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News: Associations News

Society thrives on member engagement

09 February 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Anca Urdea
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With member engagement an on-going challenge for associations, it’s refreshing to hear about the sheer depth of commitment and engagement demonstrated by members of the Market Research Society as MRS Sales & Marketing Director, Helen Oldfield explains. 

The Market Research Society has been ‘helping the sector grow, connect and understand since 1946’. It has deep roots in the marketing sector. Despite this Helen Oldfield was surprised by the extent of member engagement in the organisation when she joined the communications and marketing team.

It’s not like other professional bodies; member engagement at the MRS is demonstrated by members ‘giving’ to the Society,” says Helen. “Whether it’s their professional expertise or valuable time, members are ‘donating’ speakers, research and thinking. It’s like a second tier of employees: volunteers who are also helping to create a strong network.

Helen, who gave a presentation on how to engage your ‘tribe’ or community for free, at a conference last year, adds:  “We are a small organisation with a limited budget so we really rely on the work of members. In fact, we’ve achieved over £300,000 worth of time, support and work that we would otherwise have had to pay for."

The MRS is the world's leading research association for those who need, use, generate or interpret the evidence essential to making good decisions for commercial and public policy.

MRS members have commissioned and provided evidence that has helped shape public policy, launch global brands and understand profound trends in society. MRS members use these skills to generate progress and make a valuable contribution to the life of the Society.

Top thinkers and researchers provide their expertise for free; they sit on specialist MRS panels, the Young Persons’ panel and standards boards. They also provide content for a learned journal that’s published six times a year. 

MRS patrons include influential industry leaders such as Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP, the world leading advertising and marketing company, Diane Thomson of Camelot and Stan Sthanunathan of Unilever . 

We’re also a very event led organisation,” says Helen. “We put on a massive annual conference for around 800 attendees, hold the MRS Awards and regularly help run graduate road shows and speaker evenings."

There is a devolved sense of responsibility across the organisation to serve the needs of different parts of the membership community. Special interest groups thrive with members volunteering to organise and host events, build relationships with particular sectors of the membership, get genned up on their specific interests and develop personal connections with smaller groups within the membership.

All this member engagement and development of personal relationships helps generate content for the MRS media channels. “The membership team is driven by the needs of the membership market so it’s great that volunteers  develop personal relationships  with other members and there is more than just  the marketing list to rely on,” says Helen. “This approach is obviously something for bigger organisations to think about and to try to replicate."

We are now working on personal stories and case studies for the website to demonstrate member engagement and the involvement of individuals in the life of the organisation.

Clearly, focusing on member engagement helps associations build deeper relationships with members and engenders loyalty, increased member acquisition and retention and larger numbers of passive members taking on a more active role in the organisation.

Member engagement will be a key element of May’s Associations World Congress in Vienna. Delegates will hear from a number of associations who are focusing on member relationship management and how to put members at the heart of association strategy. For more information go to

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