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Deborah Corn, Intergalactic Ambassador to The Printerverse, Print Media Centr, To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “I Don’t Think That When We Start Introducing Electronic Tools That Print Goes Away.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

April 7, 2021

“I believe in the power of communication and I believe that print is an essential part of that communication chain. Print is not just limited to ink on a piece of paper; it’s anywhere you see a message that isn’t electronic, most likely passed through some sort of printing process. And I just believe that communication evolves. There was a time when people used to communicate with drums, and they communicated with a telegraph, then a telephone and now a cell phone; it’s the same thing with Printed communication. I don’t think that when we start introducing electronic tools that print goes away. I think print is valuable as the bridge.” Deborah Corn…

Deborah Corn is the Intergalactic Ambassador to The Printerverse at Print Media Centr. She is a woman with a mission, empowered and a believer that print and digital, and all the tools that go with it, can work together to benefit the printing and marketing industries. 

From her “Podcasts from The Printerverse” to her “Print Production Professionals,” the #1 print group on LinkedIn, Deborah has utilized her 25+ years of experience working in advertising as a Print Producer to glean and share the most pertinent and up-to-date information out there to assist printers and marketers worldwide. She currently provides print-spiration and resources to print and marketing professionals through Print Media Centr, and works behind-the-scenes with printers, suppliers and industry organizations helping them create meaningful relationships with customers, and achieve success with their social media and content marketing endeavors.

I spoke with Deborah recently and we talked about Print Media Centr and what the company does for the printing industry, and in how Deborah herself became the self-proclaimed Intergalactic Ambassador to The Printerverse. Hers is an intriguing journey of a woman who had the mindset of ‘if I can dream it, I can achieve it.’ And even during a pandemic, she is achieving it. 

So please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Deborah Corn, Intergalactic Ambassador to The Printerverse, Print Media Centr.

But first the sound-bites:

On women in the printing business: There are definitely a lot of women in print and printing, they’re just not as visible and that is exactly the problem, they are too behind-the-scenes. But I actually did start in advertising, so it was a bit of a shock to me to start being around less women. When I started going to trade shows and things like that, I started noticing that I was actually treated differently.

On switching to print from advertising: I actually lost my job and started a LinkedIn group called “Print Production Professionals” because I had run out of people I knew to network with. LinkedIn had just opened up groups and I thought, ‘Hmm, here’s an idea. Why don’t I bring all the people who might know about jobs to me instead of me looking for them?’

On why she believes in print in this digital age: I believe in the power of communication and I believe that print is an essential part of that communication chain. Print is not just limited to ink on a piece of paper; it’s anywhere you see a message that isn’t electronic, most likely passed through some sort of printing process. And I just believe that communication evolves.

On any challenges she’s had to face in the printing industry: The biggest problem that I had was establishing some sort of credibility with people. It was very difficult for me. And people didn’t really want to talk to me. There was the established trade media and they knew who all those people were, but who was I and why was I sticking a camera in their faces? (Laughs) So it was very difficult for me, but I started with the events and with all the exhibitors, because if I was working with the event, I must have passed some sort of credibility test. And from there I started developing my own relationships. 

On whether she ever thinks she’s crazy for continuing to promote print when the world is so digital: It would be naive of me not to think that other people think like you do, that this digital thing disrupted everything so much, but I am truly a believer in evolution, that only the strong should survive.

On what role she thinks print should play in today’s media world to survive: There is a unique moment in time right now where the world is about to reset and there’s a lot of information that has to be communicated in that. And I think print still has a big role to play in the world reopening, resetting itself, and reestablishing itself. Everybody needs to recommunicate with everybody, even if it’s just “these are our new hours,” “this is our procedure if you want to come to the vet or the doctor’s office,” whatever it might be. You can take your chances on an email, but that’s a pretty big risk.

On anything she’d like to add: Print Media Centr provides print-spiration and resources to print marketing professionals. We do that through podcasts from the Printerverse, through initiatives like “Girls Who Print,” “Project Peacock,” which is coming back this year and we’re excited for that.

On what makes her tick and click and get out of bed in the mornings: Perseverance gets me out of bed. I’m not going to let a pandemic take me down. I’ve had to reinvent what I do; I’ve had to reinvent my products and services. I’ve learned some really big lessons along the way. The biggest one, and I hope everyone listens to this one if you ever have customers, make sure you have what they refer to as a diversified customer base, because I did not.

On how she unwinds in the evenings: What I do to relax might seem crazy, but I watch RuPaul’s Drag Race. It takes me out of the harsh reality of the world and it gives me an insight into acceptance in a way that’s different and it makes me feel good. There is creativity and it’s funny as hell.

On what keeps her up at night: What keeps me up at night is that I’m afraid that sometimes I’m like Fred Flintstone with my feet pushing the car. Being a solo preneur and a solo entrepreneur is very difficult now. Even though I’m trying to streamline how I’m running my business, what keeps me up at night is that I’m farther back getting to that point that I was almost at of being able to actually afford someone else working with me. Someone who has a stake in the company as opposed to a freelancer.

And now the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ interview with Deborah Corn, Intergalactic Ambassador to The Printerverse, Print Media Centr.

Samir Husni: As we have just concluded the International Women’s Month of March, you’re one of the few women in the field of print and printing. What was your beginning into this business and how did it happen?

Deborah Corn: There are definitely a lot of women in print and printing, they’re just not as visible and that is exactly the problem, they are too behind-the-scenes. But I actually did start in advertising, so it was a bit of a shock to me to start being around less women. When I started going to trade shows and things like that, I started noticing that I was actually treated differently. 

And that was a new experience for me because my importance dropped.  There was an assumption that I wasn’t the owner of the company; I wasn’t the one who was going to make the final decision on writing the check; or I wouldn’t understand the technology. I know that’s very stereotypical, but it’s really how I felt and it is the experience I hear from other women out there. 

I didn’t really start in the printing industry and it makes me sad that I might have the visibility, but I wish that more women would really step out and up.

Samir Husni: You came from advertising; so why did you make the switch? 

Deborah Corn: I actually lost my job and started a LinkedIn group called “Print Production Professionals” because I had run out of people I knew to network with. LinkedIn had just opened up groups and I thought, ‘Hmm, here’s an idea. Why don’t I bring all the people who might know about jobs to me instead of me looking for them?’ 

So I opened the group for print customers, people who worked at advertising agencies, headhunters, and printers. And because humans have free will, they started using the group for their own purposes, which was things along the lines of does anyone know what this is called? Does anyone know where I can find a resource for this? Or my printer won’t give me a refund and I think I deserve one; what do you think about that? 

An executive creative director wrote me an email thanking me for the group and told me it was like having 500 colleagues down the hall because there was 500 people in the group. Now there are over 110,000 people and it’s the number one print group in the world, but at that time that was a very significant email to get, especially since I had worked in advertising agencies for so long. An executive creative director wrote a complimentary email and sent it off to somebody. They stopped their entire day to do that. 

I actually stared at that email for a long time. And I thought if that person found the value in it, then there’s a bigger value that I’m not understanding and I’m going to stick with it. And as the group started growing and I realized that I had this unique vantage point and I could see that printers were having questions that manufacturers could answer and manufacturers were trying to introduce technology that printers didn’t know about. 

That’s when I declared myself the Intergalactic Ambassador to The Printerverse because I felt that through this group I made myself a giant connection hub for the printing industry. And I have just kind of gone from that for the last 11 years and it worked out because I didn’t come from the mindset that I didn’t have the power to do what I wanted, and that I couldn’t step up and stand up and speak and blog and attend events and even speak at events. I thought I had every right to do that like everybody else.

Unfortunately, it became like a trailblazing thing, but it wasn’t something that I thought I couldn’t do because I hadn’t had that experience in the advertising agency. 

Samir Husni: Your tagline is “Print Long and Prosper.” Why do you believe in the power of print in this digital age?

Deborah Corn: I believe in the power of communication and I believe that print is an essential part of that communication chain. Print is not just limited to ink on a piece of paper; it’s anywhere you see a message that isn’t electronic, most likely passed through some sort of printing process. And I just believe that communication evolves. There was a time when people used to communicate with drums, and they communicated with a telegraph, then a telephone and now a cell phone; it’s the same thing with Printed communication. I don’t think that when we start introducing electronic tools that print goes away. I think print is valuable as the bridge.

For example, there is only so much real estate on a postcard. But you can capture my attention, give me enough targeted messaging that it interests me, and then I can scan a QR code, or go the website, do whatever I need to do there, and continue on the rest of my journey electronically if I choose to, but that’s the communication that put me into an action. 

I do not do the same thing with emails. Most of the time I’m deleting them; I do not opt in for text messaging. To me, that is my last privacy boundary. But I also feel there’s a lot more going on about privacy in general on the planet and print is a privacy tool.

Samir Husni: What have been some of the challenges that you’ve had to face in the printing industry? And how did you overcome them? 

Deborah Corn: The biggest problem that I had was establishing some sort of credibility with people. It was very difficult for me. When I first started, social media had also just started and I thought, okay, I’ll learn this thing called Twitter. And I started going to events and I was trying to get pictures or information so I could report back to the group. That’s what I was doing because I was the ambassador. I was out in the world and I was reporting back to everybody on what was out there because everyone didn’t get to the shows. 

And people didn’t really want to talk to me. There was the established trade media and they knew who all those people were, but who was I and why was I sticking a camera in their faces? (Laughs) So it was very difficult for me, but I started with the events and with all the exhibitors, because if I was working with the event, I must have passed some sort of credibility test. And from there I started developing my own relationships. 

So, it was very difficult in the beginning to get into the lane of a media person, but then I learned very quickly that’s not the lane that I wanted to be in. That as a lone entrepreneur, I couldn’t possibly do the same thing that a NAPCO Media could do, that would be impossible. So what could I do that was different? 

Because I had these community relationships, that’s what I was able to do. I was able to directly find out information that I knew the audience wanted to know and report that back in. And be able to tell them things that they didn’t know because I was able to attend the shows. People didn’t have relationships like that with the audience, they treated the audience like subscribers or members or users. And to me, the audience is the person I hung out with at the trade show or the person I emailed last week or someone I talked to on the phone. 

So it was a different relationship that I had with them and also because I don’t sell into them, I have a different credibility level. People realize that I don’t say things unless I want to. I have no motivation for it. As we see publications move more toward these advertorial models, I hear it all the time from the printers in particular, that they look at these newsletters or these magazines and it’s just sponsored articles. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, but is it 100 percent accurate to what’s really happening or is it something someone wants you to know? 

So, in a way I’m kind of the anti that, but not in a “gotcha’” kind of way, but more of a “let’s talk about the things that nobody wants to talk about.” Such as if your software is all that, then why aren’t more people using it? Let’s get to the heart of the matter here. I always say that I represent the people because I am the people. That helps a lot now, but it was very difficult to get to that point.

Samir Husni: You’re preaching “Print Long and Prosper,” yet all these digital devices and digital platforms are hounding at you. Do you ever look at your reflection in the mirror and think “I’m crazy?”

Deborah Corn: Yes, I think I experienced that the most in 2008 during the recession. People would ask me what I did for a living and I didn’t really have an answer. I would tell them that I was a professional networker. (Laughs) And they would ask what that meant and I would answer I don’t really know but something is happening all around me and I’m just going to stick with it.

It would be naive of me not to think that other people think like you do, that this digital thing disrupted everything so much, but I am truly a believer in evolution, that only the strong should survive. Often at an event I show a picture of the yellow pages, which of course used to be the phone book, and I’m saying that because not everybody knows what the yellow pages are anymore and I have to explain that this is where you used to find everything. And I would ask guess who was upset when that went away? Printers and paper companies. Guess who wasn’t upset? The rest of Earth because that is now the Internet. 

So I don’t see it the same way. I see it as, if there is a technology that can amplify or support a communication or work together with another communication, then that’s amazing. If you can’t produce something that works in that system, that’s the problem, not the evolution of communication. You cannot stop evolution.

Samir Husni: What role do you think print should play today to survive?

Deborah Corn: There is a unique moment in time right now where the world is about to reset and there’s a lot of information that has to be communicated in that. And I think print still has a big role to play in the world reopening, resetting itself, and reestablishing itself. Everybody needs to recommunicate with everybody, even if it’s just “these are our new hours,” “this is our procedure if you want to come to the vet or the doctor’s office,” whatever it might be. You can take your chances on an email, but that’s a pretty big risk.

I really believe that if you are part of the world that we live in, there are certain things that are right for print and the things that aren’t, you should have the partners in place to execute those jobs. There are other ways to keep money coming in. For example, digital asset management. There are other ways that printers could expand, so I just don’t think it’s all about a piece of paper, or a piece of print, or the printed thing. It’s about how the whole system works now or how it should work. Or what’s the most effective and efficient way for it to work for that particular customer. 

And a printer has to have a solution for all of that, whether it’s under their roof or through partners. That is how we come out of this as only the strong survive.

Samir Husni: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Deborah Corn: Print Media Centr provides print-spiration and resources to print marketing professionals. We do that through podcasts from the Printerverse, through initiatives like “Girls Who Print,” “Project Peacock,” which is coming back this year and we’re excited for that. 

I also present at events and personally help companies with training salespeople, although I don’t think of it as sales training, I think of it as relationship coaching. Being a print customer for all of those years, I certainly have been on the end of a million pitches from people and I understand what works and what doesn’t. 

I like to think that we’re a free and friendly resource for the printing industry and the marketing industry. I have a very close connection with the print customers and the students, it’s one of my distinct honors every year, except for last year, of course, to come to the University of Mississippi for the ACT Experience and I’m really glad it’s back later this year. 

I can tell you that the students really do like Print Media Centr because all of our writers are regular people. No one’s preaching or selling anything. We’re just trying to give people ideas on how to think differently, do business differently, and think about print differently. 

Samir Husni: What makes you tick and click and motivates you to get out of bed in the mornings?

Deborah Corn: Perseverance gets me out of bed. I’m not going to let a pandemic take me down. I’ve had to reinvent what I do; I’ve had to reinvent my products and services. I’ve learned some really big lessons along the way. The biggest one, and I hope everyone listens to this one if you ever have customers, make sure you have what they refer to as a diversified customer base, because I did not. 

All of the people that I work with I don’t call them customers, I call them partners because they have to help me give information to people. But I realized that a big portion of that was related to events and when that rug was pulled out from under everybody, I kind of just stared at a wall and thought okay, that’s what they meant by a diversified customer base. 

I don’t want to say that I clawed my way out of a hole, because it wasn’t that bad. I actually lived most of my existence online. We came out a few years ago and primarily was out, so it wasn’t that hard to make the transition back, but the information that people needed was different, so I had to really look for that. So, that makes me proud every day that I wake up, go to my desk and still have the business, and in some ways it’s a better business because I was able to “kill all my darlings,” which is a literary expression, and stop doing the things that I was just doing to do them because I got into a pattern and it was comfortable. 

And push myself out and be willing to say no, this is what this costs and I’m not willing to negotiate on my time anymore. And it made me a little tougher, actually, when it came to that. If I’m going to put my time into it now, it has to be worth it for me too, not just the audience. There are always things I’ll do just for the audience, but I realized that I was too heavy on that side. Unfortunately, a lot of people are getting like, ‘I’d love to help you, here’s how I can help you’ with a little proposal attached, as opposed to ‘Sure, I’ll help you, no problem.’ But I just don’t have time for that anymore.

Samir Husni: How do you unwind in the evenings?

Deborah Corn: What I do to relax might seem crazy, but I watch RuPaul’s Drag Race. It takes me out of the harsh reality of the world and it gives me an insight into acceptance in a way that’s different and it makes me feel good. There is creativity and it’s funny as hell. 

But ultimately, when the drag queens tell their stories, these are not great stories about how they were treated by their families or hardships that they had along the way because they were gay or they were drag queens, but just to hear how they overcame all of that and had the balls literally and figuratively to put on a frock and go and be themselves no matter what, and the freedom that gave them, is so inspirational to me. I highly recommend it. 

I binge watched it twice in 2020 and there were days when I needed it just to smile. It’s so creative and so amazing, it really helped me a lot. 

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Deborah Corn: What keeps me up at night is that I’m afraid that sometimes I’m like Fred Flintstone with my feet pushing the car. Being a solo preneur and a solo entrepreneur is very difficult now. Even though I’m trying to streamline how I’m running my business, what keeps me up at night is that I’m farther back getting to that point that I was almost at of being able to actually afford someone else working with me. Someone who has a stake in the company as opposed to a freelancer. 

So, that keeps me up at night. I feel that the pandemic really was a slap in the face with the events and everything that went away. I’m trying to get back to the point where I’m doing things, where I can surround myself with people who are also invested in that and hopefully I can get to the point where I can take Print Media Centr to the next level. The podcasts help because I can speak things, but I wish my site could do more. But that keeps me up at night; I don’t want to become obsolete because I can’t keep up with the electronic mediums.

Samir Husni: Thank you. 

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