just a matter of adapting, and everyone will use video conference much more going forward. However, I believe that the majority of us remain ‘social animals’ and that face to face interaction will still form an important part of our business lives.

It is interesting to note that millennials, long criticised for spending most of their lives staring at their phones, are one of the groups most affected by the lockdown. And this is very anecdotal, but a couple of business acquaintances have mentioned how many of their younger colleagues are the ones who are particularly keen to get back to a more social office environment.

A printed future?

Our even greater dependence on the digital world has also once again raised the question of the future of print media. Even before this crisis, we were already seeing the gradual decrease in printed publications, particularly in the trade sector, as more and more of us come to depend on our inbox for the delivery of the latest news. Several trade magazines are going completely digital during the crisis, recognising that most people are no longer at their desks to receive their publications.


Nevertheless, while it is true that print – particularly trade publications which even during their heyday were mainly weekly or monthly – cannot compete with the instant nature of online for news, there are still many who prefer a page to a screen for the reading of more in-depth articles.

Which is more effective? An internet search reveals plenty of arguments and statistics for and against both printed and electronic media, for example comparing sales of physical books and e-books, or take-up rates and return on investment of direct mail vs email campaigns.

A combined approach

Recently, the respected American trade publication Packaging World promoted the benefits of print advertising, highlighting research which showed that, compared to digital, print provides a deeper level of engagement, yields higher levels of recall and causes ‘more activity in brain areas associated with value and desire (key markers for purchase intent).’

There are two things of note in this communication: while still publishing a printed version, the publication has a very comprehensive and active online presence as well; and the virtues of print advertising were spelt out in an email communication.


And this gets to the heart of every communication programme – the need to use a variety of different media as part of an integrated campaign.  The key is to direct the relevant message to particular target audiences through the most appropriate channels.

On this basis, print can bring an important dynamic to a direct communications campaign. A printed publication provides a physical presence, and its design and quality of finish can help to establish and reinforce brand image and awareness. Compared to the daily glut of emails, a printed item is today something of a rarity, and it may even remain on a person’s desk for some time. A printed newsletter can often provide a more comprehensive overview of a company’s capabilities than an email version.

At NMPR, print remains a valuable part of our communications toolbox alongside our digital offerings, and plays an important role in several of the programmes we devise for our clients.

So as we all emerge from lockdown, maybe we will appreciate all the more the social side of the workplace; and maybe we’ll enjoy a cup of coffee while flicking through the pages of the latest magazine to land on our desk – and reading an article on how to establish the perfect home office!


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