It had all of the makings of a public relations coup: an unexpected announcement, a national event, a cause that virtually everyone supports, even a cute mascot. It should’ve been a homerun. So…why wasn’t it?
Earlier this month, Toshiba announced the creation of a National No-Print Day on October 23, 2012 and, in doing so, created a firestorm in the printing industry. The day was created in an effort to “raise awareness of the impact printing has on our planet,” but it appears that the campaign creators didn’t quite think things through. The campaign, which featured a new website (www.NationalNoPrintDay.com – since removed) and a mascot aptly-named “Tree,” blanketly categorized office waste and inefficiencies as “printing” and encouraged people to pledge NOT to print on Oct. 23. For every pledge, Toshiba said it would plant one tree as part of the company’s effort to plant 150 million trees by 2025.
“Not so fast,” said the printing industry, the Printing Industries of America (PIA) leading the charge. In an open letter to association members, PIA President and CEO Michael Makin responded, saying, “We find such a proposal ridiculous and an insult to the more than 800,000 Americans who directly owe their livelihood to our industry.” He added, “Toshiba claims that our industry has failed ‘to make the link between printing waste and its negative impacts on our landfills, natural resources and the environment.’” Makin went on to detail and compare the environmental “costs” associated with print and other mediums and pointed out that our country has 20 percent more trees that it did on the first Earth Day 40 years ago.
PR campaigns such as this one are created to raise awareness and to move people to act in support of your cause. It did both of those things…but NOT in the direction that Toshiba intended. Printers across the country were spurred to action. Hundreds of them called PIA to register their opposition and many of them added that they would be boycotting Toshiba. PIA’s own campaign called The Value of Print received renewed interest and printers banded together to defend and support their way of life. That’s PR success.