Trade association carrots and sticks

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Posted by Richard Rawlinson

The annual subscription renewal request has arrived in my in-tray for the media association to which my publishing company employer belongs. What do we get for the membership fee? Aside from a glitzy awards ceremony and occasional parties enabling us to ‘network’ with amicable rivals, the association aims to support by giving tips on current practices that might boost revenue.

This advice comes in various guises. We’re sent a magazine focusing on industry news and media developments. Ironically, this publication was beaten by NAFD’s Funeral Director Monthly in the Magazine of the Year category of the Trade Association Forum’s 2012 Best Practice Awards. TAF is a trade association for trade associations!

Information is also forthcoming via forums where speakers lecture on new media trends, or via more practical tip-offs: I once had a call informing me the Masonic Association of Grand Lodges was inviting pitches from publishers for the tender of its membership journal. We politely declined as it wasn’t a natural fit with our existing portfolio and skill sets!

The point I’m leading to here is that trade associations can be in a tricky position if they’re expected to discipline rather than nurture their paying members. They tend to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative, hoping members strive to follow the good examples. The media has a separate body for penal action, the Press Complaints Commission. And like the funeral industry, the media is largely self-regulating as bad practice should be bad for business.

But while any consumer of the media can lodge a complaint, what’s the best approach for consumers of the funeral industry? Their MP, the media, Citizens Advice? Or a UK equivalent of the US Funeral Consumers Alliance, a not-for-profit consumer advice and advocacy service? One good reason why GFG resists any tribal name-calling of the ‘I wish these conventional funeral directors weren’t here, this should only be for progressives’ variety. Whatever the consumer chooses, how they are served comes first. Go forth and multiply. 


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