On September 22, APCO’s Chicago office hosted senior executives from Chicago-based trade associations and professional societies for an APCO Forum event: The Secrets of Highly Effective Trade Associations.


Bill Dalbec, senior director with APCO Insight, presented APCO’s latest TradeMarks Study findings which examined how associations across the United States are perceived by Washington, D.C., policy influencers perceived performance on 15 key characteristics, including coalition building, social media and unified voice, forms an effectiveness score for associations and professional societies.

Some key themes emerged from the interactive discussions:

  • Communications, particularly social and digital media, are seen as highly effective tools to engage with key audiences, and are often not being utilized to their full potential by the associations examined.
  • While still important and impactful, lobbying is less important than collaboration – building key relationships, coalition building and bipartisanship – and appears to be emphasized by associations more so than other more impactful measures.
  • The financial services, healthcare and telecommunications industry associations collectively perform better than others like energy and extraction, manufacturing and transportation and travel; this is a result of both better performing individual associations and a legislative agenda which substantially addresses their industries.
  • Associations examined in this study generally perform well, and better than a year ago. The study is able to link perceived effectiveness to tangible outcomes, like consideration of an association’s position on issues and agreeing to meet to discuss priorities, to help associations manage their engagement. The study finds that a one-point increase in perceived effectiveness results in six percent more policy elites both positively considering an association’s position on issues and agreeing to meet with an association’s executives, among other measures.

Given the importance of social and digital media for effectively communicating, the Chicago office is looking forward to welcoming participants to its next APCO Forum event: The Intersection of Digital Health and Patient Centricity on October 26, moderated by Stig Albinus, chair of APCO’s global health care practice. Contact Katie Milgrom at kmilgrom@apcoworldwide.com for more information.

Anna Blyth

Anna Blyth, a senior consultant in APCO Worldwide’s Chicago office, is a communications specialist with a focus on health care issues. Read More

Bill Dalbec

Bill Dalbec, managing director of APCO Insight, provides opinion research, message development and strategic communication services. Read More