New role at PRSA offers challenges, opportunities

In many ways, Dr. Truncale’s departure from AMSP/NAPL/NAQP (we understand they are looking for a more manageable name) is the end of an era, and he will be missed. But in other ways, his move to PRSA makes a great deal of sense, and there is still overlap with the printing industry. Here’s what he has to say about his 30 years at NAPL and the adventure he is heading towards.

WTT: Joe, what prompted this move?

JT: Oddly enough, it started out as a casual conversation. As you know, I teach as an adjunct at NYU in the Graphic Communications Program, which now includes integrated marketing and PR. An NYU board member mentioned the opportunity and asked me if I knew anyone. I didn’t really have any names for him, and after a few weeks went by, he called me and suggested that I should look at the opportunity based on the fact that I have a Ph.D. in media culture and communications, a CAE, and have been CEO at NAPL for 11 years. That set in motion a series of discussions that got us to where we are today.

WTT: Thirty years is a long time … parting must be sweet sorrow, as they say.

JT: It is. But first of all, I am staying through the end of the year, and there is a lot of work to do with budgets and more. Secondly, we are fortunate that in the merger we did with AMSP, one of the assets we acquired was Ken, who had been the AMSP CEO for the previous five years. He was also a past chairman of NAPL so he knows both organizations very well. He was willing and able to take on the role, and I have full confidence that he will do a good job. If I had done this a year ago, it would have presented a different set of challenges than it does today.

WTT: Looking back over the 30 years, you have, I am sure, seen many, many changes and lots of accomplishments. What stands out most as you look back? What are you most proud of?

JT: The way I would characterize it is not so much what I accomplished. I work with a group of very talented people, so anything accomplished was done as part of an exceptional team of colleagues, and a supportive and encouraging Board of volunteer leaders who understood their role to guide strategy and direction, leaving the execution of the plan to the team. That has worked very well. We weren’t successful at everything, but on balance, a lot of good things happened because of the team.

In more recent years, we have moved toward providing more business advisory services, and that business has grown nicely over the past several years, now comprising one of our major revenue streams and a business we weren’t even in before.

WTT: What set you on that path?

JT: We felt there would be fewer smaller companies, with roll-ups and tuck-ins, as well as larger companies that might need this type of service. I call it membership on steroids. It fulfills our mission of helping people run their businesses more successfully, and it is encouraging to see the growth and development of those companies who have participated in these programs. We continue to enjoy a strong Board and volunteer leaders who want to serve the association, and that has always been gratifying.

WTT: What attracted you to the PRSA?

JT: As the discussions developed, it seemed like it was the right time for a change. It is an interesting organization, with 22,000 members and 13,000 student members. The Society is very involved with good programs at many universities around the country that offer Masters degrees in marketing and PR.

WTT: It sounds like the work you did to achieve your doctorate was kind of a natural lead-in to this position.

JT: They felt that my having that academic credential would be useful. I pursued that because I could, and I felt fortunate to be able to do it. Not everyone gets to pursue an advanced degree while they are working full-time in a busy job. Also, I figured if it was good enough for Dr. Joe Webb … [laughing]. Every learning situation you are in adds to your portfolio of knowledge that you have. This particular educational pursuit really helped me. I take great joy in learning. I read a lot, and I am interested in managerial psychology and how organizations work, as well as how effective communication takes place. The work helped me get a broader, yet deeper, perspective on a lot of issues relative to media and communications. It is hard to describe how I carry that over to my work.

WTT: What opportunities do you see as you assume your new role in January?

JT: There is a blurring of the lines between PR and marketing agencies. PR is moving more into integrated marketing, and there is more measurement of PR activities being sought out by agencies and big corporations that have an active in-house PR function. The opportunity there is to broaden the range of approaches and disciplines that PR specialists have addressed in the past. PR is really a close cousin to marketing and the line between the two continues to erode. Also, when you think about how people communicate electronically, there is more opportunity for them to create problems for themselves. So there is a need for communication professionals who can put out a cogent, consistent message and get the imaging, branding and messaging right, affecting the perceptions of a defined audience.

WTT: It sort of makes me think of Richard Sherman’s pre-Super Bowl meltdown and the way the situation was handled following that to frame the actions in perhaps a different way than they might have been.

JT: The most obvious situations are those that come into the public eye, like the one you cite, and the recent troubles of the NFL leadership. Those are most obvious because they make headlines. But the other piece is the day-in, day-out work that requires a professional approach to direct and guide the thoughts and opinions of a target audience, toward a product or service or organization. That has all changed with electronic communications and social media. PR professionals must monitor a wide variety of sources to keep up with the conversations that are taking place. And customers are driving that discourse electronically. It takes a different kind of approach to get a handle on who is saying what about your organization and what the potential business impact is. These are very real business issues.

WTT: So from a strategic perspective, what thoughts would you share with our readers on how all of this might impact their businesses?

JT: There is a lot I will carry over from the print world into my new role. Digitization and the microprocessor changed everything about the manner in which people communicate, people running printing and mailing companies as well as people build strategies for companies and monitor and manage their effects. At AMSP/NAPL/NAQP, we tell members that they will increasingly be asked about results. Printing or mailing a piece has to drive results. Historically, members have been more production focused because they were called to do that. But now, customers are saying, “If I am going to print or mail a piece, I want to measure it. So whether it is print, electronic, advertising, the owners of the effort are interested in its efficacy. Measurement is important. And it all revolves around the microprocessor.

WTT: I find it interesting that you frame it that way. I’m currently reading Walter Isaacson’s new book, The Innovators, and the history he depicts in the book would certainly support what you are saying.

JT: I would add that if your strategy going forward doesn’t involve the microprocessor at some level, you should think long and hard about it. I recently looked at the Amazon Fire phone. You just point it at a product, and it not only recognizes it but offers you an opportunity to buy it, right on the spot, right from the phone. The number of business processes a solution like this can disintermediate is incalculable. It’s all changing, and it all revolves around the microprocessor.

WTT: Final closing thoughts?

JT: I know there are challenges for the printing industry, but there are at least as many opportunities as there are challenges. Not everyone will take advantage of them. For me personally, having had an opportunity to be at NAPL this length of time with four major responsibilities during my tenure, the first thing that pops into my mind is gratitude. I always had a lot of support from our volunteer leadership and colleagues on the staff. It has been a great experience. Now I am looking forward to a new set of challenges as I turn the page here.