Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ailing members leaving their trade associations: sign of weak PR?

I don't want to generalize things, hence the question mark in the title of this short post. Is weak PR to blame for the fact that members of trade associations voluntarily leave in times of their crisis?

In my job I deal with various media and communications associations. Many international news agency associations are peculiar as they feature one corporate member representing a particular country. Statutes of European Alliance of News Agencies (EANA) impose such a limitation together with an exception: “Only the leading news agency from any internationally recognised European country can become a member of EANA. Exceptions can be made by the General Assembly so that EANA has more than one member from a country.”

These limitations surely give odds to country-representing members. And that's OK when a member is truly a leader in its country. They also eliminate possible counter-productive behavior of the competing members, most likely to come from the same country. But what if things start going different and a local competitor suddenly eats in to the leader's market share? What if a leader is overthrown by such a competitor?

Ethically speaking, associations should stand by their members. And they generally do, unless a member stops paying its annual fees. However crisis-hit members often leave at own initiative. I've seen this happening few times at different media associations, including Russian ones.

Being a successful news agency is difficult enough due to ownership and limitations of b2b business in media sector. Most news agencies can't just leapfrog over their traditional media founders doubling as clients into the thriving b2c sector. Please see my other post dedicated to the issue.

Trade associations such as MINDS International, which has been growing intensively, help news agencies benchmark themselves, buy and sell complementing expertise, work on common product standards. Top management, strategists, marketers, IT, and sales managers are usually involved in the dealings. PR experts are generally left behind. So could this really a reason ailing news agencies prefer to save on annual fees and quietly leave their associations instead of openly discussing their local market issues with the other members?

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