Paul Bellantone on the Importance of Industry Legislative Action
Earlier this month, Paul Bellantone, CAE, president and CEO of Irving, Texas-based Promotional Products Association International (PPAI), posted a statement regarding the announcement of the launch of a potential member-funded industry lobbying group. Today we spoke with Paul Bellantone about the industry's lobbying efforts, and where he stands on more groups coming into the picture.
“Consistent with PPAI’s ‘big tent’ philosophy, there is always room for more member engagement and focused advocacy, as long as we’re working together for the common good of the industry," Bellantone said.
For decades, PPAI has represented industry issues in Washington, D.C., with lobbyists, ongoing legislative monitoring, and advocacy and organized industry events, like the PPAI Legislative Action and Education Day (PPAI L.E.A.D.) and L.E.A.D. Local.
"If the legislative agenda is consistent and coordinated, then increased advocacy is beneficial to our industry," he said. "It's where we might have conflicting agendas that would divide or dilute our messages that PPAI and the industry should have concern."
He added that the preliminary legislative agenda of the proposed advocacy group seems to be consistent with PPAI's, so he sees little cause for concern there. His bottom line was that, as an industry, we need to work together.
"PPAI has established a robust and successful legislative program designed to grow and expand based on issues and member engagement," he said. "We welcome the participation of any group that puts growing and protecting our industry first and foremost.”
When asked about a fee-based advocacy model, Bellantone said that PPAI has chosen not to go in that direction.
"Our concern is that [with] a fee-based advocacy group, there is the potential for individual company agendas to trump a consistent and compelling industry agenda and messaging," he said.
He mentioned specifically that distributors and suppliers have different needs and concerns and where one group may have issues as resellers and branding specialists, the other's concerns may focus on importing and manufacturing.
“I think it would be more difficult for the agendas to remain consistent if one agenda was driven by a member’s category, size or product and the other by broader industry issues," he added.
PPAI focuses on independent contractor regulations, small-business issues, and general awareness and concerns of the promotional products industry, he said. He also stressed the importance of protecting jobs and representing the people within the industry.
“We employ more than 500,000 professionals within our industry," Bellantone said. "Promotional products mean jobs. We advocate for promotional products as an advertising medium and for our industry as small-business employers."
For these hundreds of thousands of industry professionals, Bellantone said the best way to create positive change with the government is to get involved in their own towns, counties or states, even up to the federal level.
"We're a trade association, which means that the members are companies," he said. "But each of our member companies employ individuals. And these individuals have representatives that they should be talking to. Whether it's on the local or national level, we encourage our members to get involved in the legislative process."
He said that industry professionals can respond to action alerts on PPAI's website and send letters to their representatives about the values of small-businesses and promotional products industry. These activities in addition to PPAI's D.C. lobbyist’s efforts, make certain its issues are kept top of mind by federal lawmakers.
"Talk to them about the industry, talk to them about what we do and the value of our products," he said.
He also said that in 2016, with it being an election year, industry professionals should keep an eye on what candidates are saying and how it will affect the industry.
“It is easy to hold up a product and say, 'Does the government really need to spend money on these logoed products?' Our answer is, more often than not, 'yes,' if it's a well-thought-out promotional campaign that will positively affect the behavior or thought process of the recipient," he said. "I encourage the entire industry to get in front of their elected officials and remind them of what we do. Let them know promotional products work. Let them know the same products that get them elected to office are also effective in making government programs more successful."
For more information on PPAI, visit www.ppai.org.