The SNEWS® View: Enough with the paper avalanche already!!

Each month, we are buried in a landslide of paper catalogs, press releases, workbooks and other promotions. We are continually bombarded with paper press kits and a barrage of printed mailings. Why is this, we wonder, when electronic or digital delivery is easier, cheaper, and less damaging to the world? There are no excuses: We make our lives and living espousing healthy lifestyles and being environmentally responsible in all ways should be second nature to every one of us. Who among us does not know all about global warming, energy waste, and paper’s impact on forests?
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Each month, we are buried in a landslide of paper catalogs, press releases, workbooks and other promotions. We are continually bombarded with paper press kits and a barrage of printed mailings. Why is this, we wonder, when electronic or digital delivery is easier, cheaper, and less damaging to the world? There are no excuses: We make our lives and living espousing healthy lifestyles and being environmentally responsible in all ways should be second nature to every one of us. Who among us does not know all about global warming, energy waste, and paper’s impact on forests?

And yet, just a month ago, we at SNEWS® loaded two large recycling bins full of catalogs, workbooks, and other assorted materials--and already we have several piles of catalogs towering three feet high in the middle of our offices. What a tragic waste of resources that impacts us all, environmentally and economically. And there really is no justification in this world anymore for such waste.

Let it be heretofore known that, collectively, and by that we mean editorial voices from SNEWS® and GearTrends®, as well as from National Geographic Adventure, Outside, Backpacker, Men's Health, Runner's World, Outdoor Retailer Daily, plus from numerous other freelancers: PLEASE, ENOUGH WITH THE PAPER ALREADY!!!

The efforts of Drew Simmons at Pale Morning Media to take his clients into a paperless world with his Media Kit 2.0 are to be applauded. Other PR agencies too, such as Backbone Media, Verde PR, Stanwood and Partners and others are making efforts to eliminate paper. This work is both noticed and appreciated, but much more needs to be done. Media Kit 2.0 should be the standard all are held to.

Beyond the simple fact that it is a senseless waste of paper and energy, paper catalogs, workbooks and press releases are outdated models of communication that need to go the way of the Model T. If those who want to garner the ear of the media really listen to the journalists they are trying to reach, they will find their efforts much more effective by providing information electronically or by picking up a phone when on a story deadline. The last thing most journalists want to do is paw through piles of catalogs trying to find that one piece of information we know is buried in there somewhere. Click, search and notate is a far more effective use of time.

Too, more often than not, the information in workbooks or catalogs is incorrect or already outdated. Not so, or at least it shouldn't be so, with an online version of a press kit or catalog, since corrections and product updates from technical information and prices, to styles and colors, and to images can happen almost in real time.

And then there are the trade shows. Back in 1997, when our own Michael Hodgson was editor of the Outdoor Retailer Daily Exposure, he worked with Carson Stanwood to stack up all the catalogs and press kits left over in the press room when Summer Market ended. The stack reached over 6 feet high before Stanwood and Hodgson gave up in disgust.

Ever since then, Outdoor Retailer has been talking about creating a paperless press room. We are especially pleased to see that new Outdoor Retailer Trade Show Director Kenji Haroutunian is fully on board with moving the press room to a paperless one as well. 

"Outdoor Retailer is taking steps each show to reduce the event's paper trail," Haroutunian, told SNEWS®. "For Winter Market, we successfully transitioned the Exhibitor Service Manual from a massive binder to an electronic format, and a paperless Media Center is the next project on our Green Steps tick list."

"Each year we gather hundreds of press kits in the Media Center, only to see half of them recycled after the show," he continued. "In addition, many of our media attendees have expressed interest in electronic press kits, especially because hard copies are cumbersome to carry and expensive to ship home after each show. We are hopeful that this plan will help exhibitors and journalists at OR communicate in an efficient manner, reduce waste, and allow exhibitors to spend their marketing dollars on something other than paper copies."

SNEWS® suggests that Outdoor Retailer create an online press room at www.outdoorretailer.com, where any exhibitor can post its press materials. Other shows in fitness or sporting goods -- for that matter, in any industry -- could do the same. For those exhibitors not yet digitally dialed in, Outdoor Retailer should be willing to take press materials and post them online as an exhibitor service. For those exhibitors who simply continue to insist on placing paper press kits in the press room, we encourage Outdoor Retailer to charge a significant fee, with half going to The Conservation Alliance and the other half devoted to the development and maintenance of the press materials website. Call it paper offsetting. And no press kit should ever include printed photos or slides, but should include the contact to obtain them if needed.

For journalists who need to gather information while at the show, the press room also should have a bank of computers the media can use to download press materials onto a 2GB USB thumb drive (sponsorship opportunity for Outdoor Retailer naturally) issued upon registration. Press representatives could ask if the reporter needs a printed copy for an immediate deadline and specifically of which materials, then email them immediately for quicker access or have them ready later for pickup.

And while the fitness industry is but a fraction of the size of the outdoor industry, Outdoor Retailer's lead is one EVERY trade show organizer should follow -- eliminate paper whenever and where ever possible! Certainly the press rooms at fitness show's are only a fraction of the size of those at Outdoor Retailer, but the impact will still be felt. Even the Health & Fitness Business show's Exhibitor Service Manual is already electronic.

We know from talking to press representatives that it's not always their fault. In recent email communications, in fact, one told us, "I wish our clients were savvy enough to have electronic press kits."

Frankly, neither SNEWS® nor many of our editorial compatriots, want ever again to see one more piece of paper or another wasted PR promotion with large boxes, nonsense freebies, and silly gimmicks ever.

To that end, SNEWS® would like to offer the following guidelines for effectively communicating with the media:

  1. Place your workbooks, promotional materials, product images, catalogs and other communications in a press-only, password-protected website. Communicate its existence and updating through email. Please label these well so we aren't forced to shovel around in files called things like "Spring 2008 photos," "Product PR," or -- goodness gracious -- generic names like "23985images."
  2. If that’s not yet feasible, make all materials available to the press electronically or digitally. Do not offer a press kit that doubles the damage by including not only a CD, but also everything on it in hard-copy format. Mountain Hardwear deserves kudos for being a leader here, but of course there are others too.
  3. Make all paper communication “opt-in”—that is, the journalist or publication must ask specifically for printed materials to receive them. And then, if you mail catalogs, please don't send them wrapped in plastic or in fancy presentation folders. We adore tabbed file folders since they can go directly into files, if desired, and, if not, the folder can be easily repurposed.
  4. Encourage Outdoor Retailer, IHRSA, Health & Fitness Business, Fly Fishing Retailer, Club Industry, SGMA Spring Market, and any other trade show you attend to guide the industries each serve in these green steps while attending the various trade shows. The desire is there we are sure, but every trade show organizer needs encouragement, resources, and support.

Thanks for listening, and thank you for helping us to make a small difference by working with all of you to reduce the amount of energy we use and waste we generate. Every little bit does help!

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