marketing buzz: the power of associations

Have you ever had one of those days when you’re trying to come up with a fresh way to handle a press release or media briefing? Or maybe you need to find someone who can help you plan and implement a residential program. Or perhaps you’re new to your job (or the energy industry) and are trying to find resources to help you get up to speed.

You’re not alone. One of the most powerful investments you can ever make in your professional development is to join an association. If you don’t belong to an industry association, you could be missing out on some great opportunities to advance in your career.

I’ve selected two associations to spotlight in this column-the Association of Energy Services Professionals and Utility Communicators International. If I haven’t listed your association, it’s not because I don’t care. We write about what we know, and these two associations are near and dear to my heart. That being said, there are many more trade, professional and industry associations awaiting your discovery. One resource I’ve found invaluable is a website called The Utility Connection (www.utilityconnection.com). It features easy drop-down menus that list utilities, resources and more. The site has links to more than 140 national associations.

why join an association?

I interviewed several members of both associations for this article, and it’s clear that the main benefit of membership is the ability to network with others. Building and maintaining your personal network of colleagues will pay dividends throughout your career. I know people who have found new jobs, won business for their firms, and saved time and money finding consultants and vendors for utility projects because they knew who to call.

Some people have a hard time networking, because they are naturally shy. Others are so new to the industry that they don’t think they have much to offer. My advice is to take just one baby step and introduce yourself to the person sitting next to you at your first meeting. Or find the executive director or a board member, and tell him or her you’re a newbie. I guarantee they will go out of their way to make you feel at home. After all, we’ve all been there.

The Association of Energy Services Professionals (AESP)

The mission statement of AESP is “to advance the professional interests of individuals working to provide value through energy services and energy efficiency by the sharing of ideas, information and experience.”

AESP provides a home for more than 700 utility professionals engaged in all aspects of energy services and energy efficiency including program design and implementation, program marketing and public relations, pricing, demand response, technology, and program evaluation.

I first joined AESP 13 years ago when I was handling the marketing for a utility consulting firm. I wasn’t a technical consultant, but noticed that the association could use some marketing support. A few like-minded communicators and marketers got together, and we formed a topic committee whose role was to increase the visibility of AESP. We gave the website a face lift, helped write press releases and developed a marketing communications plan. The people I met and worked with are still good friends and colleagues today.

AESP holds at least two conferences a year, including the internationally recognized National Energy Services Conference. It also has an active training committee that organizes numerous Webinars on specialized topics throughout the year.

AESP also offers professional participation in five topic committees covering a wide range of interest areas in the energy services field including market research and evaluation, energy technology and services, pricing and demand response, marketing, and program implementation.

AESP’s current president is Brad Kates, president of Opinion Dynamics Corporation, a national market research firm. When asked why he is involved in AESP he said, “Our company has gained great exposure and recognition through AESP. We’ve learned how to better complete projects and write proposals. We’ve also increased our knowledge of the industry. Our association with AESP has resulted in new business, meeting wonderful people and even helping us find some great employees.”

For more information on AESP, visit www.aesp.org.

Utility Communicators International

For communicators there are several associations that provide professional development. The International Association of Business Communicators and The Public Relations Society of America both offer professional development and professional certification in business communications. Utility Communicators International (UCI), however, provides professional development specifically to those working in the energy industry.

UCI’s mission statement is “to provide members with opportunities to broaden their range of knowledge of the fast-changing world of utilities and communications.” UCI holds several educational events each year that attract many of its 300 members. It is also known for conducting the Better Communications Contest, which recognizes outstanding communications efforts in the utility industry.

A visit to UCI’s website (www.uci-online.com) yielded a plethora of information. Presentations from past conferences and workshops are posted, and information about upcoming events is available. Not only is the information timely, it also gives prospective members an idea of what the association offers in the way of professional development.

UCI’s current president is Ann Savage Brown, who in her real life is manager of the advertising and brand management group for SRP, a large municipal utility in Arizona. “The value for me has been in sharing best practices with a diverse group of communications professionals,” said Brown. “Sometimes we share ideas, sometimes entire case studies. It provides me with perspective that I can apply to my specific situation at SRP.”

join in

Joining is one thing. Getting active is another. While any association is happy to take your money, do your company and yourself a favor. Get involved by volunteering for a project or by serving on a committee. It will pay off in more ways than you can imagine.

Meg Matt is founder and principal of The Matt Group, an integrated marketing communications firm specializing in the energy industry. Her areas of focus include brand strategy, customer communications, competitive assessments and marketing. She can be reached at 480-704-0897 or at meg@themattgroup.com.

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