By Ed Avis
IRgA is being reborn. Since the fall of 2015 the board of directors and a member committee have been developing a new direction and focus for the organization. That process is culminating in a proposed new name for the group, a renewed focus, and a package of benefits designed to make the organization vital again.
“We have decided that now is the time for IRgA to move aggressively into the future,” said Tony Militano, IRgA president and owner of Carbon Copy Digital in Calgary, Alberta. “Reprographics firms, especially independents, need an organization they can count on for networking, education, marketing assistance, and industry advocacy. We have the reserves and energy to tackle that challenge head-on, and we’re going to do it.”
As reported previously in IRgA Today (click here), the organization began a rebranding process in the fall. Called “Project Reinvent,” the effort included a two-day seminar with a consultant from association management firm Smith Bucklin and several telephone sessions with association rebranding firm Communications Solutions Group.
In addition, the board met in-person and over the phone several times to discuss the rebranding, and called on assistance from the members of the IRgA Project Reinvent Committee. The IRgA Presidents’ Council also weighed in.
Among the first decisions made during the process was that the group should emphasize the fact that its members often serve the AEC community. While most IRgA members today also serve other important industries, their commitment to the AEC industry is what sets them apart from other types of printing businesses. The board decided that emphasizing that uniqueness – rather than trying to “be all things to all people” – would strengthen the organization’s positioning.
“There are several other organizations that serve the large-format color printing industries well, such as SGIA and ISA, and our association will be stronger if we strive to help our members serve their core AEC market well,” explained Ed Avis, IRgA’s managing director.
Another important decision made during the rebranding process was that the association needs to help its members earn a “seat at the table” among AEC professionals. Rather than be considered service providers who do a job and depart, IRgA members should be considered partners who are involved throughout a project.
Both of those decisions drove other elements of the reinvention, including the educational offerings and the member marketing plan (see details on both below).
Members Will Vote on New Name
The name of the organization has evolved over the decades as the industry has changed, and now it is evolving again. The organization began as the International Association of Blue Print and Allied Industries in 1927, became the International Repro Graphic Blueprint Association in 1974, and converted to its current name, the International Reprographic Association, in 1982.
Now the board has proposed that the new name be the Association of Printing and Data Solutions Professionals. This name was chosen from among dozens proposed, and reflects the traditional and modern elements of members’ work.
“We debated the name over a period of many months, and considered many options, before agreeing to Association of Printing and Data Solutions Professionals,” said Michael Shaw, a board member and co-owner of Central Digital Resources in New York. “As with any big change, there will surely be people who disagree with this one, and that’s understandable. But the board feels, and we hope the membership agrees, that this name honors our deep roots and current involvement in the printing side of our business, and acknowledges that managing data is an essential part of our future.”
Changing the name of the organization requires a vote of membership. This vote will be held at a general membership meeting in Chicago on July 14. All paid members (Bronze, Silver, and Gold levels) are eligible to vote, and each of these members will receive a proxy in the mail in the next few days. These proxies should be completed and returned in the stamped, self-addressed return envelope.
“Please take the time to vote on the name change by returning the proxy form,” Militano asked. “We want all members to have their voice heard, and the name change cannot happen without enough members voting.”
Along with the name, the board chose a new tagline – Success Through Knowledge and Networking – that touches on the key ways the association will help members.
Helping Members Grow
A major element of the reborn association will be a marketing effort designed to help members grow their businesses. This effort will include the following:
- An advertising campaign in publications reaching architecture and construction businesses in the United States and Canada. This campaign will emphasize that members of the Association of Printing and Data Solutions Professionals are focused on serving the data and printing needs of the AEC industry, and that they have access to educational and networking opportunities that support that focus. The advertisements will direct potential clients to the online member directory, which will allow them to directly connect with a member in their area.
- A “toolkit” that will help members market themselves to the AEC community. The toolkit will contain a customizable leave-behind brochure that discusses the value of working with a member of the Association of Printing and Data Solutions Professionals; art files of the new logo and tagline; language that can be used in member LinkedIn profiles or other social media sites that emphasizes membership in the organization; a customizable press release about belonging to the organization; and a guide on how to get the release published and how to become known as a spokesperson on imaging topics.
“The ability for our members to grow their businesses through their membership will be one of the primary benefits of the association,” explained Paul Fridrich, immediate past president of IRgA and owner of CyberCopy in Los Angeles. “Even one small new client will more than pay for an annual membership.”
Two new networking programs are being developed. First, a robust online chat room for members only will soon debut. The chat room will be in the members-only portion of the website, and will support multiple on-going topic discussions.
Second, the association is developing an online program to connect members with other members in other geographies, so they can share work or otherwise develop relationships. This network will allow members to learn about the capabilities of other members across the country, then connect directly.
Daphne Best, an IRgA board member and owner of MS Dallas, led the board’s effort to develop the networking program. “Networking is especially important for reprographics shops that sometimes have clients outside their region but are not members of groups like RSA or ReproMAX,” Best says. “This new network will help us be competitive even when a client has offices around the country.”
Education and Training
A series of quarterly webinars is being developed that will teach members how to better serve their markets, find new customers, understand changing technologies, etc. These webinars will be focused on practical matters, with the idea that the participants will leave the webinar with solid how-to information that they can apply immediately.
“We know education is the key in this new, high-tech market,” said Elmer Rhodes, IRgA president elect and owner of CrossRhodes Reprographics in St. Louis. “The program we’re working on will help our members get quickly caught up on the new ways for repro shops to make money. We’ll be talking about things that are not even on the radar of most shop owners yet!”
In addition, the association will subsidize members who wish to take the Construction Documents Technology certification exam from the Construction Specifications Institute. This program provides certification that shows prospective customers that a person has a solid base of knowledge about how construction documents should be managed. The association will reimburse a member $100 of the $375 fee.
The association has established two discount programs to help members save money.
First, all members will be eligible to participate in a program operated by UNA Purchasing Solutions. This program offers discounts for FedEx, Staples, Shred-It, Best Buy, Hotel Engine, and several other vendors.
“Everybody likes to save money, and this program is great way to do that,” said Joe Williamson, IRgA board member and owner of Franklin Imaging in Columbus, Ohio.
Second, the association is negotiating discounts with its vendor sponsors. For example, Wide Format Engines will provide members a 5 percent bonus when they sell used equipment to them and a 5 percent discount when they buy equipment; and Evergreen Technologies will offer members a 5 percent discount on its products. Other vendor sponsor discounts will be announced as they become known.
“Vendors have always played an important role in IRgA, and we see an even larger role for them in the reborn organization,” said Steve Andrikut, IRgA’s vendor director. “In turn, our vendor sponsors will have several opportunities to interface with our members.”
The association is entering a new phase of its existence, with a fresh name, renewed focus, and expanded member benefits.
“There is a lot of work to do, but the future is bright,” Militano says. “We look forward to a lot of growth and positive energy in the coming year.”
Questions? Email Ed Avis, email@example.com