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PPAI Named One Of The 50 Best Places To Work By Outside Magazine

I am excited to share with you that PPAI has been named to Outside magazine’s 50 Best Places to Work. At PPAI we have incredibly talented and hard-working team members who strive every day to connect with each other and serve the communities we work and live in to make a meaningful difference. I couldn’t be prouder of and more grateful for our PPAI team members, for the amazing culture, work environment and community impact we have here at PPAI.

Paul

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Outside logo-topPPAI has been named by Outside magazine as one of the Best Places to Work in 2019. PPAI checked in at No. 35 on the organization’s annual list of the nation’s 50 top employers.

“We are honored to be named to this list of exceptional companies with warm and welcoming environments prioritizing work-life balance,” said PPAI President and CEO, Paul Bellantone, CAE. “This recognition acknowledges our past efforts and helps set goals for the future as a best-in-class employer. There is a sense of accomplishment and community that comes from working at PPAI that I personally believe is hard to find elsewhere.”

PPAI Top Place to Work - Outside Magazine 2019wide

PPAI has been named by Outside magazine as one of the Best Places to Work in 2019. PPAI checked in at No. 35 on the organization’s annual list of the nation’s 50 top employers.

PPAI offers numerous perks throughout the year, including an annual animal-themed obstacle race to raise money for animal rescue. The organization also organizes fun-filled, team-building fitness challenges such as marshmallow archery, black-light dodgeball, ax throwing and escape rooms. Committees comprised of staff also organize an annual cornhole tournament and two annual staff outings to go along with quarterly birthday celebrations, in addition to Halloween costume contests, chili cook-offs, on-site massages and food truck treats.

“Working at PPAI encompasses purposeful and rewarding work as we advocate for and advance the promotional products industry, while promoting a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere,” said PPAI Human Resources Manager Doris Sweely. “For PPAI to be recognized as one of The 50 Best Places to Work in 2019 is a proud moment both professionally and personally. It reinforces that we have a true family culture where work-life balance is modeled and encouraged.”

This is PPAI’s first time being honored by Outside, which has compiled a “Best Places to Work” list since 2008. PPAI was one of just two organizations in Texas to be honored; C1S Group in Dallas landed at No. 48.

Outside is America’s leading active lifestyle magazine, with more than two million readers a month. For more than 30 years, the magazine has covered travel, sports, adventure, health and fitness, as well as the personalities, environment and style and culture of the world “outside.” Along with receiving many other accolades, Outside is the only magazine to win three consecutive National Magazine Awards for General Excellence.

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ACTION ALERT: PPAI Leads Industry In Opposing Bill Targeting Promotional Products

In response to Sen. Joni Ernst’s proposed bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Rand Paul, to limit spending on promotional products by federal agencies and departments, PPAI has issued this action alert to strongly oppose the legislation. Please add your voice to ours and ask your members of Congress to oppose proposed bill S. 2722 that would be very harmful to our industry.

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Promotional Products Industry Supports Responsible Spending And The Effective Use of Promotional Products to Promote Essential Government Programs, Urges Congress to Do the Same 

Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa has proposed bill S. 2722 assigned to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs to cut government spending that takes direct aim at the promotional products industry. The legislation is co-sponsored by Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. The limits on promotional spending are included in a larger effort to reduce spending on public relations and advertising by federal agencies and departments.

Promotional Products Association International, the not-for-profit association for more than 533,000 industry professionals and more than 15,800 corporate members of the $24.7 billion-dollar promotional products industry, encourages industry members to take action now by emailing Sen. Ernst and Sen. Paul, and their legislators in Washington, D.C. to ensure they are watching out for us.

I have petitioned the Senator and reiterated, while it might be tempting to limit the purchase of promotional products in order to yield some short-term savings, in the long term this prohibition may unintentionally diminish the good work of federal agencies. Time and again, promotional products have proven themselves to be the most cost-effective way to reach a targeted audience with the highest rate of recall, reaction and return on investment.

Promotional products educate, recruit, highlight safety awareness, urge organ donations and encourage healthy living and lifestyle choices. Promotional products recognize and reward employee achievements and inspire action. Promotional products are used to celebrate milestones, sign legislation and reinforce critical messages.

PPAI is in favor of balanced budgets and the responsible use of tax payer dollars, but it would be counterproductive for Congress to pass a bill that would eliminate any opportunity for the government to use promotional products in a powerful and effective manner. It will take a concerted effort by the entire industry—including practitioners, companies and representative national and regional trade organizations—to work together to advocate for our businesses, products and profession.

PPAI’s goal is to ensure that promotional products are viewed in a positive light. The Association will work diligently to achieve that goal.

Please contact your members of Congress and urge them to oppose this harmful bill.

TAKE ACTION TODAY

“The PPAI Expo—the glue that holds the industry together.”

Special message from Paul Bellantone, CAE, PPAI President and CEO and Mary Jo Tomasini, MAS, PPAI Chair of the Board

‘The PPAI Expo—the glue that holds the industry together.’ That description, given by a PPAI member in 2016, was remembered after the tragic event in Las Vegas on October 1. The message we share now is the result of our reflection on The PPAI Expo and PPAI’s long-standing commitment to safety.

In response to the recent events in Las Vegas, we are speaking out today because we think it is important for you to know that Promotional Products Association International takes your safety seriously.

Since 1903, PPAI has focused on creating and maintaining a safe and secure meetings and events environment for our attendees, staff and exhibitors. At The PPAI Expo, and all of PPAI’s meetings and events, the safety of attendees and guests is and always will be of utmost importance. Our staff is thoroughly trained and prepared for each event. Strategic planning with each venue begins far in advance to develop and maintain safety protocols that allow high-quality and confident business opportunities in a safe and inviting environment.

All of this begins with a proactive and forward-thinking PPAI team.

In May, the PPAI Board of Directors, steered by industry leaders, resolved to reaffirm PPAI’s long-standing commitment to safety at live events. This resolution directs PPAI to continue to institute and execute policies and procedures designed to mitigate known or reasonably foreseeable risks to the health and safety of those who participate in PPAI live events, including through the continued employment and assignment of competent PPAI staff, the hiring of appropriate security personnel, and the execution of reasonable registration and admission processes.

As a member of the Exhibition and Meetings Safety and Security Initiative’s (EMSSI) Industry Security Council, we frequently collaborate with a large group of stakeholders who represent all aspects of the exhibition and convention center industry. Through this involvement, our team provides and receives important developments and ideas for an array of best practice safety guidelines and opportunities.

Our commitment to safety remains a priority. No individual, corporation, organization or government can anticipate or prevent every situation or scenario. However, PPAI remains committed to prepare and implement safety protocols designed to protect those who attend, exhibit, work, visit or participate in any PPAI live event.

PPAI has a strategic goal of transforming The PPAI Expo from great to extraordinary, and our commitment to safety is but one ever-present foundation that will advance that objective. We know how much you value this industry and The PPAI Expo, and we thank you in advance for your investment in both.

We value the trust you place in us when you attend our events. We look forward to seeing you in January at The PPAI Expo.

 

PPAI and the Shift from a Transactional to Relational Organization

In the November issue of PPB, Chair Tom Goos, MAS, summarized his term over the past 12 months. In that column, he talked about the Association’s undertaking of a strategic planning session and his pride in the work of the PPAI Board and staff on the resulting strategic plan. He mentioned a new mission statement and the idea that the plan focused on taking the Association from transactional to relational.

The new mission statement—PPAI is the trusted leader delivering essential knowledge, resources and community to ensure the success of our members and the industry—says a lot, not only about where we are going but perhaps where we’ve been.

As we prepared for the strategic planning session, our session facilitator, Seth Kahan, took the time to talk with members. He participated in focus groups, made phone calls and interacted with members one on one. It was the feedback from these members that let us know we had become the trusted leader. I take great pride in knowing that the organization has positioned itself as such.

But the fact that the phrase is still a part of our mission statement is meant to show that we will not rest on our laurels, and as we move forward we not only fully embrace this title, but we plan to focus on it in the future. We will strive in every aspect of our operation to remain your trusted leader, and in doing so, we will move the organization from transactional to relational.

You may be wondering exactly what that phrase means. I must admit, after the strategic planning session, I had to think about it a bit myself.

It means that our strategic plan will take us beyond simply trying to acquire new members and sell additional benefits. It will focus us on reaching deeper into the members we have and enhancing a deeper relationship.

Let’s consider each of the four goals:

  1. Drive meaningful member value and engagement. This goal says nothing about getting more members. It is, as I like to refer to it, our Love goal. We want our members to love us, to trust us and to engage with us—however you choose to engage with us. Whether we’re talking about super users/brand advocates, or the creation of knowledge communities where content will be king, our focus is value and engagement—and is relational in every sense.
  2. Advocate for the industry. A long-standing goal for the Association, advocacy is something we will continue to execute on your behalf. But what changes with this strategic plan is that we want to build a stronger relationship with you, so that we advocate together. Each of you has an opportunity to be a part of our buyer outreach efforts by getting involved in our Get In Touch! campaign. This million-dollar-plus, five-year campaign, will only see its full potential if we work together. Our efforts on the legislative and product responsibility sides are not dissimilar in that they too will garner the most attention and draw the greatest success when we work together. Stronger relationships between you and your Association will build a stronger industry for the future.
  3. Deliver and leverage strategic foresight. By having a greater understanding of what’s ahead, we can better prepare for our future. This goal looks to find and track emerging trends that will or could have an impact on our industry. It’s not just looking at what disruptors might be coming our way and the implication of such, but what opportunities are being created for the industry by these trends.
  4. Manage an efficient and progressive organization. How do we retool PPAI to deliver second-to-none member experiences, interaction and engagement? This might be a deeper dive into technology to enhance member interaction with the Association or developing more personalized relationships with each of our members—basically allowing you to customize your PPAI membership in a way that best meets your needs.

Transactional to relational. You see, no mention of acquiring more members, selling more booths or anything that is transactional. Those may be a byproduct of this strategic plan, and I hope that they are, but it is not our focus. You loving this organization is our goal.

Want more information on this and engaging with PPAI? Call me at 972-258-3050. I’d enjoy sharing with you.

Promoting and Protecting the Incentive Industry

For many years, PPAI has been an active member of the Incentive Federation. This organization is dedicated to promoting and protecting the incentive industry which includes promotional products, recognition items and related promotions. This group is now in conversations with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), regarding recent changes to their Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines. Under these new guidelines, OSHA points to the negative success safety incentive programs have had in the work place:

“Incentive programs for workers or managers that tie performance evaluations, compensation, or rewards to low injury and illness rates can discourage injury and illness reporting. Point systems that penalize workers for reporting injuries, illnesses, or other safety or health concerns have the same effect, as can mandatory drug testing after reporting injuries. Effective safety and health programs recognize positive safety and health activities, such as reporting hazardous conditions or suggesting safer work procedures.”

These new Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines puts a negative stigma and a blanket generalization on all safety incentive programs, which is just not the case. Limiting potential hazards in the work place is something both employees and employers take very seriously in an effort to have a safer workplace, and all methods of safety prevention should be considered when trying to achieve these objectives.

The Incentive Federation response highlights in great detail how injuries have been in steady decline from the 12-year period of 2003-2014 reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. I encourage you to take a look and better inform yourself on the current guideline changes taking place.

Additionally, I will be heading to Washington, D.C. next week as part of our annual lobbying event—the Legislative Education and Action Day or L.E.A.D.—and we will be sure to share the effectiveness of well-designed safety programs in reducing worker injuries and improving employee morale.

If you have any questions about this report or our work in DC, please contact me and I’ll be happy to discuss it with you.

PPAI’s 2016 Legislative Agenda – Get Engaged!

As the PPAI Public Affairs team, our DC-based Lobbyist and 80 of the most engaged, dedicated and motivated volunteers prepare for the Legislative Education and Action Day (L.E.A.D) next month in Washington, DC, I thought this would be an appropriate time to share PPAI’s 2016 Legislative Agenda.

Please take a few minutes to read through the industry- and small business-critical issues we will focus on during our Capitol Hill visits in May, and throughout the year during PPAI’s L.E.A.D. Local and recess visits.

It doesn’t take a lot to get engaged in industry advocacy but the payoff is tremendous. Want to get involved? Start here – at the PPAI Law website or contact Joseph Landeros at josephl@ppai.org or 972-258-3015.

 

Let’s work together to grow and protect this amazing industry.

Industry Transformation & A Time To Pivot

As an advocate and evangelist for our industry, I’ve spent the better part of my career traveling the US (and the world) to tell anyone who would listen that the promotional products business is about so much more than selling products at the lowest price.

This year at The PPAI Expo it was more evident than ever that the overwhelming influence of technology and access is making industry stakeholders reconsider and reposition how they go to market now and in the future.

With this, it is my pleasure to feature a guest blog I stumbled upon from Boundless Marketing Manager, Stephanie Freyer, who along with her team is responsible for delivering ‘Brand Love’ moments—everyday. Steph’s observations are on the mark and sum up, quite well, what so many in the industry are experiencing today.

Enjoy the read.

Paul


2016’s Guiding Trend in Promotional Products

Has Nothing to do With Products

Coming to you live from Las Vegas at the Promotional Products International Association’s (PPAI’s) largest event of the year and the biggest trade show in our industry, I’m excited to reveal some of the insightful marketing trends we’ve seen at this year’s Expo. In case you aren’t familiar with Expo, PPAI hosts over 1,300 exhibiting suppliers and 11,000 distributors from across the globe – all clamoring into the Mandalay Bay Convention Center on the heels of the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to find out what the hottest new products for 2016 will be.

After closing out day two of the Expo, I sat in my hotel room trying to digest everything I had been absorbing over the past couple of days. I could have easily started writing about the cool life-hack products that are perfect for, say, people who are taking photos all day (like me), or just want their phone readily available to make sure they can check email without digging through their bag (see below for “slingback” and “pop socket” to name a few). But while these little life hacks are cool, catchy, and buzz-worthy, they aren’t the real takeaway of the event.

PopSocketSlingback2

Products for Mobile: Pop Socket & Slingback

Even more impressive than capitalizing on the mobile trend is how deeply our suppliers are invested in their products. From specialized trend research teams, to full-fledged development departments, to entire facilities dedicated to quality assurance, our suppliers are investing in resources that will ensure their products are not only on-trend and meeting consumer needs, but also following compliance laws and making sure they are safe, and risk-free for our clients and end users.

I initially predicted that come time to write this blog post, I’d be sitting here compiling the brand-new items hitting the market. In a recent Facebook post, I remarked on being curious about which trends from last week’s CES show would carry over to PPAI—I joked about seeing branded holograms and mused about new wearables. And while I did see plenty of wearables (and even virtual-reality products…and drones!) what I found is that most of the products at PPAI are not, in actuality, “new.” At first, I was surprised to see that most of what I looked at was the same as last year, with a slight enhancement—a 2.0 version. But this is, in fact, the crux of one of 2016’s guiding trends.

BoundlessFacebook

LogoIncludedApp

Source: @LogoIncluded Twitter Account

On Wednesday, I spoke with a supplier partner of ours about their fitness tracker device, and in discussing a proprietary app they built for it, he actually said the words “to us, the app was the most important part.” Hold the phone. That is quite a strong (and telling) statement. We are in a PRODUCTS industry, people! Promotional products. But as it turns out, the most important thing about promotional advertising moving forward won’t be the product alone, and this show wasn’t about the next groundbreaking item on the market that no one had ever seen before. It was about driving the next level of engagement…it was about the enhancements that can be made to products to make them even more useful, even more necessary, even more relevant to a consumer.

The seeds of this trend were planted in my head at the first session I attended on Tuesday morning with marketing guru and renowned author Seth Godin. Godin speaks in an almost lyrical way—gliding through pretty words and impactful phrases. He is ever-inspiring, and seemingly easy-to-follow—yet he spends most of his time illustrating abstract concepts that are eventually boiled down into a simple idea. His style, his writing, and his whole point is to get marketers to think differently. As Godin said, “one of the biggest marketing challenges is that most of the people you are trying to sell to don’t think they have a problem that only you can solve.” In essence, brands are challenged to put products into the world that play a critical role in consumers’ lives—and do it better than the next guy.

Seth Godin Session

Seth Godin’s Opening Keynote at The PPAI Expo

In case you haven’t been following Boundless on Twitter, we’ve been tweeting out soundbites heard throughout the Expo from our top suppliers. Reading them back to myself gave me the opportunity to clearly identify the theme that had already been manifesting in my mind.

TweetsPPAI

Tweets from PPAI 2016

All the suppliers I spoke with told a similar story in a different way: the product is only a part of the equation. The critical ingredient is finding a way to create a marketing tool (a promotional product) that builds a relationship. How do we enhance a product so that it actually becomes a necessity, or occupies a permanent spot on your desk or in your bag? Something you couldn’t imagine living without?

We need to pay attention to how people interact with products. In what situations and contexts do people have challenges that need to be solved? How can a product be enhanced to meet those needs?

For some suppliers like the one mentioned above, that means building a client-branded app that not only connects to a fitness tracker like a FitBit, but lets users interact with each other—from engaging in fitness competitions to arranging meetups. For others, it means designing a special pocket in a bag that addresses a unique need for a certain demographic or interest group. And yet for others, it means leveraging a digital rewards code to connect on the platform we use most: the internet. Some suppliers embrace the age of digital connectivity by creating products that continue to make it easier for us to stay connected with one another—from chargers, to tablet stands, to storage devices—they’ve developed a product that once you have, you cannot live without. Or at least, you think you can’t. Addressing a unique need, driving people to a connected platform, serving up a branded web experience—all of these methods produce a more engaging interaction with a consumer.

All this to say: the pen, the water bottle, and the grocery tote aren’t going anywhere. Value can be found in any product that is suited for the audience and is “sticky” because of utility or novelty. But the future of our industry lies in the type of functionality that goes deeper than the bag that sits in your trunk. It taps into our basic human need to connect. It gives us avenues to build relationships over an extended period of time, and it makes us feel like we can trust in brands. From what I can tell, 2016 is going to be a great year for promotional marketing.

StephBio