How PR Built a Leadership Position for PMA
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

How PR Built a Leadership Position for PMA

When the program began in 1998, the organization was perceived as disorganized and fragmented, and was generally not held in high regard by industry influentials.

Paul Holmes


The Promotion Marketing Association, Inc. (PMA) is the leading nonprofit trade association that represents the multi-billion dollar promotion marketing profession. The mission of the Association, founded in 1911, is to be the voice of the promotion industry, recognized and relied upon as the primary resource of education, information, and interaction for marketers.

Until 2000, frankly, the organization was nowhere close to achieving its mission.  The PMA is a relatively small organization (approximately 700 members) compared to many of its marketing counterparts.  When the agency began its program in 1998, the organization was perceived as disorganized and fragmented, and was generally not held in high regard by industry influentials.

As such, its image and reputation needed to be enhanced.  The organization’s income is almost entirely dependent on two sources: membership and conference revenue.  The agency needed to create a perception that PMA membership and conference attendance added value to marketing professionals.  

The 2000 Public Relations program greatly enhanced both of these areas.


The PMA, while small, is a very diverse organization with more than a dozen different focus areas including: couponing, sweepstakes and games, in-store promotions, direct mail, trade premiums, entertainment and sports promotions, legal issues, interactive promotion, sampling, rebates, diversity marketing, and others.

The program objective was to increase not only awareness of PMA’s involvement in these areas but thought leadership, with the intention to draw professionals in these  groups toward membership and conference attendance.  With volunteer specialists leading each of these areas, there were natural spokespeople.  However, because committee work is volunteer commitment, time lent toward PR opportunities was often a problem.  The agency looked upon this as an opportunity to spread media opportunities over a larger group of specialists to insure coverage.  An informal poll of marketing professionals also proved that the absence of bylined articles contributed to the poor recognition of PMA’s thought leadership.

Similarly, the agency looked at the conferences and events held by the PMA as marketing tools themselves and worked with the PMA to create and improve content and printed materials that would be  reflective of the leadership position they hoped to assume.


The PMA shows very little increase in membership from year to year.  Despite relatively small annual dues, conference income serves the largest advance in revenues for the organization.  It is essential then, that professionals saw value in traveling to and attending multi-day PMA conferences and events.

The agency focused on the three largest, revenue producing, and annual conferences:  Update, Star Power and Promo Law.

The agency selected a core group of marketing media influentials, largely focusing on the trade press who are read and respected by potential members and conference attendees.  


Agency sought media opportunities, developed relationships with key editors, and undertook a comprehensive media “attack” plan, including, of course, editorial calendars and by-line placement.  

Relationships: Agency sought to further relationships with PMA leaders (who were not included in standard agency/client contact) as well as members of the press.  By ongoing dialogue with as many as 25-30 members of the organization, the agency provided a channel for those in the field to get information into the marketing press.  The agency also arranged comprehensive conference calls several months in advance of each conference with its conference chairs to get advance information about the conferences, and in some cases agency recommended publicity-inducing content.

The PMA’s conference repertoire has also grown to include other conferences namely an acclaimed Interactive Marketing conference held bi-annually, which enjoys the fruits of the PMA’s recent successes.

Bylined Articles: Agency arranged for (and often authored) bylined articles to appear on behalf of the PMA at least one month prior to each conference in key trade media on the topic of the event.  Not a month goes by that a PMA conference, council or committee chair is not the author of a bylined article in key industry trade magazines such as BrandWeek, Ad Age, BrandMarketing, PROMO or Marketing News.

Reactive Publicity/Commentary: Similarly, expert and specialist commentary on a wide variety of marketing and promotion issues, granted the PMA exposure to a large group of marketers through trade and business media alike including: including: The New York Times, Crain’s New York Business, Ad Age, BrandWeek, Time, Boston Globe, Boston Herald, LA Times, Hollywood Reporter and many, many more.

For instance, when states began attacking publishers for their use of direct mail in sweepstakes, PMA and G.S. Schwartz & Co. were there.  The agency was able to obtain massive publicity for Linda Goldstein, Esq, designated spokewoman, running circles around the efforts of two much larger and wealthier trade organizations, the Direct Marketing Association and the Magazine Publishers Association.  Highlights of this publicity included: The New York Times, USA Today, Associated Press, and a segment on  The Today Show.  That broadcast placement alone, boosted member confidence along with the national exposure.


An informal poll of media, industry influentials, and PMA members themselves credits the PR program with generating a strong reputation.  The organization has a united front and one that is synonymous with leadership in the industry.  Marketing trades and writers now seek and value the opinion of the PMA leadership.  

More significantly, membership is up 3% and as a result of this increased significance in the field, PMA enjoyed tremendous revenue increase as a result of a steep increase in conference participation and attendance:

**PMA Update 2000:  28% increase from 1999**
**PMA Star Power 2000:  40% increase from 1999**
**PMA Promo Law 2000 : 12% increase from 1999**

View Style:

Load 3 More
comments powered by Disqus