The Value of Associations in Times Like These
What is the real value of any association? I think it is to be found in what I call the "hive" mentality. There is strength in numbers. A hive is far more powerful than a single bee.
With an association, we theoretically share our experiences with our fellow members for the greater good, combine the hive's strengths for protection and fighting (lobbying), teach for the benefit of continuity (conferences and trade shows), and of course protect the queen (leadership), whose job it is to make sure the hive continues to be populated by new, vibrant members.
Every industry has associations. Publishing has several. And this week one of our top associations has decided to cancel its popular and very expensive vacation in the sun.
Well, it takes personal loss to fully understand the priorities of life. The old Joni Mitchell phrase comes to mind: "You don't know what you've got, 'til it's gone." And the MPA has lost several major members lately, and it only makes prudent sense that they will lose more.
But the MPA has lost more than just membership. The MPA has lost at least, for the moment, the ability to revel in excess. Only those who have gone to these events are aware that there is at least 25 percent -- perhaps more -- of the meeting time devoted to such luxuries as golf, cruises and shopping forays into the exotic. And the reason the MPA offers those "special" events wrapped around sometimes meaningful conference sessions is because the magazine executives won't come if they can't play golf, or cruise, or shop or go fishing. And while I'm at it, why are these events held at some of the most expensive hotels on the block?
Look, I'm no better than the rest of us, and I have played golf on company time, gone cruising, fishing and all the above. But, at the end of the day, it is at best a ludicrous luxury supported by an industry that clearly had too much easy money. You can wax poetic all you want about the "networking" possibilities and the quality time spent amongst friends, colleagues and possible clients in a foursome, but it is, at best, a luxury. Everyone in the foursome is getting paid a very decent salary to "play."
The MPA issue comes down to this: How many precious, hard-to-get pages of advertising does it take to be able to afford to go vacation in the sun and golf on company time? And where's the ROI?
So it is time, at least for a while, to get back to association basics: the sharing of our experiences for the greater good, the gathering of the hive's strengths for protection and fighting (lobbying), teaching for the benefit of continuity (good conferences, not luxury boondoggles), and of course protection of the queen, whose job it is to make sure the hive continues to be populated by new, vibrant members (good leadership).