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are professional memberships still worth it?

September 17, 2009

in communication

this isn’t a new question. it was just my question while renewing my iabc membership last night. and the collective question of the council of communication management’s board, of which i’m currently a member.

frankly, i’m not convinced of the value anymore. within the last year, more connecting and learning has come from social networking, particularly twitter, because it’s:

  • cross-disciplinary, which challenges my thinking.
  • full of people pushing the envelope—and i can find them!
  • global and truly diverse.
  • spirit is one of camaraderie, not competition.
  • free.

i did renew. i may not next year.

what’s your take? where’s the value for you? what do professional associations need to offer to keep you as a member?

f

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer Frahm September 17, 2009 at 8:27 am

It's a great question. Funnily enough I increased my professional memberships this year. I think when times can be a bit challenging economically, it's a must. I agree that social networking has certainly enhanced the networks and learning, but for me the value in a professional association is derived by what I do with the association. All I ask is that they provide opportunities to connect me with others of similar ilk. In real life. The increase in m'ships probably reflects the cross disciplinary benefits that you mention. Ironically, it was through IABC that I was introduced to twitter and blogging. Thanks for asking the question.

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Paul Hebert September 17, 2009 at 8:49 am

Great question. It's not that professional associations aren't worth it – to me it's more that professional associations aren't worth it “based on the services they currently provide.”

When Prof Serv organizations started they were a way to aggregate, disseminate and engage a vertical of thought, point of view or niche. Those needs are now better fulfilled by some of the social media tools you mentioned.

I still think there is a need for Prof Serv groups – but they should now expand their “core” and look at what is missing from social media. To me it's the Face-2-Face.

IMHO The natural evolution of Prof Serv groups would be to monitor the social media stream and create opportunities for niche in-person meetings based on the trends. They would then become less about the “information” and more about the “conversation.”

Not sure if I'm making sense – but the net-net is that more connections – F2F – is good – I'd pay for that. Aggregation – not needed and not worth any money.

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Steve Boese September 17, 2009 at 8:52 am

I think it is a great question, and I think (at least in the HR space) the professional membership organizations are trying to embrace social networking in a much more open and proactive manner. Whether this will pay off for them by bringing in more members, or holding on to a higher number of members remains to be seen. I think it ultimately is an individual decision on a case by case basis. I personally get more from 'open' networking than any other source, but that is not to say there is not value in the membership groups.

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Ben Eubanks September 17, 2009 at 8:53 am

Until my local people leave their caves, I'm still going to have to use the membership to meet them. But I've grown and learned so much from social media, and I could never just drop it! 🙂
HRevolution is a way to sort of “reverse” the social media process by bringing together people who have met online and now want to take it further. We know who we do/don't want to meet, and when we finally get the chance to put our heads together, it's going to be amazing to see what happens.
Great post, Fran!

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Garrick Throckmorton September 17, 2009 at 9:21 am

I am going to fall near Paul's camp on this one. I have made a career change into HROD and have been “shopping” professional memberships. I have a hard time thinking that the power of face to face dialogue can ever be truly replaced by social media. However, my litmus test for professional membership requires that an organization be engaged in social media. If an organization is a part of the exhange of ideas through social media, it speaks volumes to their vision and forward thinking mindset. If they are not engaged, it says much more.

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autom September 17, 2009 at 9:32 am

a valid question indeed. and i agree that social networking offers added value, as reflected by the points you raised.

however, as with all emerging tech and offerings that enhance existing models, i think social networks *complement* formalized professional associations, if not provide leverage for their visibility.

there are vast resources offered by the IABC including access to online studies, opinions, papers, events, career listings, regular printed newsletters, etc., which while may equally be available on social networks may not necessarily offer certain info/feedback unique to content generated by a given association. also, social networks won't necessarily have that one-stop shop format—at least not yet, due mainly to the current fragmented nature of the social web.

besides, without my current membership with the IABC, i may not easily have encountered many of its brilliant members who i now consider as part of my 'organic tribe' on twitter and with whom i interact regularly and very much look forward to perhaps meeting in person next year [#iabc2010 Toronto] (i.e., you @bergerchris @jenfrahm @CoachKamna @archanaverma @IABC @marilynkeyes and others)

perhaps the next step for professional associations is to determine how—as a result of the added value of social networks—they can in turn maximize? enhance? transform? what they offer to members. perhaps a closer look at identifying redundant offerings, streamlining these to demonstrate how well they complement social networks and that their presence in fact serves to tangibly guide, lead and encourage members to be on social networks.

my 2¢ – a

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Mark Sullivan September 17, 2009 at 4:47 pm

An advantage of joining an organization is the personal touch. Like a hand-written note of thanks, the opportunity to join others in face to face communications (imagine that:) ) never gets old. As a former president of the Council of Communication Management, CCM, taking an active role in the creation and development of programs and services for members from a broad, strategic view is extremely satisfying. I hope the membership in organizations like CCM and others never go away. Here's hoping

M

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fran September 19, 2009 at 7:15 pm

thanks for everyone’s contributions to the conversation!

jennifer, i think you’re right that people seek out these organizations in times of turmoil and job loss. the challenge is to make sure these organizations offer something that keeps new members once times and job markets improve.

paul, i really like the idea of monitoring trends and conversation, then sponsoring impromptu meetings. it’s very dynamic.

steve, i’m falling more and more into your camp. i enjoy, respect, and learn from those ccm and iabc members i’ve known over the years. i’ve now met even more through twitter, plus other comms professionals from the UK, germany, and farther afield. and the relationships are not shallow. we’ve connected by phone, video chat, and email. i’m positive that i’ll eventually meet some of them in person, much like i’ve met a small portion of ccm and iabc’s membership.

ben, hrevolution’s a great example of how we still want and create ways to meet face-to-face. (if you’re in hr and haven’t checked out hrevolution yet, do it: http://hrrevolution.wetpaint.com. sharp people are going to be there.)

garrick, i’m with you. when i was thinking about my opinion, i also thought that those who are new in their career or entering a new career get loads from a professional membership. it’s a surefire way to find a network of mentors and colleagues.

autom, you would’ve found me without my iabc membership! 😉 what you’re saying jives with what we at ccm talked about as our focus — sponsoring research, creating partnerships with learning organizations, and creating ways to commune.

mark, your handwritten notes are the talk of the town. honestly, they mean a lot to all who have gotten them. as paul will say, i’m a contrarian (i take that as a positive), so i will question your thinking that the only way to get face-to-face interaction is through a professional membership. ben’s example and my own experience suggest that we find ways to fill that craving, whether it’s done for us or we do it for ourselves.

thanks again, everyone. look forward to chatting with you more,
f

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