Above photo: Pictured are current and outgoing members who attended the 2020 meeting at The PPAI Expo.

Volunteers play a vital role in PPAI’s success. This eighth installment of an ongoing PPB series, introducing the volunteers, committees and initiatives that have helped make the Association what it is today, takes a closer look at the Awards and Recognition Committee. 

PPAI’s Awards and Recognition Committee exists to engage members by ensuring the relevance, prestige and overall experience of the industry’s most recognized and coveted awards. Its members conduct an annual review process and makes recommendations for the modification, addition and sun-setting of Association awards and recognition programs. Committee members work to support increased participation in the programs when possible, participate in judging sessions, provide feedback to staff on program communications and recognition events and volunteer to support staff at live events.

The Association’s awards program has been in place and evolving for decades, but still presents the committee with issues and challenges to consider. 

“The committee was recently confronted with the challenge of an awards program that was caught somewhere between a networking event and a night of recognition,” says Nate Robson, the committee’s 2020 chair. “As a result, it had become underwhelming in terms of delivering value to the members, and change was needed. The committee and staff decided to evolve the program in a material way. When re-imagining the program, delivering more value to the members was the committee’s North Star. Due to the differences between suppliers, distributors and service providers, we developed a plan to recognize winners throughout the year based on their unique needs in an attempt to deliver maximum value. A really good foundation has been created, and yet we realize there is still room for improvement.”

Tom Carpenter, MAS, the committee’s 2021 chair, adds, “We have focused the recognition associated with the awards to better represent how the recipients want to be recognized. We’ve streamlined the application process to better allow for nominations to show the true impact and accomplishments of those who will be recognized, and developed strategies to better prepare nominators in submitting candidates who deserve recognition.”

Robson also shared some recent accomplishments on improving transparency and awards processes. He says, “Member feedback showed that there was a fair amount of confusion around the Pyramid Awards. Revamping the award categories, providing more feedback on the judging and offering more education has brought clarity. That, in addition to simplifying the application process, providing better guidance and utilizing better tools should result in increased participation. Finally, PPAI staff has worked hard to provide a marketing guide complete with assets to make it easy for recipients to promote their win. This effort enables companies of all sizes to realize all the benefits that come with being recognized as an award winner.”

Looking ahead at challenges and opportunities for the committee, Carpenter says, “We face the challenge of making sure that we are recognizing achievements relevant to the promotional products industry in today’s world, and of constantly improving the application process to ensure that we are allowing for nominations that accurately represent the accomplishments of those being nominated. 

We will need to make sure those recognized see the value of being recognized as a leader in our industry. We also need to continue to evaluate the judging process to be sure we are accurately recognizing the best of the best, and that those recognized represent the highest bar of achievement in our industry.”

Robson adds, “Any time there is a material change to something, there are going to be people on both sides. This is no exception, and one challenge is making sure that, as a committee, we continue to hear the voices of the members and use them to guide changes going forward. It is such a diverse membership base in terms of size and sophistication that it is no easy task distilling feedback into improvements.

While we have delivered an improved foundation, there is a real opportunity to provide more education and awareness around the awards program. It is clear that for many members, the awards program isn’t even on their radar. Another challenge is making sure that our awards are relevant. We need to be sunsetting awards that don’t make sense and recognize gaps that need to be filled.  


James Khattak is news editor of PPB.