Social media and media relations are more important than ever for trade and professional membership associations to be effective, according to latest TradeMarks study from APCO Worldwide, which surveyed more than 300 policy leaders in Washington, DC, to determine what makes an association effective.

The study found that the five most important elements needed to make a trade association effective are: multilateral impact (working effectively with regulators, legislators and political officials in the executive branch), unified voice, bipartisanship, media relations, and social media. The inaugural study found lobbying, multilateral impact, local impact, membership mobilization and coalition building to be the most important attributes.

Financial services associations now rank first out of eight industry sectors, an improvement of nearly eight points since 2013. Meanwhile, the healthcare and telecommunication sectors have fallen slightly in the ranks.

“The latest results from our TradeMarks Washington study show that the qualities of an effective trade association have shifted some from our initial study,” said Bill Dalbec, deputy managing director for APCO Insight. “Having a unified voice as an industry and having a positive perception in the media are now considered more important to a trade association’s effectiveness than lobbying or member mobilization.”

APCO’s model shows that a one-point increase in an association’s TradeMarks Index will result in greater and more positive consideration, partnerships, engagement, dissemination and recommendations from policy leaders on behalf of associations.

According to Gadi Dechter, head of public affairs for APCO’s Washington office. “It’s all too easy for even the most well-intentioned associations to misdirect their resources only to result in little effect in achieving the policy goals for their industry and members.”

The top ranked associations in Washington are:

  • Multilateral impact: PhRMA
  • Unified voice: PhRMA
  • Bipartisanship: Credit Union National Association
  • Media relations: Business Roundtable
  • Social media: PhRMA
  • Lobbying: PhRMA
  • Industry reputation steward: PhRMA
  • Coalition building: PhRMA
  • Membership mobilization: PhRMA
  • Local impact: National Association of Realtors
  • Events: American Hospital Association
  • Member representation: American Hospital Association
  • Grassroots: National Federation of Independent Businesses
  • Information resource: American Hospital Association
  • Self-regulation: American Chemistry Council