The European Association for Bioindustries (EuropaBio), the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA), and the European Association of Sugar Manufacturers (CEFS) are the top trade associations in Brussels, according to a new study from APCO Worldwide and EurActiv designed to measure the effectiveness of trade and professional associations.

The TradeMarks study surveyed more than 300 policy leaders in Brussels and analysed their perceptions of what makes an association an effective public policy advocate in the eyes of its key audiences.

From 55 associations rated, the leaders included EuropaBio, GSMA, and CEFS, as well as the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA); the European Chemical Industry Council; the European Forum for Renewable Energy Sources (EUFORES); Digital Europe; the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries & Associations (EFPIA); Business Europe; and the European Competitive Telecommunications Association (ECTA).

The TradeMarks model identifies 15 characteristics which define an effective association, led by lobbying and building direct relationships with key stakeholders, the ability to mobilize members, and having an impact at the member state level.

"While lobbying remains a critical function, our research shows that effective trade associations need to serve many other functions, especially in terms of engaging with a broader range of stakeholders, in order to be seen as effective public policy advocates,” says Bryan Dumont, president of APCO Insight. “Indeed, lobbying represents only 10 percent of what it means for a Brussels trade association to be deemed effective.

"The ability to mobilise members in support of policy objectives, having an impact beyond Brussels and working across all member states, and taking an active role in protecting and enhancing the industry's overall reputation are all absolutely critical for trade associations to be seen as effective in the minds of EU policy-makers."

Business Europe was rated best at lobbying, multi-party relationships, and multilateral impact, but EuropaBio was the leader when it comes to local impact, unified voice, events, and coalition building, and—not surprisingly—Digital Europe led on the use of  social media.

"One of the key takeaways from the study is that associations that are most effective tend to do better on strategic characteristics, such as relationship building and helping to protect and enhance the reputation of the overall industry, while tactical elements, such as being a leading information source, tend to have less impact," says Claire Boussagol, managing director of APCO Worldwide in Brussels. "With this analysis, we can show associations that if they make strategic decisions about where they focus their efforts, they will see tangible effects and greater effectiveness for their members overall."