The power of print and the 3 Cs

There’s increasing recognition that in a complex communications landscape and whilst there is a continuing drive to digital channels, print still has a vital role to play.

It’s also true that just like all channels, it needs to adapt and evolve to keep its relevance. However, this is not the biggest challenge.

The biggest challenge for organisations is that with the huge volumes of information delivered by an increasing number of available channels is how to reach their target audience with their message.

Channel is only one aspect – the real magic to achieving the desired outcome is from using the right content, delivered through the right channel, in the right context. It’s tricky to get each of these elements right and very easy to get this wrong.

The key is relevance. Since the dawn of civilisation, great content in one shape or another has always been important.

The right content

The starting point in any communications must be great content. Right now there’s a real buzz around the content agenda. However, I find this rather unsurprising as there has always been interest in great content. From the Bible to Harry Potter, and from monthly magazines to the daily newspapers. After all, why do we read anything at all? The answers vary from information, curiosity, knowledge and enlightenment – through to inspiration!

The key, however, is relevance. Since the dawn of civilisation, great content in one shape or another has always been important. Across the planet we have always revered language and pictures that have shaped our humanity – from oral history as stories passing down through tribes and cultures to cave paintings by our earliest ancestors. Even though some of these mediums have evolved (think cave paintings = graffiti), when you look at content that is relevant this is still incredibly powerful (e.g. Banksy).

The right channel

Once you have the right content, now you need to decide on the right channels to deliver the content to the audience. The rapid rise of potential channels, particularly digital, over the last decade has seen us engulfed by an information tsunami to the point of content overload. Sheer volume means it’s become increasingly common for the audience to either miss or simply ignore messages before even reading them. In some cases, the main challenge is selection before we even get to the action we want from the audience!

The right context

The final part of the puzzle is to consider the context of the audience (relevant, appropriate and timely) and use insights, research, consultation, feedback, where possible, to get the desired outcome which should have transactional benefits for both parties. This can be simply summarised as listening.

Consider the information campaign for the EU referendum in June. I’m not talking about the result, more the effectiveness of the campaign.

The cost for the UK Government EU Referendum campaign was £9.3m – comprising £458,000 to produce, £5.94m to print and deliver a leaflet to every household and a further £2.89m on the accompanying website and ‘digital promotion’. This excludes television (debates and promotion) and the PR associated with the campaign.

When you consider the money spent, this sounds a lot, however consider this:

  • Despite £2.89m being spent on the EU Referendum website and digital promotion, the voter registration website crashed as the deadline approached
  • The EU Referendum leaflet delivered by Royal Mail to 27m homes across the UK cost 22p per household
  • The Vote Leave campaign spend focused on the prominent use of billboards, posters and a bus!

Result: Brexit – The UK voted to leave the European Union and in a final irony the UK Parliament website promptly crashed as 4 million people petitioned for a second referendum.

On the face of it, the printed billboards had the most impact, printed leaflets had the biggest reach and both were more cost effective (from a message delivery point of view) than digital channels.

Summing up I would ask you, the reader, to imagine your daily life without any print whatsoever. It’s at that point you would realise that the death of print is as likely as the demise of toilet paper, a point neatly captured in the following video.


I hope you find this article informative and that it helps you develop your own approach.

About the author of this post

The author of this article is Grant Stuart, Senior Business Development Manager at CDS.

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