Fast Forward April 2018



DIY Ad Blocking

Google launches its own efforts to reduce advertising clutter on Chrome.

On February 16, Google took the revolutionary step of joining ad blocker software and apps by instituting its own ad-blocking efforts on the Chrome browser. Designed to weed out ads that overwhelm users, and therefore bring “balance” to the internet, Google product manager Ryan Schoen told online tech publication CNET that the browser blocks ads that cover more than 30 percent of phone screens, cover screens completely, show countdown timers, autoplay video with sound, use “sticky” panels that don’t go away and ads that pop up to cover part of a screen.

Adding this move to the reality that 31 percent of all consumers report using ad-blocking software means digital advertisers must yet again come up with a way to reach target markets. Ongoing means of ad diversification include native ads—paid media that blend in with a publisher’s website—as well as their sister effort, sponsored content; interstitial ads that appear at timed intervals in video or game play, completely covering the host app; and the old standbys, email and e-newsletter ads. Additionally, major publishers such as Wired magazine, The Washington Post and The New York Times have embraced paywalls to recover some of the revenue lost to ad blocking software. 


More  Than Words

Rotary International uses virtual reality to share work with convention attendees.

Even the most engaging speaker can only be so effective at reaching audiences with a message. Rotary International, a global nonprofit service organization, recognized this shortcoming and instead employed virtual reality (VR) at its 2017 conference to help attendees truly connect with the stories of the people served by Rotary.

Rotary officials sought to engage audiences with a simultaneous VR film about the group’s work to eradicate polio worldwide, but the vast array of devices and apps used to view such technology numbers in the thousands, so Rotary staff worked tirelessly to ensure attendees could view the film. Attendees were encouraged to visit a VR help booth on-site, where they would receive a branded pin in exchange for downloading the content.

In all, 2,000 attendees used Rotary-branded Google Cardboard viewers to watch the film. Going forward, Rotary hopes to offer VR events in smaller settings so that organization officials can get immediate feedback from participants and encourage discussions about the group’s international work.


Johanna Gottlieb
Vice president of Midwest sales at Axis Promotions, and PromoKitchen Mentor Program coordinator

Whether you’re just cutting your teeth in the promotional products business or you’ve established a legacy of success, chances are you could use a good word of advice now and then. Studies have found that professional mentoring results in positive outcomes such as greater perceived career success, increased connectedness to the organization or business and better job performance. Johanna Gottlieb, vice president of Midwest sales at New York City-based distributor Axis Promotions (PPAI 159158), also supervises the mentoring program for industry peer group PromoKitchen.

Gottlieb spoke with PPB about the importance of mentoring within the industry and the benefits for both mentees and mentors.

PPB  How does working with a mentor improve one’s business skills in this industry

Gottlieb There are so many benefits to working with a mentor. You can learn a lot about networking directly from that one connection; networking with your mentor or mentee enables you to learn about their colleagues and supplier partners. Refining your networking skills is important to professional growth. 

You can also use the mentor relationship to tackle your weaknesses. Talking to a mentor can help you learn about how to best use your strengths and overcome weak areas or how to work around them. Additionally, this is a natural way to increase d opamine levels in your body. Dopamine motivates you to work hard so that you can achieve the satisfaction of reaching that goal. It also keeps you mentally alert and helps you focus. Who doesn’t love feeling better?

PPB Conversely, how can being a mentor improve a veteran industry member’s approach to selling and consultation?

Gottlieb  In the PromoKitchen program we are continuously reminding mentors that they can learn so much from their mentees. Our industry has changed so much in the past two decades. A mentor who has been in the industry a long time can absolutely learn from a fresh-faced mentee. They may have different perspectives on prospecting and client approach, and they can both learn from one another.

PPB What is the ideal amount of time to spend on a mentoring relationship? What kinds of issues or questions should a mentor be prepared to address?

Gottlieb The amount of time involved is really up to the mentor and mentee. Personally, I feel 30 to 45 minutes at a set time every two weeks is good. We run our program for six months, and when it is over, participants are welcome to continue the relationship as they see fit.

Many “alumni” of the program tell us that they met their mentor or mentee at a show or event. It is so rewarding to hear about genuine connections that last. 

PPB What kinds of issues or questions should a mentor be prepared to address?

Gottlieb Many mentees come in with a set list of questions on what they’d like to learn about or improve on. My colleague in the program, Russell Bird, created a blog that has helped guide many people. One key point from that blog: Start mentoring calls by talking about the best and worst things in your life. This will help decide where the mentee wants to go, and how the mentor can help get them there. As an example: 

Best personal: I have a weeklong vacation coming up next month and I can’t wait to get away! 

Best business: I closed the biggest deal of my year with a new customer! 

Best family: I took my kids swimming and my son went off the high dive for the first time, so proud! 

Worst personal: I need to find time to work out more and/or cook healthier meals for myself because I am getting kind of chubby.

Worst business: I had a client complain that they don’t like their products and I’m losing sleep trying to decide how to handle it. 

Worst family: Nothing right now, things are great. 

Talking points from this example might be that the mentor has a scheduling trick to allow for working out four times a week, or might have experience dealing with upset clients and options for how to deal with them. The partners might also discuss things like the desire to take a week’s vacation, and how to actually disconnect from work while being confident that things will still function in their absence.

PPB How many professionals currently participate in PromoKitchen’s mentorship program, and what are the group’s primary goals for participants?

Gottlieb Since I came on board last year, we have had about 90 pairings. Our goal is to allow the community to empower one another and to see the full potential in one another. We recognize that others helped us along the way, which is why we feel it’s important to help newcomers as they get their footing in this industry. We strongly believe in paying it forward. PromoKitchen members come from a range of backgrounds—management, sales, marketing and business ownership. We are keen to help and contribute back to an industry that has been good to us throughout the years. 

PPB Is there a benefit to cross-mentoring? (e.g. suppliers mentoring distributors, and vice versa)?

Gottlieb Recently, we have started exploring cross-mentoring. We always ask the mentor and mentee if they are comfortable with it first. If someone is interested, for example, in something like improving their social media skills, we feel that they can benefit from anyone on either side of the industry. Not all skill sets are distributor-to-distributor or supplier-to-supplier. We all have a lot to learn from one another.


Pump It Up
Five Self-Promotion Tips For Strengthening Your Brand

Even the most recognizable brands could use a little boost now and then. Duree Ross, president and CEO at South Florida-based PR firm Duree & Company and a contributor to Forbes Community Voice, shares these five strategies for strengthening your business’s brand in 2018.

1. Seek out speaking  engagements What better way to capture an audience on behalf of your brand than to book a speaking engagement? You have a captive audience that is already interested in what you have to say, because you’ve expertly marketed your topic and your expertise ahead of time. Local chambers of commerce, service organizations and even business associations offer opportunities for local professionals to speak, and working with these groups allows you to share pre-event marketing duties. 

2. Target your networking efforts  Networking is the lifeblood of organic business growth, but it’s always better to take a targeted approach to building your book of business through this channel. Rather than filling your calendar with every available opportunity, seek out and participate in events or meetings that resonate with you personally and professionally. A setting in which you feel most comfortable is more likely to be one in which you make true connections with prospective clients and partners. Finding common ground and following up promptly will portray your brand in a positive light.

3. Help others make connections Knowing  the value of a great introduction should be motivation enough for you to return the favor. Even more important is helping others make connections with no strings attached. Giving to give, not to get, leaves others with a positive impression of your brand.

4. Share your knowledge with clients  and contacts Ongoing education is crucial to the long-term success of any professional endeavor. But why keep your professional development accomplishments to yourself? Gain exposure for yourself and your brand as representative of cutting-edge knowledge by sending relevant articles to clients, or by writing a blog that summarizes what new skill or practice you’ve learned and how you’re putting it to work for your customers. And, when others feature you or your work in publications, share those as well, because they act as valuable third-party endorsements.

5. Volunteer Participation in community  events puts you in touch with like-minded people who share your values and display them in a similar manner. Your presence shows them that you—and by extension, your brand—are committed to doing good and helping others, which may encourage prospects and clients to support your business. 


Jen Alexander is associate editor of PPB.

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