As part of Print+Promo Marketing’s ongoing feature, Executive Perspectives, we get to know leading professionals in the print and promotional industry. This month, we interviewed Mardra Sikora, CEO of Pocket Folders Fast, Omaha, Neb. Here, she explains how she’s setting the mood for 2021, advocates for personalized messaging and tactile effects, and explores where we go from here.
How did you get started in this industry, and what path did you take to land in your current role?
Mardra Sikora: Print is a lifelong passion, and I am a fourth-generation leader in the family business. I love to tell stories about my childhood in the shop and my passion for print, especially folders. But we only have one page for this interview, so I’ll leave it there for now.
How do you set goals for yourself? For your business?
MS: Personality and strength tests show that I am a “strategizer.” I like planning, having and implementing a plan. I really like reaching targets and seeing improvement. However, 2020 was not an ideal environment for these skills and motivators, and I had to adjust my thinking as the year went on and as we entered the new year with its traditional checking of goals and re-upping the expectations. As a consequence, in 2021 the keyword and attitude for myself and our team is: focus. Sure, we still have plans and goals; however, this year our first emphasis is to focus on the specific, the small stuff as they say ... each job, each area and each day. Focus on what we each can control. This mentality encourages purpose and improvement on individual and community scales. I believe a successful reboot and growth will come from this effort.
How does the economy continue to affect the industry?
MS: In previous recessions, the knee-jerk reaction to reduce marketing efforts led to long-term reduction in print production, so, of course, the shrinking economy is worrisome. Also, I’m not optimistic for a quick restart. However, the circumstances this time around involve a greater need for education, connection and business visibility, which is what our industry supplies and facilitates. Also, “The Economy” doesn’t place orders for print and promotional items, people do.
Therefore, the most important issue is to react (and proact) to consumer behavior. Our industry must provide solutions for brand managers and businesses of every size to reach and connect with consumers and clients. Print is a tangible, effective and proven tool to this end.
Certain markets that are deeply affected, like travel and hospitality for example, have experienced deep cuts in the current environment, and the lack of required print and promo collateral will affect our industry as a consequence for years to come. Moving on requires responding to the needs for new and different products in the market, innovative solutions and emphasizing the ways that print is personal, emotional and powerful. Examples shown by manufacturers and distributors in our industry include exploring large-format print options, kitting and personalizing direct-to-consumer home projects, and short-run variable packaging options.
What keeps you up at night?
MS: Quite honestly, my first focus over the last year has been balancing the health and safety of my family, my team and our colleagues, while also keeping our business as productive as possible. Nearly everything is still “harder than it needs to be.” The supply, equipment and employment challenges we continue to face are compounded and largely beyond my control. That makes me a little crazy.
What do you think is the most exciting, cutting-edge thing your company is doing right now?
MS: I’ve been banging the drum about the importance of choosing the best stock, finishing and personalization options in order to create an impact with consumers, potential clients and now even employees. We have a most unique array of technologies that can provide extremely personalized messaging in addition to tactile finishing options that generate an emotional impact. By offering variable print on pocket folders and cartons, we are helping brands fulfill their message of staying connected. We also have dimensional UV options and laser die-cutting abilities that enable short-run projects to include high-end, tactile effects that [elicit] an emotional response. Marketers are underlining the importance of “meaningful connections,” and our technologies ... speak to the power of print.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
MS: I’m very proud to have spoken alongside my son, Marcus Sikora, at the United Nations in 2017. This opportunity came after we published the children’s book, “Black Day: The Monster Rock Band,” and voiced characters in the animated short of the same name. I have also authored, co-authored and contributed to several other books and articles. Publishers include Simon and Schuster (“The Parent’s Guide to Down Syndrome”), HuffPost, Medium and more, but “Black Day: The Monster Rock Band” is definitely the most fun.