It takes two to tango. If you and the Trade Association (TA) are not serving each other’s interest then we need AMMAAI. Most likely, you are a member of one of the many associations. It is equally likely that you have missed events /meetings and not voted in internal elections. Like me, most likely you also have a list of expectations on which the association has defaulted. Come join me. This is on your behalf.
AMMAAI is a scary thought. Nevertheless, I have reasons for proposing it. I always have.
Other than news, updates, reality shows of controversies and discounted invites to events, the TAs have not done much for their stakeholders / subscribers / consumers. Honestly, the few virtual groups in LinkedIn & Facebook are doing much more than the recognized associations.
Maybe the association has a charter somewhere. Maybe it’s been clouded with the dynamic forces of current environment. Maybe it is as easy as visiting it or answering a simple question. ‘Why should subscribers continue to be part of you?’ TAs must have a clearly stated and communicated agenda. Unfortunately, it is rarely in harmony with their activities and actions. Result, a classic mismatch between expectations and delivery.
TAs need to promote best practices, helping their stakeholders become more competitive. TAs represent the voice of industry and guide / help the government formulating effective polices, at the same time safeguarding industry’s interest. They also act as a tool to quickly update the industry on any changes in the environment affecting them.
In return, to this right of representation TAs offer products and services in different formats. Conferences, networking opportunities, training and educational materials, and technical & facilitation advice are some of the formats. Unfortunately, most of TAs within Advertising Marketing, Media and Communication fail to do so. INS, IBF and IAA seem to be actively perusing a well-defined agenda and are seen actively engaging their stakeholders throughout the year.
On our side, companies and individuals gain financially when they get preferential or discounted access to events and knowledge. However, that cannot be the chief motivator to subscribe.
TAs effectively contribute and protect the industry when any quasi-legal or government body comes seeking the industry point of view. It needs to be a proactive process. ASCI in the last few years, has become super active in working with the government and the industry to redefining process and standards. Little late but welcome steps have been taken, including hastening the process and legal binding on misleading advertising.
Like brands when the market is celebrating them, TAs too tend to become complacent and close their eyes to innovation and change. CEA (Conferences, Exhibitions and Awards) become the focal point of existence. Information / knowledge dissemination with enhanced internal competitiveness is not a natural process. AD CLUB is no doubt doing a great job in negotiating packages for international events. However, it must revisit its almost rigid calendar to redefine its focus. If this is what its charter asks it to do, time to revisit it.
On the other hand, TAs work best when they are cash surplus with an independent secretariat. TAs must not depend on office bearers to provide resources to manage day-to-day working. For that they need funds. Professionals have a moral obligation to be members of the TA addressing their needs. It’s time that employees get basic membership of an appropriate TA as a right not a reward. It’s time TA paid membership acts as a license to be in the filed. Why not have a corporate membership like INMA?
Leadership should be open with a string second line. It may help opening these challenges to young blood and groom them to lead in future. What about a TA leadership apprenticeship programme? Every leader through an open transparent process handpicks a shadow under 35.
On the other side, we the stakeholders have the responsibility to attend AGM, provide feedback and suggestions. If you want your TA to act, you need to take interest. Currently just a handful of votes decide leadership and others just crib. To crib you must vote. You did that in General Election; you can do that here too, even if, it is to show confidence in the current leadership.
Otherwise, may be the day is not far when AMMAAI will be a reality, a nodal body that will give operating license to TAs, evaluate and audit their functions, maybe even hear members and stakeholders complaints and take decisive actions. I fear that day when we lose the right to create and run associations freely, but we may keep multiplying and duplicating the charter across associations creating conflict of interest.
Sanjeev Kotnala is Head Catalyst at INTRADIA and believes that the best way forward for an Organization is to enhance the potential of internal teams instead of depending on external resources. He is a management consultant and conducts specialised workshops in the area of Liberating Ideas and Innovation.