In an opening session of the Association of Directory Publishers‘ 2008 Mid-Year Convention in San Antonio, YP Talk Publisher Ken Clark gave a close-up view of how negative PR in print and online is eroding the perception of the Yellow Pages industry. Describing these sites as “slowly chewing away the credibility of the industry,” Clark described them as “paper termites who are slowly eating away at the industry’s credibility with murky research, hearsay and the replication of misinformation.”
Over the past 12 months, the level of bad press has far outweighed the good press on what Yellow Pages companies have done. Recent coverage on TheDeets.com and Tracy Coenen’s “Top 25 Things Disappearing from America” are just a few highlights of the impact bloggers can have on the reputation of the industry when they place themselves in the role of majority thinkers on U.S. print Yellow Pages.
According to Clark, this altered perception of the industry is creating a credit crunch in the financial market and the misconception that the product is rubbish, a danger to the environment, a yellow supporter or a smart green consumer. The question is, what if anything is the industry doing to correct this or take the lead in how it is being perceived? Clark set out a challenge for the ADP attendees to:
- Rally their employees by supporting companies that support Yellow Pages and help to put a local face to the brand by showing the good the company does in the community and for the environment.
- Fight fire with fire by dealing quickly with bad PR and implementing a fact checking group to help set the record straight within their communities.
- Use the advertiser and consumer base as a means for getting out the facts with e-newsletters and Web site content, and highlight how people and companies are benefitting from the product.
- Use the product itself to make the point on bag messages about the environment and value of Yellow Pages, in directory content and even in green-friendly sections within the book.
The goal, as Clark laid it out, was to be “strategically bold but tactically careful.” Some of the key tactics include:
- Offering a third-party opt-out clearinghouse to get under the opt-out movement.
- Offering a win-win proposition to print detractors by allowing the White Pages product to be all online so the print product could be eliminated.
- Doing a better job of showing the eco-friendliness of the product in relation to other forms of advertising such as direct mail.
Clark concluded by saying, “The goal is not necessarily to win the battle but to level the playing field so Yellow Pages can compete fairly with other local media options. We can’t wait until it is too late; the time to take action has already arrived.”