Everything’s online now, right?  Who reads print anymore?  We Google just about everything these days.  Who doesn’t check their phone as soon as they wake up?  With everyone and everything being so connected with instant information, is this the stake-in-the-heart for printed publications?

Sure, daily newspapers have challenges.  Time and Newsweek have shrunk to be quite thin.  Yet, many weekly community newspapers are thriving, crowded with advertising.  Magazines like Vogue are so fat, you actually meander almost to page one hundred to find the table of contents.  

Did you know the online company AirBnB.com has a printed magazine; dating app Bumble launched a print magazine; and the multi-billion dollar online retailer, Amazon.com came out with a printed catalog

But what does this mean for the dear old chamber directory?  The answer is… it depends. 

An opinion poll in the Western Association of Chamber Executives’ (WACE) August 2019 Insider newsletter shows that in the Chamber of Commerce world, print remains strong.

WACE 2019 Opinion Poll Respondents who produce a: 

 

Printed Membership Directory

66%

Printed Magazine

42%

Printed Map

67%

 

Chamber Directories Evolving

Producing a Directory because it’s what’s been done for years might be going down the path of irrelevance and leading to extinction.  But abandoning a printed publication because the board, in their ultimate wisdom, and in isolation, decides to kill the directory because “everyone is online” is potentially taking away a valuable member benefit. 

Chamber directories are evolving, carving out a more defined niche.  Some lean toward community guides, visitor/destination guides, economic profiles, relocation guides, etc.  Most importantly, a publication needs a clearly defined purpose and identity.

What? Who? How?

Ask staff, key stakeholders, some advertisers and some members these three questions: 

  1. What do we want to say?
  2. Who do we want to say it to?
  3. How are we going to get there?

Going through that exercise will help define the audience, the messaging, the content and the distribution strategy.  It will help define a feature article that talks about that important thing. 

Embrace Yourself

Are you in a bedroom community that’s mostly residential and small business?  That’s great, embrace it!  Do you want to attract new residents, then what kind?  Younger, older, families, singles?  Figure that out and then decide what you want to say about your community to that particular audience.  Your directory will begin to evolve into a community guide or relocation guide. 

In a community with a growing economic base looking to attract more business?  The guide becomes a calling card, a brochure showcasing your community, an attractive overview, a leave-behind.  The guide is more of an economic profile or community profile.  You might want to talk about economic vitality, infrastructure, demographics, workforce development, etc.  Maybe sprinkle some Chamber success stories throughout like “the Chamber helped a business that wasn’t sure how to do X, which created Y-jobs and contributed Z-dollars to the local economy.”  

For the feature article, interview three different business owners, a long-time local business, a business that recently relocated to town and one that recently started their business.  Ask them the same question, “Why our town?”

Distribution Is An Investment

Plan out the distribution and decide how the books will get to their destinations before ad sales begin.  A strong distribution strategy makes a good sell-story to prospective advertisers.  They want to know whose eyeballs they will reach with their advertising investment.  Use a mailing house or find a distribution company that will put the guide in a plastic sleeve and deliver door-to-door.  Map out where the guide will go and put that in the sales materials.

Don’t be afraid of more copies.  Printing only enough to cover your membership means you’re just printing a membership directory, which is a dying animal, remember?  Often 10,000 copies will cost nearly the same as 2,000 copies with the difference being in the equipment that’s used.  The more copies are in circulation, the stronger value-proposition you have to sell ads.  Send us your quantity, page count and trim size; we do a lot of volume printing and can pass along lower costs to our clients.

Flipbooks

Do have at least an online flipbook.  Don’t post a PDF of the guide to your website.  PDFs are invisible to on internet, they’re big files that may take a long time to download and who wants to have files download to their computer anyway?  Flipbooks are inexpensive and give the contents full online visibility.  We have negotiated a  special rate with a top-notch flipbook service we have been using since 2010.

Bottom line? 

In the chamber world, print is far from dead but the publication must have a clear purpose, a strong message and a robust distribution strategy. 

Let's discuss your publications.

Want a deal on flipbooks?

Ed Burzminski is President/CEO of Chamber Marketing Partners, Inc., a publishing project management and consulting firm specializing in chamber of commerce directories, guides and maps.  CMP’s unique model gives chambers total control, full financial transparency, utilizes local vendors and lets the chamber decide how much profit the publication will generate.  Contact us now.