PaperChain Update
On March 14th, 18 members of the PaperChain Committee met in Chicago, Ill., for a one-day strategic planning session with facilitator Andy Hoh. In January the chairmanship of PaperChain passed from Loren Colburn to Dan Holmes; and when the leadership transition occurs, we often schedule a strategic planning session to set the course for the next two years.

Participants at this session made a clear directive: It is time for PaperChain to get back to the business of marketing the Free Paper industry. This is evident in the slight change made to the PaperChain Mission statement. It has changed from, "PaperChain enhances the profitability of its members by coordinating unified education, marketing and sales programs," to, "PaperChain enhances the value of the members and the free paper industry by coordinating unified standards, education and marketing."

This simple change turns our PRIMARY emphasis towards the mission of education and marketing. We will continue to provide the industry with the Link & Learn educational tool on a monthly schedule. We will also strive to renew our marketing of the industry. Since we hit a home run associating with SRDS, we have focused on direct sales vs. general marketing. The success we have enjoyed from our relationship with SRDS and the advertising some of our members have received as a direct result of that relationship verifies the importance of a marketing strategy.

During our attempt to create a working database for use in national advertising sales efforts, we backed away from the marketing function that has been the foundation of PaperChain's existence. This was a strategic decision to avoid any overlap and lack of consistency with the efforts contracted with Gemstone Media. Our success with Gemstone and the data collection process has been limited due to a variety of reasons and due to shortcomings on both sides of the relationship. We have decided to wait no longer in our effort to educate the advertising buyers of the importance of the Free Publication piece of the overall Media package.

Our data collection will continue in concert with Circulation Verification Council (CVC). Tim Bingaman at CVC has expanded his data collection process to include the compilation of rate information. All audited publications provide demographic and circulation information to CVC on a quarterly schedule, and Tim will secure rate information on this same schedule - information that he will share securely with PaperChain and our internal database. Based on the success of this process we will continue to pursue direct sales in addition to our emphasis on marketing our industry and our products. We hope you will provide your rate information based on the faith and comfort you have with CVC, a long-time provider of audit services for our industry.

We have much to do and through the strategic planning process conducted in Chicago, we have created a structure to accomplish our goals. Three primary initiatives were created at the meeting and leaders have been chosen for each initiative. In the next month our action steps will be developed and PaperChain will announce our specific direction at the AFCP meeting on April 24th in Palm Springs. If you are attending the AFCP annual conference, join us at 3:45 p.m. on Thursday as we spell out our plans. The national, regional and state associations will provide updates at your upcoming conferences as well.

In the meantime, we are interested in your thoughts and your participation. If you have an interest in working on any of our acting committees, please let me know and we will gladly put your enthusiasm and talents to work for the benefit of the industry.

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