At its business information & Media Summit in November, ABM announced that as part of an initiative to realign its member mission, it was rebranding as Connectiv. The association that once served a tightly defined market of B2B publishing companies has been faced with unprecedented change and evolution in the media industry and the rebranding is an attempt to show that its mission matches it membership.
In a sense, the new name reflects the association’s change of focus from the media that once characterized its member base to a service-oriented mission to connect a more diverse mix of company types, from publishers to data and information to technology.
“The vision behind the merger was to serve the industry more broadly,” Connectiv board chairman Doug Manoni tells Folio:. “What’s even more important than the new name is the refinement of the new mission. We want to be more forward looking, more involved in the demands of our members’ business.”
In 2013 ABM was absorbed into the Software & Information Industry Association and then merged early this year with the Content and Information Services Division, giving it the awkward name of ABM/ CISD. At the time, the SIIA merger was a move for survival. Membership was running dry and existing members were becoming frustrated that the association’s mix of services and representation wasn’t matching or keeping up with the pace of change in the industry.
Different Companies, Common Challenges
Much of that frustration came from the understanding that the B2B media industry’s evolution was throwing strategic and tactical assumptions way out of alignment. Plus, the blending of ABM and CISD brought together a mix of companies that had different strategic priorities. Nevertheless, market challenges were a common problem. “As we started looking at combining the two associations, the content division and ABM, we saw that we tended to be different types of companies, but the challenges we were facing and the problems we were trying to solve were similar,” says Heidi Sullivan, a co-chair of the rebrand committee and SVP and product lead at Cision.
“The new organization is strongly committed to helping our membership understand a business model that’s complicated by new and changing technologies,” says Manoni. “We’ve seen dramatic shifts in how our member companies are making money. New technology has changed every aspect of our companies.
Every one of our member companies is conducting business differently than they did just five years ago.”
“The level of change with technology and its acceleration in markets and audience is what’s keeping them up at night,” adds Mike Marchesano, managing director of Connectiv. “They needed an association that would give them the direction to lead them through the evolving set of challenges and opportunities.”
Membership is on the rise, making the new mission even more critical. Manoni and Marchesano say that 60 new members have been added, bringing total membership to more than 200.
Connecting Common Goals
The new name is symbolic of the connective economy, say Marchesano and Manoni, and the positioning of the association is as a connector, bringing members together.
In terms of services, Manoni says the fundamental components won’t change, but new products and resources will be rolled out. “The association will operate very much the same way it did historically, but it will be more focused on preparing companies on what’s coming next and helping them to move forward with confidence.”
New services include an annual Innovation Index, which will monitor the impact of innovation, show the industry’s progress with it and how member companies can do more of it in their own organizations.
A new “Best Practices Roadshow” will kick off in 2016 and feature a case study-oriented program that will travel around the country.
The second phase of the association’s change involves the younger community. “The Millennials are taking on increasingly important roles,” says Manoni. “They consume and use information differently, so we recognize that we have to think about the role we serve and how we serve them very differently. Otherwise, the Millennials will go somewhere else.”
Accordingly, Connectiv is launching an Emerging Leaders Collective—an online community and learning resource where younger professionals will be able to share ideas. The association is also planning to leverage that community into in-person events.
But do Millennials even value associations as important resources? Heather Krentler, who was a finalist for Connectiv’s recent Emerging Leader Awards and is regional director, human resources, at Crain Communications, thinks so. “We are brands and entities unto ourselves,” she says. “While we are certainly loyal to a company, we view our loyalty to an industry, to a craft. Associations appeal to us because they’re in it for the same reason.”
Manoni and Marchesano say the committee structure will also change. Out is the Publishers Committee and in is a CRO Committee—an acknowledgment that members are not just publishers. This is a key point, and also a source of some risk for the new organization.
Member subgroups have a variety of business priorities that don’t neatly collect under the “changing technology” trend, and different business models make it difficult to serve the membership consistently.
Even so, members recognize that ABM/CISD had to do something, and most, Folio: is told, want it to work.
“Implementation that makes this vision relevant to the participants is what will make or break this,” says Don Pazour, CEO of Access Intelligence, Folio:’s parent company and a Connectiv member. “I think it has a chance. As long as we are a member I will be doing everything from our standpoint to make it work. Having a gathering place and community for the businesses we are in is desirable.”