Thursday, October 17, 2013

Defending Your Association’s Industry or Profession Not Easy

Most associations I’ve been associated with focused on promoting the industry or profession.

Many associations, however, do not have a strong, viable media relations program.

When the media comes after your industry or profession; however, you have no choice. 

Here are three stories that illustrate associations in the news media.

Case 1: Certified Financial Planners

The CFP Board discovered this when the Wall Street Journal’s recent investigative story about fee-only planners forced them to respond.
  • Consider the coveted "certified financial planner" designation, which requires an adviser to complete a thorough course of study and pass a rigorous exam. Investors can search for one on, a website run by the CFP Board, which administers the program.
  • Over the past week, my colleague Rob Barry analyzed the descriptions of 33,949 certified financial planners who were then listed in's public-search area. He found that 8,122, or 24%, described their compensation method as "fee only." A mere 3% called themselves "commission only," while 59% said they earn "commission and fee"; 14% didn't specify how they are paid.

Case 2: Pork Producers

A headline from the USA Today:  Community-spread MRSA infections related to pig manure
The Lead: “Living near a hog farm or a field fertilized with pig manure significantly increases the risk of being infected with a dangerous superbug, new research finds.”

At the end: A pork industry group takes issues with the new findings.
  • Liz Wagstrom, chief veterinarian at the National Pork Producers Council, says the study doesn't prove that exposure to hog manure causes MRSA infections; only that a link exists. Wagstrom notes that none of the patients in the study was infected with the strain of MRSA most commonly found in pigs.
  • "We take our responsibility to protect public health very seriously," Wagstrom says. "In our work with CDC, they have not observed a single case of livestock-associated MRSA. . . Much of the slight increase in MRSA incidence could be explained by other factors, and is not well explained solely by proximity to livestock or crop fields."

Case 3: Christmas trees and mold

The Christmas tree “mold” story started when someone “left” a “research paper” at the back of a meeting room and a reporter picked it up and wrote a story about research showing farm-grown Christmas trees had mold problems. Fortunately, a New York Times reporter called the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) before writing a story on this issue. NCTA’s Rick Dungey quickly called an NCTA member who provided him with an industry expert. Rick then connected the expert with the NYT. After getting the expert’s research and responses, the Times decided not to run the story. The quick response and NCTA’s ability to provide an expert avoided a negative story in a major U.S. newspaper and may have saved the industry millions of dollars in lost sales.

In Trust Me I’m Lying, author Ryan Holiday says:
  • “The human mind first believes, then evaluates. The science shows that we are not only bad at remaining skeptical, we’re bad at correcting our beliefs when they’re proven wrong. In a University of Michigan study called ‘When Corrections Fail,’ political scholars Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler coined a phrase for it: the backfire effect.” In the study, “those who saw the correction were, in fact, more likely to believe the initial claim than those who did not. And they held this belief more confidently than their peers. In other words, corrections not only don’t fix the error – they backfire and make misperception worse.”
Using Your Members to Promote Your Association, Scott Oser shared via the Greenfield Services blog said:
  •  “Our members are a valuable resource to us and we need to do a better job of allowing them to help us help ourselves.” 
Whether or not your association engages in promotion or marketing for your industry or profession, you need to be prepared to respond or, better yet, be proactive.

As Walt Seifert, my college PR prof often said:

Make frequent deposits in to the “bank of goodwill.”

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