by By Lisa Grimaldi | December 01, 2008

mpiIn the wake of public relations woes and economic hardship facing meetings and incentives providers, some major associations are taking steps to champion the industry and ease member concerns.

At Dallas-based Meeting Pro­fessionals International, for example, president and CEO Bruce MacMillan sent a letter in late October to the editors of a number of major daily newspapers, cautioning against cancellation of meetings and events "that generate business results in both good and tough economies."
MacMillan told M&C his letter was in response to the generalizations that were made by U.S. Congressman Henry Waxman and New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, in the wake of the notoriously lavish incentive program held by insurance giant AIG in September, after the company was bailed out by the government.

Waxman and Cuomo "suggested that meetings were easy to cut because they didn't provide any value and were just executive side trips," said MacMillan. "We want to say no -- we have the research to show that Fortune 1000 companies say meetings are the most valuable marketing tool they use. The generalizations were just wrong."

For its part, the Chicago-based Society of Incentive & Travel Executives plans to produce a live webinar on the shift in the economy and how members can cope, according to CEO Brenda Anderson. (At press time, the date had not been announced.)

Anderson added that SITE will provide tools for members to demonstrate the ROI of incentive programs via white papers and research conducted through iSITE, SITE's research foundation.

At the Incentive Marketing Association in Naperville, Ill., members were sent an e-mail on the importance of keeping incentive programs; the directive contained a link to the Incentive Performance Center's recent white paper, "Why Incentive Programs Endure Recessions."