Business Associations and their Corporate Members: how to harvest mutual strengths

JUNE 2017. The Association Leadership Academy held a lunch time session on ‘Business Associations and their Corporate Members: how to harness mutual strengths’, led by Brunswick.

This session focused on gaining a better understanding of corporate priorities and how these could be integrated into an association’s strategic planning.

Help stakeholders understand the sector

Vernique Scailteur

Véronique Scailteur, Senior Adviser at the Brussels Brunswick office introduced the session, stating that all associations are challenged to meet their members’ expectations. The relationship should however be mutually beneficial and deliver results. Brunswick research demonstrates that helping stakeholders to better understand a sector and its value to society is key to improving association dynamics. The approach is based on generation of data and analysis of know-how.


the five gs

Katrin Meyer-Schoenherr, Partner at the Munich office of Brunswick presented on “Perspectives of The Five Gs that define the world: Generations, Gender, Geography, Global Cities and Graduation”. She described the results of a wide study about how we think of the world today and whether citizens’ trust in business has grown. Attitudes varied; for example, net support for globalisation was highest in India and lowest in Belgium. Indeed, emerging markets stand to gain the most from a global exchange of ideas and the use of new technologies. On the jobs front, at least one in five workers in some of the largest industries worldwide saw disruption on the horizon, whilst employees were more optimistic about jobs than they were in the future of organisations. Katrin went on to present a summary of the study’s findings according to a sample of each category of citizen interviewed. These categories included the person’s age, gender, education level, and whether they lived in an emerging city or developed town. She concluded that association leaders might use individual ways to engage more often and deeply with these categories of people. She advised listening to stakeholders, rebuilding the social contract and preparation for ongoing and drastic transformation.

The importance of evidence based decision-making



Nick BlowPartner at the Brussels Brunswick office, then spoke to underline the importance of evidence based decision-making. The evidence derived from the type of study presented above sheds light on the priorities of citizens worldwide. These in turn would inform company policy which would include how to handle the relationship with representative associations.

A discussion then ensued on whether associations should treat stakeholders as consumers, as NGOs do. Participants believed that there was a need for honesty in communications, that these should be genuine and help to build trust in business associations. It was pointed out that evidence based advocacy could sometimes lead to conflict with academics about the interpretation of that data. It was advisable to communicate in a simpler way, for example using infographics. One participant said that “regulators love industry money but not our arguments!”


The role of digital media


Antoine SoussalineDirector at the Paris Brunswick office, then presented on the use of digital media. Facebook had by far the most followers worldwide (1.94 bn) followed by LinkedIn (500m) and Twitter (313m). Antoine said that “with the shifts in media and platforms, companies have an obligation to be proactive and creative in the use of new channels to reach their most important stakeholders”.

Antoine noted that some surveys showed that 30% of social media users relied on social media as their only news source. He also had evidence to demonstrate that 99% of the time, a credible message would not come from you as the source communicator but another user of social media. Finally, he concluded with a clear piece of advice: Google statistics have shown that it is better to communicate with the use of video rather than text!


The discussion was then closed with thanks for Brunswick for hosting the session and providing a great lunch.

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