MAY/JUNE 2012                                                                                              VOLUME 128, NO. 3.

editor's note...

Media Blitz

by John O'Brien, Managing Editor

I was standing in the Ritz-Carlton’s Ballroom in New York in March getting ready for Paper2012’s opening session. Domtar sponsored the session and prior to the main event getting underway, the audio-visual people were testing the projection system and played media clips that Domtar produced. The clips were light-hearted comedy skits that took a friendly poke at the paperless office.

One clip called “Office” showed office workers getting ready for a big meeting and writing notes on the palms of their hands, arms, shirts and tabletops, using anything to write on except paper. The boss walks in, gazes at the group and raises his eyebrows at the employees’ questionable choice of media.

Another clip called “Ration” opens with the boss holding a meeting and telling employees that the company wants to go paperless and will ration paper, and each worker will only receive 5 sheets of paper per month. The second he stops talking, the workers charge out of the room and start running around like mental cases clutching reams of paper and fighting with each other trying to horde as much as they can before the rationing starts.

At the end of each of the clips a message comes up on the screen that reads, “Maybe this whole paperless thing is going a little too far.”

So there I was, along with a bunch of other people who had filtered into the room, getting a chuckle out of Domtar’s looping media clips when it hits me — one of the biggest paper producers in the world is driving home a “feel good about paper” story via digital media.

Oh My God! …or, digitally speaking, OMG!

Prior to the session’s featured technology speaker, Boise Inc.’s president and CEO, Alexander Toeldte, spoke about some of the issues facing the industry. In doing so, he mentioned the good story the industry has to tell, especially about the sustainability and recyclability of its products. But then he admitted that the industry has made a weak effort getting that message out, which played perfectly into the upcoming speaker’s presentation.

Social media expert Scott Klososky, the founder of webcasts.com (he sold it for $115 million), pounded home the concept that never before in history could any individual or company publish content to the world for free, instantly, and with such viral impact as can be done today through social media outlets. He pointed out that the new technology is powerful, addictive and growing daily. Lending evidence to this, one of his slides showed that over 3 billion Goggle searches are done in a day and Google answers 34,000 questions per second.

My point is this: the paper industry, for the most part, markets its products on traditional selling points, i.e. strength, brightness, opacity, smoothness, etc. It’s not that these quality characteristics aren’t important, but the big picture is one where millions of consumers are listening to messages that tell them using paper is bad and wasteful. This begs the question: Does it matter how bright your paper is if consumers have been convinced not to buy it or use it in the first place?

The message that paper is sustainable, recyclable, and earth-friendly needs to be the primary selling point, and digital media has become a powerful channel to get the word out. Nearly every person in the world has a use for paper products and it’s about time we make them feel good about doing so.

John O'Brien can be reached at: jobrien@paperage.com

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