Clinton Global Initiative

APCO Worldwide Launches Inaugural Study of Trade Association Effectiveness in Washington

Washington, D.C. (July 24, 2013) - APCO Worldwide unveiled today the first quantitative study evaluating the effectiveness of trade and professional associations, TradeMarks, announced Bryan Dumont, president of APCO Insight.

The study surveyed policy leaders in Washington, D.C., and analyzed the perceptions of what makes an association an effective public policy advocate in the eyes of its key audiences. APCO has worked to advise trade associations since its inception almost 30 years ago. Two sectors which performed exceptionally well in the TradeMarks study are health care and telecommunications, sectors whose associations are facing particularly high-profile dialogues and legislation recently in Washington.

"This is the first study to ever tackle the question of association effectiveness with a formal, systematic and objective approach to pinpoint the specific characteristics that define public policy effectiveness among Washington, D.C., policy leaders," said Dumont. "In addition, the TradeMarks model provides an actionable roadmap showing associations how they can increase their perceived effectiveness and achieve their desired policy outcomes."

The study surveyed 456 policy leaders in Washington, D.C., asking them about their perception of 50 associations on a variety of characteristics. The associations were selected due to their prominence in key industries that influence considerable portions of the U.S. economy.

From the survey, 15 characteristics emerged as consistent for evaluating the effectiveness of associations. Each association included in the survey was scored along each of these characteristics, resulting in a cumulative score to show overall effectiveness. The top ranked association in Washington, D.C., on each of these 15 characteristics is below:

"While lobbying remains a critical function, our research shows that effective trade associations need to serve many other functions, especially in engaging with a broader range of stakeholders, in order to be seen as effective public policy advocates," said Bill Dalbec, senior director at APCO Insight who led the study in Washington, D.C. "Indeed, lobbying only represents about 11 percent of what it means for a Washington, D.C., trade association to be deemed effective. The ability to effectively work with stakeholders across legislative, executive branch and regulatory bodies and to have an impact beyond Washington, D.C., and make a difference at the state and local levels are absolutely critical for trade associations to be seen as effective in the minds of policy-makers."

"One of the key takeaways from the study is that associations that are most effective tend to do better on strategic characteristics, such as relationship building and helping to protect and enhance the reputation of the overall industry, while tactical elements, tend to have less impact. With this analysis, we can show associations that if they make strategic decisions about where they focus their efforts, they will see tangible effects and greater effectiveness for their members overall," Dalbec added.

The study was conducted in partnership with National Journal Membership’s research division. A similar study was conducted among policy leaders in Brussels with EurActiv examining the effectiveness of trade associations with the European Union. For more information about TradeMarks, please visit