For the past seven years, I’ve been involved with the Dallas/Fort Worth Interactive Marketing Association (DFWIMA). The DFWIMA’s mission is to unite and educate the local interactive marketing community by providing practical skills, industry information, and high-level contacts.
DFWIMA has enjoyed a lot of success. We’ve often been asked how we built our organization and how it runs. We’ve even been asked to help jump-start similar organizations in Chicago; Austin, TX; Miami; and Houston.
All of us should become more involved in local interactive marketing associations. So here’s some insight into starting or improving an association and some of our own best practices.
- Make it informative, not just pitches. I’ve attended meetings at other organizations and really been turned off by the hard-selling. Not only was the speaker pushing the benefits of advertising with his portal, but everyone around me was trying to sell me the latest technology, Web site, email list, and so on.
- Have a speaker’s policy. Provide value to the people supporting your organization. Our speaker policy simply states practitioners or independent organizations present topics in a case-study format. Corporate sponsors are welcome, but no sales presentations are allowed as part of the formal meeting.
- Hold monthly events. We have events year round. Most months we have an informative meeting, featuring a speaker or panel discussion on topics such as search, blogs, integrated marketing, advergaming, and behavioral targeting. Speakers come from the Interactive Advertising Board (IAB), the Online Publishers Association (OPA), Gartner, and Nielsen Net/Ratings, among others. They always deliver great presentations without trying to sell anything.
Events needn’t always be serious. Sometimes, members just want to have fun. So we have a schmooze cruise in the summer, a golf tournament in the fall, and an awards show in the spring.
- Get a strong board of directors. Really motivated, active people keep the organization moving forward. A good balance of agency, publisher, technology, and client-side involvement keeps our topics and events relevant to as many people as possible.
- Create committees. Each board member heads a committee. In some cases, a two board members co-chair. Every committee serves a very important function in the organization. Committees we currently have in place are:
- Membership. This committee tracks members, event attendees, pre-registration, on-site registration, name tags for guests, and so on. In addition, it constantly seeks ways to add value for members, such as access to local job listings in the interactive field.
- Programming. The programming committee identifies exciting topics, convinces interesting and powerful people to speak, and handles the logistics: location, food and drinks, and audiovisual needs.
- Operations. An interactive marketing association needs a great Web site. Make sure your site has information on member benefits and corporate sponsorship. People should be able to buy a membership and register for events. List upcoming events on the site. Members should be able to access each month’s presentation materials. Our operations committee sends a monthly email announcing what’s coming up. This has become a very important piece of communication.
- Marketing. The marketing committee manages our visual image and determines key messages for the organization. It also supports other committees in developing messaging and materials.
- Public relations. When the organization has an event, the PR committee makes sure everyone knows about it. Press releases about the events and speakers are sent to key news sources. The committee also positions the organization and its board members as resources for news stories on interactive marketing.
- Sponsorship. Our sponsorship committee attracts and maintains sponsorship relationships from major publishers, networks, and technology companies. And, it does so without letting them influence topics or presentation content.
- Keep records. Keeping records of the organization’s activities is vital. Have a secretary and treasurer. Make sure all committees keep records of individual members, corporate members, past members, sponsors… you get the idea.
Some of my most valued professional relationships are with people who work at competing agencies. It really is rewarding to be involved in this kind of an organization. I encourage you to get involved as well.