Category Archives: Uncategorized

Product Safety Milestones

The following will run in my PPB magazine President’s Perspective column in December. The PSA program is only successful with the work of the Product Responsibility Advisory Group and hundreds upon hundreds of member companies. Thank you.

Product Safety Aware Reaches A Milestone

What a difference two years makes. It was in January 2014 that we announced the PPAI Product Safety Aware (PSA) program to the industry. Under the terms of the program, each company seeking to do business through PPAI channels must become Product Safety Aware by having at least one employee complete four hours of product safety education.

Developed by PPAI’s Product Responsibility Advisory Group (PRAG) and vetted through industry committees and advisory groups, the PSA program was intended to enhance an industry-wide commitment and a culture where companies are not only aware of product safety but are leading the discussion at every level in the promotional products channel. We have long been the go-to industry resource for education and resources related to your compliance obligations, and this initiative builds on those efforts.

But, that’s not to say we didn’t have our share of detractors in the early days of the program. A number of companies resisted the program because they either believed the program didn’t apply to their businesses or because they thought four hours of education was excessive. But, I am pleased to report that every PPAI-contracted exhibitor at Expo East 2015 was Product Safety Aware, every company that advertises in PPB is Product Safety Aware and every company you’ll see on the show floor when The PPAI Expo opens next month in Las Vegas will be Product Safety Aware.

Leaders in regulatory compliance now laud PPAI as the poster child for how to create a product safety awareness program. So, where do we go from here? Now our focus turns to keeping the industry up to speed on all developing issues. Under the Product Safety Aware program, companies must simply complete at least two courses every two years to maintain their PSA designation. In the years to come, PPAI is committed to continuing its leadership in product responsibility and expanding our focus to reflect the broader mission and scope of this initiative.

We’re not focused exclusively on product safety anymore, and we’re not just focused on one set of regulations. There are really five pillars of product responsibility—product safety, social compliance, environmental sustainability, supply chain security and product quality. And our intent is to build a library of resources around each of these critical components. This was clearly reflected by our recent rebranding of what was formerly the PPAI Product Safety Summit to the Product Responsibility Summit. This year, the Summit broadened its scope to address social responsibility issues and challenges. In subsequent years, the Summit will address each of those pillars in turn, while never abandoning its roots in product safety.

Product responsibility is becoming a differentiator as more organizations become aware of how their sourcing decisions can impact their financial position, mitigate the risk for bad press and enhance a brand’s image in the market. There is no “easy button” or “fast pass” that is going to get us where we ultimately need to be, but I am very pleased to report that as a result of our Product Safety Aware initiative we have all taken at least the first steps on this path.

If you want to learn more about the Product Safety Aware initiative or any of our product responsibility resources, please reach out to our public affairs team and they will be happy to help you.

Thanks for your continued support of this important industry initiative. And as always, let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you grow your business.

Invitation to “An Hour With Seth Godin”

"An Hour With Seth Godin" | Advertising Week AWXII | Hard Rock Cafe New York | October 1, 10 am

“An Hour With Seth Godin” | Advertising Week AWXII | Hard Rock Cafe New York | October 1, 10 am

I am pleased to announce that PPAI is presenting a thought leadership session during Advertising Week (AWXII) featuring a conversation with Seth Godin. “An Hour With Seth Godin” will take place at the Hard Rock Café New York at 1501 Broadway, on October 1, 2015, 10 am.

Seth is a best-selling author, entrepreneur and agent of change. His blog (@ThisIsSethsBlog) is one of the most popular in the world. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and, most of all, changing everything.

What to do When it's Your TurnI hope you are able to join me for this one-on-one discussion with Seth about his new book, What to do When it’s Your Turn, avoiding the race to the bottom, the importance of community-building and a whole lot more. We will discuss a broad spectrum of topics designed to inspire, inform and initiate meaningful conversations among marketing and communications leaders throughout the promotional products industry and beyond.

Advertising Week AWXIITickets are reserved on a first-come, first-served basis. If you are interested in attending, please send me an email to reserve your seat. The first 100 attendees will receive Seth’s new book and a book signing will immediately follow.

Advertising Week is a long-standing partner in PPAI’s mission to reach buyers in an influential and highly targeted way.  This week-long gathering of the advertising industry’s best and brightest brand marketers, creative visionaries and media leaders and influencers is an ideal setting for us to initiate thoughtful conversations, inform meaningful decisions and inspire consideration and buying of promotional products advertising. This is just one more positive and powerful way the Association engages in buyer outreach to drive the industry’s business forward and position it with strength now and in the future.

We are pleased to partner with Advertising Week to bring this conversation with Seth Godin to you.

I hope to see you there,


P.S. I am also very excited to report that Seth is the featured keynote for The PPAI Expo 2016, January 10-14, in Las Vegas.

Government Relations Update

A guest blog by Seth Barnett, PPAI Government Relations Manager

State of the States

Earlier this month, PPAI Government Relations Manager Seth Barnett attended the National Conference of State Legislators in Seattle, where he connected with state-level leaders from across the nation. More than 5,500 state politicians, legislative staff members, and non-profit and trade association leaders met to discuss the most pressing issues faced by the states. This year’s theme focused on states learning to work effectively despite any standstills at the federal level. Many of the speakers looked to empower state officials to become more hands-on in their legislative approach. Presenters and leaders issued a call for renewed advocacy at the business level. Many businesses neglect connecting with state officials, though as political efforts progress, the need for this connection is always present.

The previous legislative conference focused on dwindling American approval of the U.S. Congress, and ways state legislators can avoid the same situation. This year the idea was given new emphasis as legislators and staff were challenged to better understand their constituents. This personal level of connection is often overlooked at the state level but there is a growing need for businesses to be understood by those who represent them in the state houses. Much of the content surrounded some of the work that is being done at the non-profit and association advocacy level.

States remain focused on creating and maintaining opportunities for small business. They are also beginning to better understand growing areas of concern for many businesses including social compliance and economic opportunity.

It is important to remember that work is being done at the state level on behalf of the promotional products industry. PPAI has continued to meet state outreach goals through its L.E.A.D. Local events, which introduce industry leaders to state officials to discuss the power of the industry.

It is up to the industry, not just the Association, to ensure that state advocacy continues. PPAI has several resources that can be used at the state level including the Industry Legislative Agenda and industry position statements. These items are available at PPAI encourages industry members to take action by following the link below to send a letter about the value of our industry to your state officials.

The Cost-Effective Advertising Tool In Your State

L.E.A.D. Local California

This week PPAI joined four industry leaders in Sacramento, California for the fourth L.E.A.D. Local event. Prior L.E.A.D. Local events have been held in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas.

PPAI staff Anne Stone, Director of Public Affairs and Seth Barnett, Government Relations Manager, joined Harris Cohen, MAS and Neil Levitt of Southern California and Jon Henrickson and Stacy Weiss of Northern California to conduct nearly 20 key legislative meetings. The group discussed the value of the promotional products industry to the California economy and the effectiveness of the medium. Their message was amplified by the statewide virtual fly in effort that gave those in the industry not in attendance the opportunity to have their voice heard by state officials.

This event was successful thanks to PPAI’s collaboration with the Specialty Advertising Association of California and the Promotional Marketing Association of Northern California to create a wider reach and a more significant industry impact. PPAI will continue to collaborate with all regional associations in order to deliver this event year over year.

The Looming Debt Limit, Again

In July the Treasury Department notified lawmakers that they only have until the end of October to raise the debt limit or face another crippling government shutdown. While Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has insisted that they cannot target a specific date on which the debt limit will be reached, he has said with certainty that it will be before the end of the first session. In March the Treasury Department took measures to ensure that the government would not meet the fast-approaching limit. However, this early movement created less opportunity for financial adjustment as the new limit nears.

Congress has started to develop a plan to avoid a government shutdown. This would help avoid a repeat of the 2013, when a shutdown lasted for 16 days. Lawmakers will face many financial debates upon their return to the Hill in September. They are still looking for a long-term plan for highway spending, and they will need to address tax provisions and debate the Export-Import Bank charter.

While there remains some debate over the actual date of the approaching debt limit, Congress must work to create an effective plan to avoid overspending as part of their first priorities after the August recess concludes.

To learn more about PPAI’s legislative efforts, visit

The 114th Congress

A guest blog by Seth Barnett, PPAI Government Relations Manager

All Things Election

With the 2014 midterm election now in the history books, Congress is working diligently to ensure a smooth transition before the conclusion of the current session. The election resulted in the Republicans taking a majority in both the House and the Senate creating the first truly divided government between the legislative and executive branches since the 104th Congress under the Clinton administration. There is a chance that while Congress may be very productive over the next two years the President could use his veto power to stall bills approved by Congress. During the 104th Congress President Clinton implemented similar tactics, which caused the government to shut down once beginning in November of 1995 and again beginning in December of 1995. However, after that time period faith was swiftly restored in Congress and the next few years resulted in the best national economics in decades. Today those on the Hill hope that compromise can be found quickly.

I. The End

December 12 will mark the conclusion of the 113th Congress, one of the least productive in American history. The much anticipated lame-duck session that began on November 12 has so far been uneventful. Those in the House spent nearly a week preparing and passing a bill that would fund the Keystone XL Pipeline only to have it stall out in the Senate by one vote. Senators have been working to reorganize their leadership responsibilities for after they turn control over to the Republicans in January. Presently both houses are recessed until December 1 when they will have just shy of two weeks to conclude any major action.

II. Across the Map

The 114th Congress will have 69 new faces from nearly every state. As of now there are still a few elections to be decided including one Senate runoff race in Louisiana, which will take place on December 6. In the Senate the Republicans will now hold 53 seats and caucus in 2 independents, the same ratio that Democrats had in their majority control over the past two years. Pending the outcomes of the five remaining undecided races, the Republicans will hold at least 244 seats in the House. This is the largest majority control by that party since the 70th Congress began in 1927. In addition to their victories in Congress, Republican governors picked up three seats, bringing their majority seat count to 31.

For a complete list of new membership in the House and Senate, follow the link below.

114th New Member Guide

III. Leadership

One of the initial agenda items from Congress after reconvening in November was to determine leadership responsibilities for each party and in each chamber. It was not long after the election that Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the current Minority Leader, and Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), the current Majority Leader, switched roles for the 114th Congress. In another move, the Republican committee has nominated Congressman John Boehner (OH-08) to remain in the role of Speaker of the House. This nomination will go to a vote in the House at the beginning of the 114th Congress but resistance is not expected. In the House, Democrats will stay with Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) as their Minority Leader, and the Republicans have selected Congressman Kevin McCarty (CA-23) to hold the position of Majority Leader previously held by Congressman Eric Cantor (VA-07), who lost his reelection primary earlier this year.

These leadership changes have the potential to create more of a challenge for legislation being passed. The same players in different roles may inevitably create stalemate situations. This is particularly true in the Senate where the majority control is very slim.

IV. Committees

As advocates of the promotional products community our focus for legislation remains centered on business productivity, product safety, tax reform, protection of our industry, wasteful spending, and promotion of our medium. With those goals we as an association focus strongly on key leaders in specific committees on the Hill. Of the committees we as an industry communicated with this past year the two most active were the Senate Finance Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The Senate Finance Committee has been a focus for us since former Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) released a tax reform discussion draft suggesting that the current advertising expenditure be changed. At the time we had candid communications with the chairman’s staff that include statements about our place within advertising. In February of this year Chairman Baucus was appointed as the Ambassador to China, at which time Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) took the gavel. It is now assumed that the current ranking member Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) will take the leadership role from Sen. Wyden when the party shifts in January.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has been a reoccurring group in our communications with the Hill throughout the 113th Congress. The committee, headed by Congressman Darrell Issa (CA-49), has spent the majority of its time going after wasteful and abusive spending by government agencies. This has left the promotional products industry vulnerable to harsh and unnecessary criticism. The industry has communicated thoroughly with Chairman Issa and many members of the committee to educate them about the usefulness and benefit of promotional products. This will have to continue into the 114th Congress. Chairman Issa’s term at the gavel will conclude in December. On November 18 it was announced that Congressman Jason Chaffetz (UT-03) will take the helm for this committee in January.

In total, 11 House committee chairmanships are open to appointment. Chairmen for most committees are picked by the controlling party’s House Steering Committee with the chairs of the Intelligence Administration and the Ethics Panel chosen by the Speaker of the House alone. The Small Business Committee will welcome Rep. Steve Chabot (OH-01) as its new chairman and the Budget committee will be headed by Rep. Tom Price (GA-06) beginning in January. Still up for grabs is the Ways and Means chair position, for which Rep. Paul Ryan (WI-01) and Rep. Kevin Brady (TX-08) are top contenders.

The 114th and Us

In the wake of the midterm election there is a sense of unease among many in D.C. With tax reform still a top priority for Congress, advocates are concerned that reform proposals may happen too quickly and not give time to properly lobby for inclusions.

In our industry we are still focused strongly on two key tax reform agenda items. The first is to ensure that advertising deductibility as it is does not change. There are firm proposals in both the House and Senate that would change advertising deductibility making it a less favorable business option. Potential incoming Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Paul Ryan (WI-01), has said that the proposal to change advertising deductibility is still on the table and will have to be debated among the committee.

It is imperative that our industry act to combat any harmful legislation that would affect advertising deductibility. Use the link below to send a letter to your member of Congress about the industry’s place in advertising and the usefulness of this deduction.

Advertising Expenditure

The second key item pertaining to tax reform is independent contractor legislation. We as an industry will continue to advance our messaging to attempt to be included in the tax code. This will protect those that are independents in our industry should the Safe Harbor clause that many of us work under ever be taken away. While the industry has done extensive work to develop partnerships with legislators who agree with our independent contractor language, the recent election has eliminated some of those allies. Congressman Tim Griffin (AR-02), who offered to co-sponsor legislation that included the industry’s language, will leave D.C. in December to assume his new role as lieutenant governor of Arkansas. We as an industry must continue to press forward with the goal of specialized independent contractor legislation.

We need your support. Use the link below to send a letter to your member of Congress about the need for independent contractor legislation. Together we can make an impact!

Independent Contractors and the Promotional Products Industry

Important Dates


Beginning in December, several key dates will affect the operation of Congress in the near future. The first is the much anticipated end to the current continuing resolution which the government is operating under that will expire on December 11. In order to fund the government and avoid another damaging shutdown, a spending plan or continuing resolution must be decided on by the second week in December.


In January the official employer mandated healthcare law begins; companies with 50 or more full-time employees must provide insurance options for their employees. Next up is the beginning of the 114th Congress. Constitutionally, Congress would come back to work on January 3; however, because that date falls on a Saturday, Congress will have to act to legally change the start date. Inevitably the start date will be sometime during the first full week in January.


In early February the President’s budget is due to Congress. Two weeks after that time Congress must submit a report on spending.


On March 16 the current debt limit will reset. If Congress does not act to raise the debt limit it is estimated that funds will run out sometime during the summer.


Two key budget dates will happen in early April. The first is the deadline for the Senate Budget Committee to report a budget resolution. The second is April 15, which is the deadline for the rest of Congress to issue action on a budget resolution.


October 1 will be one of the more anticipated dates during this next year. That will be the day that Congress must pass appropriations with the President’s approval or the government will shut down. This will be one of the more major tests of cooperation between the divided legislative and executive branches.

To learn more about all of PPAI’s political efforts visit

PPAI Debuts ‘Product Persona’ Industry Branding Campaign

Earlier this week, PPAI announced a new buyer outreach branding strategy, ‘Product Persona’. The campaign gives voice and personality to promotional products and is designed to inspire and engage buyers while forging connections with promotional products consultants. The campaign’s ads star popular promotional products and will increase traffic to PPAI’s buyer-facing website, (, educate buyers and drive business referrals to promotional products consultants.

We debuted the campaign earlier this month during Advertising Week in New York. The campaign was also showcased at the American Marketing Association’s (AMA) Annual Conference in New Orleans and the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) International Conference in Washington, D.C.

Read the ‘Product Persona’ announcement published in PPB Newslink earlier this week.

This past Wednesday morning I had the opportunity to speak directly with hundreds of promotional consultants, suppliers, buyers and marketers about the power of promotional products during the Michigan Promotional Products Association’s (MiPPA) Promotions That Roar event at Ford Field in Detroit. My presentation focused on the compelling research supporting our industry’s products and the value of working with promotional consultants. Presentations like this, along with the new Product Persona campaign, are small but important parts of our overall strategy and intent to position promotional products at the forefront. By raising the profile of promotional products and directly affecting the buying process, the industry can begin closing the opportunity gap and achieve unprecedented growth.

We will soon be announcing other initiatives supporting these goals and opportunities for co-op and industry partnerships.

All of us at PPAI are committed to bringing the promotional products industry out of the shadows and into the spotlight while gaining the share of market and share of voice we deserve.

The State of the States

A guest blog by Seth Barnett, PPAI Government Relations Manager

Last month, PPAI’s government relations manager Seth Barnett traveled to Minneapolis for the annual State Legislative Summit produced by the National Coalition of State Legislators. This event brings in more than 2,000 state legislators, their staffs, trade groups and nonprofits from across the country and all over the world to discuss ways to improve politics for the citizens of each state. This was PPAI’s first time to participate in the event. With the continuation of PPAI’s growth on the state political scene, the legislative summit was the obvious next step for industry government relations efforts.

Of the many subjects that were part of the conversation at the summit, a few stood out as potential benefits for the promotional products industry. These included an overview of small-business health within the states, the status of state economies and an interesting look at the views of American politics held by voters.

Small-Business Health

We work in a fickle and sometimes unstable economy. It is good to understand how our state governments perceive business within our states. Sometimes we overlook the role that state government plays in the workplace. While the federal government has come to numerous standstills over the past several years, the states are continuing to look at what makes their respective economies successful.

Of the small businesses in the U.S., more than 90 percent operate with fewer than five employees and generate less than $5 million in annual revenue. That is significant when considering how much small businesses contribute to the GDP. It is also good to know how our industry, with its 97 percent small-business operation, compares to other industries.

Most state legislators can agree that they want to encourage entrepreneurship and small-business development. In fact, most cities across the country have seen increases in entrepreneurs in the current economy. There has also been a sharp increase in the number of people transitioning from being regularly employed by someone else to becoming independent and creating an S-Corporation, C-Corporation or sole proprietorship. This can be seen as the result of state and local governments efforts to promote the entrepreneurial spirit among residents.

The states have also gone to great lengths to identify what small-business success looks like. Essentially, of the states with the most successful small businesses, less state tax on business reflects better business operation and less government involvement, but more competition regulation keeps the market moving and simplistic tax regulation makes it easier for small businesses and independents to stay profitable.

The states can all agree on one truth, which is that small business is the engine that drives state economies. Still, small businesses face uncertainty and challenges that often stem from poor and misguided legislation at the state level. The unique opportunity here is that state legislatures need input from the business community to be able to create and pass effective legislation.

State legislatures continue to want to hear from constituents about what they can do to better serve businesses. PPAI has a tool specifically designed to help industry professionals to look up their state legislators contact information. Follow the link below to find your state representatives and tell them what you do in the promotional products industry and how they make you more successful.

Who Represents Me?

State of the States

State politics have continued to stay slightly more effective than the federal government in the creation and passage of solid legislation. State politicians are proud of the job most of their colleagues across state lines are doing for constituents. The states are working independently of the federal government to bring back trust in the government after the recession.

Some states are doing a better job of recovering from the recession than others, but all have essentially experienced a return to theirpre-2008 economic status. The majority of states have worked to reestablish their economic bases that will defend against future recession. Many states have created plans to provide more constituent services specifically those which promote business within the state. This includes training programs through government agencies, job readiness programs, business planning programs, and so on.

Politics: What Do Americans Really Think?

The view of American politics by the American public has not been this negative in many decades. Americans as a whole are unimpressed with the direction of government, and while state governments look better in the eyes of the public, they are still not completely immune to negative feedback.

We are currently experiencing the longest period of pessimism regarding the federal government than any other time in history. A mere 14 percent of Americans approve of the job that Congress is doing and only 19 percent approve of the American political landscape as a whole.

The economy continues to remain the centerpiece of American politics at all levels. Nearly half of all voters believe the economy is the number one contributing factor to government uncertainty. While economists believe that the economy is in an upward swing, the American public remains cautious. It is important to understand the place we each have as part of the political system. Government cannot work without us. PPAI encourages industry leaders to take action to maintain stability of the industry in front of both federal and state governments. PPAI will continue its government relations push on state and local levels. To learn more about all of PPAI’s political efforts visit





SHRM Show Amusements

Guest post by Kathy Goodin-Mitchell, SPHR, PPAI Director, Human Resources

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) hosted more than 13,000 human resources professionals during its annual conference in Orlando, Florida last month. This year’s hot topics included human resources strategy and leadership, healthcare reform, workplace flexibility, national and California-specific employment regulation, social media recruiting; and much more.

HR professionals are one of the top users of promotional products within today’s business enterprise. A variety of promotional products are used as engagement tools for employee relations, training and education, wellness, motivation and incentives programs. And at this year’s SHRM Conference, promotional products were featured front and center—before, during and after the event. Here are a few of the stand out observations from this year’s SHRM event.

SHRM Best Of

The best use of promotional products was by CareerBuilder®, the largest online job site in the U.S. and a global leader in human capital solutions, which employed an integrated approach using experiential, direct marketing, digital, social, multimedia and promotional products to create the ultimate tradeshow environment, CareerBuilder World: Where recruiting dreams come true.

The CareerBuilder exhibit brought a magical amusement park experience to the thousands of SHRM attendees and featured everything you love about amusement parks – a claw game, a water gun game, a roller coaster photo op, a souvenir (promotional products) shop, traditional amusement park food and more to get visitors attention and keep it.

The engagement experience began before attendees arrived in the form of a paper lollipop mailed to homes, teasing a chance to win a pair of orange Chuck Taylor Converse when the prize code was scanned at the CareerBuilder booth. Regretfully, this attendee didn’t win!

It’s ok, though—the paper lollipops were quickly exchanged for the real thing, which had another promotional message. The booth was set up like an amusement park—we were a captive audience and many of us went back again and again.

Honorable Mentions

  • The must-have conference product was the brightly colored and well designed 4imprint® tote bag, a big winner with the female attendees, who made up 75 percent of the conference attendees.
  • The best use of a branded premium product was by the relocation firm who gave out GUND® plush toys.
  • There were lots of imprinted pens, bags, books, lens cleaners, mints, markers, first-aid kits, tech tools and munchies. Many were customized to highlight company brands, like the Papa John’s Pizza sticky notes.
  • VitalSmarts® had a great idea to distribute its New York Times bestselling books.
  • RecruitMilitary® distributed useful jump drives in the shape of a key, but missed an opportunity to share more information by leaving the drive blank.
  • Many mailed collateral to attendees’ homes prior to the event, but those that did not include a prize or gift incentive did not perform as well.

The parting themes for SHRM 2014…get engaged and be engaging!