10 Minutes with Annette Scott, Principle Officer and Company Secretary of PROMOTA

on Tue 28 July 2009

Annette Scott has been fully involved in the promotional merchandise industry for 25 years. She has been an employee of a promotional company and later started her own business in this sector. Today she is responsible for the hands-on, day-to-day running of the PROMOTA secretariat with the support of the Promota Board.

PROMOTA is a leading trade association which represents manufacturers, importers and distributors in the promotions industry and has 850 members. The association was originally formed in 1958 and many leading promotional merchandise and advertising gift companies are members. PROMOTA has its own annual exhibition, the next one being on 1 & 2 March 2010, at Birmingham’s NEC (see news section for further details.)

As well as asking our candidates to reveal their thoughts on, and predictions for, the industry, we also ask them to divulge just one little thing about themselves that colleagues in the industry might be surprised to hear. More of that later; in the meantime, we’ll find out just how Annette came to hold such a powerful and pivotal role in this important industry.

How did you become involved in the promotions Industry?

By default! I moved to the West Midlands and needed a job. I had a friend in the promotions industry who pointed me in the direction of a vacancy with a well-established distributor of business gifts. I started as a junior administrator and worked my way up to MD.

How did you become involved with PROMOTA?

I attended a BAGDA (British Advertising Gift Distributors Association) meeting at PSI Dusseldorf as an observer many years ago. I was informed that I could not speak during the meeting. Brimming with ideas, I passed these to the committee, then, as frequently happens in these situations I found that I was roped into the fold.

Eventually I was elected as Treasurer and served for about 10 years, then I was Chairman for 3 years. During that time, BAGDA became PROMOTA in 2001. I am currently Principle Executive Officer and Company Secretary, a varied and demanding role.

What has changed about the industry since you joined?

There is a lot more competition, some of it from companies who don’t really understand the promotions sector. It’s not just about supplying goods; it’s about listening, considering and advising and then selecting the right product and branding options. That’s why it’s important to use a supplier who has a history in this industry.

Also, at one time you could not be considered a serious contender unless you had a comprehensive showroom, but now with the Internet your showroom can be on-line. For me it’s not the same. A visitor to the showroom could arrive with one project in mind, but by the time you had walked them through the showroom and talked them through the range, you could usually identify several more opportunities to do business together.

What further changes would you like to see?

I’d like to see end users acknowledge that distributors are recognised professionals in our industry sector.

I also believe it’s important to get more visibility in the supply chain so buyers can have complete confidence in the goods being sourced on their behalf, the origins of the materials and the place of manufacture. This also helps enormously with auditing.

What do you like most about the industry?

I know it’s been said before, but it’s the people. Most of whom are lively, creative and loyal. I’ve made lasting friendships with competitors and suppliers, and not necessarily people I’ve done a lot of business with.

On the creative side, it never ceases to amaze me how generous people are with their experience and advice to help others build their businesses. There is a great industry network, with lots of people who value each others’ knowledge and expertise. It’s all about trust and helping one another.

Any particular dislikes?

The other people! Not the ones above, but those with ulterior and selfish motives.

This is a website devoted to promotional merchandise, so tell us what’s the favourite piece of merchandise you have on your desk, or that you have recently seen?

In my quest for an organised desk one of the things I have is a mobile phone charger. It not only charges my phone, but I can follow the lead and find it! They do say a creative person has a disorganised desk. I must be very, very creative!

What’s the worst example of promotional merchandise you’ve seen?

For me, that’s a hard one as I see the potential in every product. For the most part, the fault lies with the process rather than the product. With rush orders it’s not always possible to maximise the opportunities to brand to a product’s full potential.

If you weren’t in the sales promotion industry, what would you like to be doing?

When I started looking for a career, I wanted to join the diplomatic service. Who knows when the opportunity might arise? Never say never.

Who do you admire/respect most in the public eye?

Alan Sugar.

… and why?

Because he’s prepared to speak his own mind, even though he knows he’s personally unpopular because of it. However, he does give a lot of people inspiration and opportunity.

If you were to have an industry dinner party, who would you invite to chew over the facts and put the industry to rights … or simply to amuse you?

There are so many people I’d love to invite … and a few I would not, and some who would turn up anyway without being invited. There would be so many guests, I’d have to hire the local village hall!

What’s your typical office day?

There’s no such thing; no two days are same. My role involves bringing people and companies together to their mutual advantage. I also spend some time trying to be the diplomat, to appease people and resolve situations. A key role for me is to oversee the management of all activities of the association (including the exhibition and our own magazine, PROMOTA Bulletin), its focus, contractual agreements and opportunities for benefits for members.

What I would like to do is to have more time to be creative with ideas to move the industry forward.

What do you like to do to relax?

When I want to switch off, I go into my greenhouse. I love anything with green leaves. I seem to have green fingers to rival Prince Charles’. I can propagate things, talk to them … and they grow.

Tell me something about you that nobody in the industry knows?

I ran for the county in the under 13 sprint … catch me if you can!

Any other thoughts or comments?

I think that in this industry we have gone full circle. That said, all industries evolve in a cycle.

Think of why trade associations started; people needed each other to pool resources to create a better business platform. Partnerships were formed, catalogue groups were created and those in membership of associations were able to make special offers to each other.

Now we are going through fragmentation of the market and we need to get back to our roots and at the same time make the best use of all this marvellous technology at our fingertips and harness it to our wealth of experience and expertise. We need to pull together resources, skills and ability to have a focus to drive business forward.

The time has come to break the mould and make a positive impact for change for the better.

Annette Scott


(Promotional Merchandise Trade Association)

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