Lessons from the Yellow Pages

Not long ago, the phone book was an important part of daily life. Now, it’s virtually nonexistent. What lessons can we learn?

Someone recently brought up the Yellow Pages at Candor.  

 

We are fortunate to have many generations represented on our team. Let’s just say a few members were unfamiliar with the phone book (as opposed to saying something harsher like, “it was before their time”).  

 

They don’t recall hundreds of pages thumping onto the porch once a year, one book listing everyone’s address and phone number, and the other showing every business in town, organized alphabetically and by type. Plus, it was universally understood the businesses featured in ads were the cream of the crop. 

 

The Yellow Pages — I can’t even type it without thinking, “Let your fingers do the walking” — truly were the first place someone would look when seeking a business or finding something to do. It may seem incredibly low-tech, but it had a few similarities to Googling. What’s the difference between trying a few search terms and deciding whether you should flip to “carpenter” or “handyman”?  

 

In fact, those onionskin books hold three key lessons for today’s businesses:  

  • Nothing lasts forever. Thirty years ago, nobody could have imagined a world where phone books were on the brink of extinction. They boasted near-universal adoption and no competition. Then someone invented something faster, easier and more convenient. It happened to radio, it happened to milkmen, and it can happen to tech giants (and it may be starting for Facebook). 

  • De-cluttering feels good. Many people have trouble letting go of things. We keep business cards we didn’t want, files we don’t need and knickknacks we collected mindlessly. The same was true for phone books: they stayed in drawers and on shelves just in case. But nobody could ever say what emergency might require looking up phone numbers. Tossing those books in the recycling bin freed up space for better, more useful tools. 

  • Change is not optional; it’s inevitable and necessary. Candor started as a traditional PR agency. We now offer digital advertising and social media services, video production and whatever else our clients need to tell their stories effectively. It has allowed us to survive and grow, and we are always looking for what we need to learn next to stay relevant. 

You won’t find us sitting in the recycling bin, and we don’t want to see your company there either. Do what you do, excel at it, but understand someday it may not be valued in the marketplace.  

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