The quick printing industry is changing and the position that will be affected the most is the prepress department. Prepress has been constantly evolving over the past two decades, but the latest changes will put even more pressure on the prepress staff to learn new skills. No longer will prepress people just worry about getting images to print. They will have to make sure those images will communicate the customer’s message on a number of different media.
Before the recession, printing was the primary choice for moving and collecting information for most businesses. After two to three years of trying to survive, businesses have found other means to get their message to the masses. Today’s lower sales aren’t caused by a bad economy. They exist because businesses no longer use printing the way they use to.
Print owners have to begin looking for new revenue streams within the communication industry to augment the print they do now. Printers will still print, but it won’t be at the same levels as before. Printers will have to integrate print with other communication tools. Logical extensions will be one-to-one messaging and VDP, designing and selling websites, mailing services, managing social media, and managing and distributing email and mobile marketing messages. One of the most important new services will be creating and managing customer’s content.
The prepress department of the future will still have a technician who can get files to print directly to plate and to digital output devices. It will still need to have a designer who creates files from scratch for the customer. Someone will have to manage the workflow and make sure automation is used whenever possible to lower costs.
The prepress staff will still be required to interface with customers and salespeople to make sure digital standards are applied to all customer files. Today, in some shops, one person does all of this. In others, the tasks are assigned to specialists who work in their own areas of expertise. In the future it will be hard to find one person with all of these skills.
New services will require new skills from the prepress staff. Someone will have to understand databases and be able to work with Microsoft Excel and common database managers. Prepress will have to have someone who understands variable data printing and who can use the tools to create one-to-one messaging.
The prepress staff will have to learn HTML, the markup language for websites. They will have to be able to manage information and integrate the customer’s message into a website. This will also include linking storefronts, shopping carts, RSS feeds, and other tools into the site.
Most quick printers have a prepress person who can learn these new skills. The amount of work that the printer has will determine how many people will need to be assigned to that department. The old worry printers had was that their prepress person wasn’t busy enough. The new worry is whether the prepress person will have enough hours in the day to get the work completed.
Next Gen Talent
Finding people with the skills to do these jobs won’t be as hard as it was in the early days of desktop publishing. High schools, trade schools, and colleges are teaching website design and HTML. Understanding data is a required skill for anyone in business today, so technical schools are turning out people with experience in Excel and database management. The people with those skills are available when you have to add them.
Content creation will be the most critical skill that printers will have to add to their company. Few printers have someone who can write and edit copy and keep up with the daily grind to create content. The content created for the customer will find its way to printed pieces, the Web, mailing, email blasts, tweets, and more. The success of the content creator will depend on how well he can create content for the various information distribution channels.