An Interview with Deborah Corn

State of the Industry and #thankaprinter

Printing Industries Alliance staff Tim Freeman and Kim Tuzzo sat down with Deborah Corn, Intergalactic Ambassador to The Printerverse, via Zoom (of course) to discuss current events in the industry and the #thankaprinter video she created with Morten Reitoft, Inkish.TV. A fierce advocate of the industry, Deborah has been tirelessly talking to printers, holding webinars, providing marketing inspiration; helping printers navigate their way through the pandemic. The #thankaprinter video aims to demonstrate to the public how print is essential to the function of society, as was proven during the pandemic. Download PIA’s June Signature issue which features the interview with Deborah Corn.

Here are a few sound bites, followed by the full interview.

Tim Freeman: Why should we thank a printer?

Deborah Corn: Printers have always been unsung heroes, unsung, unrecognized, I mean, where does the mail come from, people? Believe me, no one is walking around saying “thank a printer.” So that’s where the “thank a printer” video came from because I thought it was really important that the families of the print workers and their friends understood what they have been doing and why they were going to work during the pandemic. The video was released on June 1, and it’s being shared around the world. We are also creating versions. It was also really important to me and Morten that we share these stories in multiple languages, written by native speakers. It was also really important to me that when everyone was like, why do mom and dad have to go to work? This is why, so you can have food on your table. Where do you think a box comes from?

Tim Freeman: What do you hope the #thankaprinter video accomplishes?

Deborah Corn: The best thing that could happen is that your members share it outside of the print community because that’s really where it needs to go. The video is a visual answer to this is what my husband does, this is what my mom does, this is what my aunt or my grandpa does, they help to keep you safe. So they can say, look at how my family has been helping the world. It can also be used to inspire people to get interested in the printing industry, and show the type of fortitude it takes to be a printer. It’s not just about things you see in the movies, old timey presses – and old timey pressmen yelling STOP THE PRESS for dramatic effect! We are in a technology business and not only that, many print applications are essential for the function of a society. That was proven during the pandemic.

Kim Tuzzo: What is your best advice for companies operating in our industry?

Deborah Corn: They have to be in constant forward motion in reacting to what’s currently happening until there has been some resetting of how things are going to be. Right now, everything is still in flux and the best thing they can do is serve their communities and help their communities stay alive. The only thing they can count on is what we know about recovery and reopening as we move forward. That was the premise of my presentation Reinvention in Recovery and I was able to share it with more than 1,000 printers thanks to my long-standing partnership with you and the other Printing United Alliance Affiliates, formerly known as PIA Affiliates. I am currently working on a new presentation called, “What Now?” As soon as we get a little further along in the reopening process I will be able to share my thoughts on where the print and new business opportunities lie.

Full interview with Deborah Corn

Tim Freeman: We wanted to start off this issue with you, because of all the great stuff you’ve been doing the last couple of months.

Deborah Corn: I love being first!!!

Kim Tuzzo: What was it like for you when the country first started to lock down?

Deborah Corn: Obviously I’m in a different situation because I either work from home or I work from the road at an event or speaking engagement. What I was doing at home was pretty much what I always did at home. The difference was that nobody on the other end of the screen was doing what they normally do. Even though I didn’t have to make any massive, oh no, how do I work from home? kind of considerations, my business went to a screeching halt because my industry partners on the other end had to stop, reset, figure out what was going, figure out what they were going to do and how they were going to execute.

Not sure how many businesses accounted for a pandemic in their disaster plan, or even had one in place – a current one. That was really the biggest observation from the Printerverse vantage point. A lot of the printing industry spent the first few weeks figuring out remote working processes, how they were going to keep taking orders and who was going to be in the print shop while the industry was trying to get essential status. So there was a lot of scrambling and associated fear in the unknown… Can we function? What do we need to function? How do we keep people safe?

Tim Freeman: That was our impression too, people were so afraid and we didn’t have any idea what to do because people were so panicked. After a while, in New York State they had a process to get declared essential, so we helped a lot of people do that. (Printing Industries Alliance spent a tremendous amount of time and resources lobbying on this issue, but print, as an industry, was never deemed entirely essential in New York.) But we were really at a loss, other than listening to them, what exactly we could do for them. Just listening to people helped, listening to their issues,

Deborah Corn: Absolutely.

Kim Tuzzo: Even if we had no answers.

Deborah Corn: You weren’t alone. In the first couple of weeks on all those Zoom meetings it got to – what am I supposed to do, I don’t know what to do, and people sharing very honestly and emotionally. It was very scary for everybody I think and you’re right, nobody had answers but people needed to be able to vent. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like to have been in your position as an association, where your members say, well thank God we have an organization, and you guys are like, uh, I’ve never lived through a pandemic, either!

Obviously, as printers always do, they said, ok, that’s enough of that, and it’s time to get back to work. They figured out what they had to do, and they did it. I heard amazing stories about print shops operating with family members who didn’t even work in the printing industry. They were coming to help because employees couldn’t. And then when they could have employees come in, some shops would print in the morning, then that shift would leave and they would clean the print shop so the next shift could come in to do finishing, then that shift would leave and they would clean the print shop so the next shift could come in to do fulfillment. Mail was essential, mail had to go out, so they did whatever they had to do to get that mail out.

This goes back to the video. At that point in time, printers put themselves in harm’s way, they truly did. There was no information those first few weeks of lock down other than stay home, that was the only information everyone was getting …stay home, STAY HOME! And printers didn’t stay home. They couldn’t stay home. They were needed by the world to do their job.

Timothy Freeman: It was pretty scary.

Deborah Corn: Printers have always been unsung heroes, unsung, unrecognized, I mean, where does the mail come from, people? Believe me, no one is walking around saying “thank a printer.” So that’s where the “thank a printer” video came from because I thought it was really important that the families of the print workers and their friends understood what they have been doing and why they were going to work during the pandemic. The video was released on June 1, and it’s being shared around the world. We are also creating versions, It was really important to me and Morten that we share these stories in multiple languages, written by native speakers. It was also really important to me that when everyone was like, why do mom and dad have to go to work? This is why, so you can have food on your table. Where do you think a box comes from?

Tim Freeman: So were you hearing from printers from all over the world?

Deborah Corn: Yes, I make it my business to speak to people from all over the world. The rest of the world did not function like America, I’ll tell you that right now. They had a whole different set of rules. They were really shut down and the Europeans follow the rules.

Kim Tuzzo: Not like here. Americans don’t want anyone telling them what to do.

Deborah Corn: Well it’s more than that. In the U.S. it’s like, “Yes, I’m on furlough, but hold on please, I’m on a work call.” In Europe if you were on furlough and you made calls to customers it was not received well. They were paying much closer attention to who was closed or on furlough, and were they following the rules around that. Let’s just say we’re a little more creative in this country about rules and how far they can be bent without being broken.

Tim Freeman: What are your plans for the #thankaprinter video and how can we help you to get it out there?

Deborah Corn: The best thing that could happen is that your members share it outside of the print community because that’s really where it needs to go. The video is a visual answer to this is what my husband does, this is what my mom does, this is what my aunt or my grandpa does, they help to keep you safe. So they can say, look at how my family has been helping the world. It can also be used to inspire people to get interested in the printing industry, and show the type of fortitude it takes to be a printer. It’s not just about things you see in the movies, old timey presses – and old timey pressmen yelling STOP THE PRESS for dramatic effect! We are in a technology business and not only that, many print applications are essential for the function of a society. That was proven during the pandemic.

It’s historical, you know, we’re part of history. I thought maybe we could do something that would stand for all of our voices. I wrote the words to tell our story, Morten and Team Inkish.TV added the visuals, and hopefully it will get beyond the printing industry so everyone knows how we contributed – beyond the mail.

Tim Freeman: That’s awesome, it’s a great idea I think.

Deborah Corn: It’s the way I could say “thank a printer” to everybody. No one in the grocery store is saying, “I’m so happy a printer was here! Now I know where to stand, and I know what the new hours are, and I know what the new check-out process is, and I know how to stay safe.” Printers are taken for granted. They are overlooked in that way – the essentials materials show up, magically. The community doesn’t show their appreciation beyond the manager of the store, because they don’t think about HOW the materials got there. What it took. Sharing the video helps bring some much needed perspective to that floor graphic.

Tim Freeman: What were some of the most remarkable things that you saw? I was blown away by Duggal, making a million face shields, but what did you see that impressed you?

Deborah Corn: A couple of things I saw were again, more about the human experience. One of the manufacturers came up with this amazing idea to print people’s faces on stickers and put them on hospital staff gowns so everybody knew who was under all of the protective gear. It made a big difference being able to easily identify everyone and the patients – especially children – were not as scared. Printing a photo on a peel-off sticker is so simple, and yet the impact of the application was truly amazing.

There was a college student who was in the hospital with her grandmother who was hard of hearing and relied on lip reading. She came up with an idea to have a solid plastic window in masks, so you can see people’s mouths and they’re still covered. Her design is being manufactured now. Necessity is the mother of invention!

The examples I gravitate to have more of an impact on human relationships and human engagement, especially in a time when we’re told to stay away from each other. These two simple things were able to bring everybody closer together, even in distance.

Tim Freeman: Those are good ideas, making the human connection.

Deborah Corn: Which is why I tugged on some emotions in the video and hope it connects on a human level. If even ten people who watch the video open up their pantry door, look at all the boxes of food and connect that to a printer working during a pandemic to get it there, the project worked. I also think the video can help us to get younger people interested in print, at minimum, they can see a lot of what we can do in 2 minutes and 30 seconds.

Kim Tuzzo: What’s your best advice for companies operating in our industry?

Deborah Corn: They have to be in constant forward motion in reacting to what’s currently happening until there has been some resetting of how things are going to be. Right now, everything is still in flux and the best thing they can do is serve their communities and help their communities stay alive. The only thing they can count on is what we know about recovery and reopening as we move forward. That was the premise of my presentation Reinvention in Recovery and I was able to share it with more than 1,000 printers thanks to my long-standing partnership with you and the other Printing United Alliance Affiliates, formerly known as PIA Affiliates. I am currently working on a new presentation called, “What Now?” As soon as we get a little further along in the reopening process I will be able to share my thoughts on where the print and new business opportunities lie.

Deborah Corn is the Intergalactic Ambassador to The Printerverse, providing printspiration and resources to print and marketing professionals through her website, PrintMediaCentr.com. She has 25+ years of experience working in advertising as a Print Producer and now works behind the scenes with printers, suppliers and industry organizations helping them create meaningful relationships with customers and members, and achieve success with their social media, content marketing, event marketing and sales endeavors.

About #thankaprinter

Take a few minutes to view the #thankaprinter video created by Deborah Corn and Morten Reitoft, CEO of Inkish.TV. It makes you appreciate what those of us in the printing industry really do for our communities. Without printers, many of the things that the world takes for granted would not happen. No labels, single use menus, or signage, brochures, books, programs, mailings, credit cards, coupons, newspapers – the list is endless.

This video says as much and is a great promotional tool to put on your website, Facebook page, Twitter, LinkedIn and whatever else you have available to you to get this information out to the public and let them know that Print has always been essential! Please use the hashtag #thankaprinter when sharing on social media.

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