On Wednesday, April 1, PPAI President and CEO Paul Bellantone, CAE, and ASI’s President and CEO Tim Andrews held a digital town hall-style discussion to examine the COVID-19-related issues facing the industry including the challenges both organizations are working through, along with the effects on promotional products professionals, their businesses and their customers, and tips on preparing for the future. The session was moderated by Tina Berres Filipski, PPAI’s director of publications/editor and Michele Bell, MASI, ASI’s vice president of editorial.

Throughout the hour-long discussion, Bellantone and Andrews talked about how the roles of each organization have changed during this time, where each is focusing its resources now and the criteria they are using to evaluate whether or not to hold planned events as well as what promo professionals can do now to strengthen their companies and what the industry might look like when it emerges from this crisis.

Both leaders agreed that the current circumstances present an opportunity for businesses to continue to provide value to their clients, but with added empathy and respect. Bellantone suggested industry professionals ask their clients how they would like to be communicated with during this time, but, “with an extra level of sensitivity right now because we don’t know what shoes they’re walking in,” he said.

In discussing recent changes to legislation, Bellantone and Andrews shared details on some of the new benefits that small businesses are now eligible for under the CARES Act, including loan forgiveness, the pandemic unemployment assistant program and the inclusion of independent contractors in unemployment benefits. Both leaders said they believe in the resiliency of the promotional products industry to survive and thrive in the future, but the road to recovery will be filled with ebbs and flows. Bellantone said he anticipates the economic recovery to resemble a W-shaped pattern, with a few upticks and downticks, until it starts leveling out.

The end is not yet in sight for the COVID-19 pandemic or its effect on business, but Bellantone and Andrews shared ways that promotional products professionals can start preparing now for when their clients—and the economy—begin to recover. Bellantone said he encourages the use of fact-based selling, supported by comprehensive research, to reflect the true power and return of promo products in marketing, noting the research reports available to members of each organization. Andrews assured professionals that after the business world starts recovering from COVID-19, clients will seek the necessary tools, once again, to engage and regain customers that promotional consultants uniquely can provide. To prepare, he encourages professionals to take the time to educate themselves and take advantage of the opportunities available to them to help them during this time.

Access a recording of the town hall here.