In my last blog post, I discussed the appointment of a new CEO at MPI, and what it might mean for the future direction of that organization. I received a lot of responses to that post, mostly by email. In one of them, I was asked what kind of change I would like to see at MPI. As I composed my answer to that question I quickly realized that it was its own discussion rather than just a reply to the person who asked. After all, the things I would like to see go beyond just MPI, and are really what I would be looking for from any membership organization.
I would like to see MPI expand its advocacy for the industry. Advocacy means two things to me: The first is helping members and their organizations to expand their influence using meetings as a strategic communications vehicle. "Influence" is, however, defined by the member; it might be recognition, salary, promotion, etc. MPI's role is to help its members achieve whatever goal they set for themselves on their professional path. I think the organization has done a pretty good job of this in the past, but in recent years it has lost sight of this focus somewhat and has shifted more to putting buyers and sellers together. While the latter is valuable, so is the former.
The second part of advocacy is political. Most nonprofit organizations of MPI’s size have a government or public affairs department that researches, tracks and lobbies for issues that affect its members on a local, national or international level. In MPI’s case, that role has generally been handled by the CEO and committed volunteers. There should be a formal organizational response to issues that come before governing bodies that will ultimately affect our work, and there should be proactive tracking of issues in the pipeline. Government advocacy is not generally the thing that members think of as important to their success, but when an entire industry is affected by government perceptions and decisions, it's a crucial role that MPI can play.
I'd like to see MPI personalize its membership experience more. It's a big and diverse membership, and its members don't really have any one thing in common with one another. We live in a very data-driven era, and as organizations collect that information they should act on the potential for individualizing the member experience. One member just doesn't want or need the same products or services as the next person, and that point of view becomes more critical with a large membership base like MPI's. The data exists to do this, but MPI (and other organizations) should collect it and act responsively to what they learn.
Finally, I'd like to see MPI held accountable to the promises it makes, both large and small. Marketing messages aren't just pithy offers designed to incite action, they are representations by an organization of what a buyer can expect to happen. If you promise large, you'd better be ready to deliver large as well. People often dismiss these organizational promises as unimportant, but I don't agree. If you say your conference will be the best, make it the best. If you say you are going to return a phone call, do it. If you fail to take these implied promises seriously, in time you will destroy trust and damage your professional reputation. That's true of individuals, and it's true of organizations.
By identifying these issues, I'm not suggesting they aren’t already being done by MPI or other industry membership organizations. But delivering on those strategies is key to determining where the value lies in becoming or staying a member of any of them.
I'd like to hear what else you want to see from MPI, or any other of our industry organizations. You can comment below, or send me a message by email to LizontheBiz@gmail.com.