While some trade associations in business sectors across the UK have seen their revenues fall by more than a quarter during the pandemic, the Independent Print Industries Association (IPIA) has seen its membership grow some 5% – a tribute to the extraordinary efforts of its volunteer-led council, sponsors and members themselves.
“Trade associations have never been more relevant than in these unprecedented times,” says IPIA Chairman Graeme Smith, who continues: “No one knew where to go or what to do at the start of the pandemic, but we very quickly established a direct conduit with the Government Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). We continue to hold weekly scheduled calls with them to relay members’ perspectives on anything from business restrictions to Brexit and sustainability.
“We became, and remain, a critical, reliable and trusted source of advice for members, as well as a key influencer in policy development and helping Government shape its industrial strategy. While we have sadly lost some members, who ceased trading because of the economic impact of Covid-19, I believe the fact that we have this credibility and punch well above our weight is one of the key reasons we’ve continued to grow and attract a new group of businesses to membership.”
He explains the IPIA has always offered membership benefits such as free access to credit checking and free advice on areas like HR, legal, tax and marketing. It also offers a portfolio of promotional tools across print and digital channels for members, in addition to running a series of successful networking events.
In 2021 the IPIA decided to launch a project that would significantly increase member engagement and connect them to these benefits. It produced and mailed a high-quality 44-page Membership Benefits Guide that has since seen benefits uptake increase by more than 30%.
When the Government announced its Kickstart Scheme last autumn, the IPIA also became a gateway for 30 businesses and, as a result, 129 job vacancies have been created for young people who otherwise might not yet have made it into employment.
Print is an extremely sociable sector and, before Covid-19, the IPIA ran, or participated in, at least ten well-attended networking events every year, from lunches and dinners to trade shows. In April this year it launched a new fortnightly virtual ‘Big Breakfast’ event on the innovative online platform Remo, enabling it to closely reflect the more natural networking environment members were used to. One breakfast drew nearly 90 attendees, while the average turnout is 40-50. More information can be found at ipia.org.uk/bb.
Looking ahead to the last quarter of 2021, the IPIA plans to host its first in-person event since Covid-19 on December 2 at the Crowne Plaza Stratford Upon Avon. It will be a mini-expo and networking lunch followed by its celebrated Gala Dinner and Recognising Excellence Awards night.
“The sense of community our members have shown has amazed me, as has their willingness to collaborate and share best practice,” says Graeme, who continues: “It has been an isolating year for many and members have not only drawn comfort knowing they’re not on their own, but have also been inspired by how others have dealt with certain pain points or pivoted their businesses.”
Graeme concludes: “The first half of 2021 has been tough, and we certainly couldn’t have achieved what we have without the unwavering commitment of our sponsors, members and volunteer-led councils. The vast majority of our members are print managers, print buyers, printers and trade houses, but we also welcome new members from complimentary service providers keen to network and collaborate.”
More information about the IPIA and member benefits can be found at ipia.org.uk