A Vision for the Future of DMA: A Q&A With DMA’s Lindsay Hutter
For direct marketers, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) is the legacy trade association in a sea of upstarts. DMA's been reinventing itself, positioning itself as a data-driven organization. Just before DMA2014, the organization brought Lindsay Hutter on board as its new SVP of communications.
Target Marketing interviewed Hutter on Oct. 23. This is the full interview with Hutter, who joins DMA after her years at New York-based PR firm Hill+Knowlton and the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).
Target Marketing: What do you plan to change about DMA's communications strategy?
Lindsay Hutter: Well, I think the first thing that I plan to do is listen to our members and listen to my colleagues, and pay attention to what's happening in the broader world around us. Then—with the benefit of that great input and counsel, and observations—look at, and assess, what we're doing at DMA. Focus on what's good, and we want to keep. Focus on what we probably might want to change.
Also determine what we need to innovate. You might call it the "stoplight" approach. "Green," we keep; "red," we discontinue; then we identify where's the innovation opportunity that delivers more value to our members, and positions this industry on the economic landscape for the full value and contributions that it brings to not only the US economy, but also the global economy.
TM: How do you plan to do that?
LH: There are a couple of great resources that all of us have, the first one is ears. I want to listen. The second thing I want to do is be able to ask smart questions of people that care about the industry, that are leading the industry. Also those that have been hallmarks of the industry. I worked for an industry that had its first roots back in the Depression era, the convenience and petroleum industry.
I learned that we are stewards in the association business. We're stewards, and we're part of a continuum. It's vital that we understand all that came before us, because there is legacy, and there is insight and there is knowledge there. It's important to be very smart about what's happening today.
It's also important to be really looking around the corner, around the curve, and helping the industry accelerate. That's by pointing out, "What are smart opportunities for the industry?" And it's also identifying, "What are barriers to success?" I see DMA incredibly well-positioned to identify those opportunities and help the industry capitalize on them. At the same time, [to] be a scout that spots the barriers, whether they're legislative or policy barriers, or talent gap barriers, and identify the solutions that will help our members achieve success that much faster.
TM: When do you plan to do all this?
LH: My immediate priority is to listen, observe and ask good questions over the next week at what is the industry premier event, the DMA2014, our annual conference. That's my short-term priority. I'm a believer in a dual-track approach … This is something that I advised clients in my role as global practice leader for change, in internal communications with Hill+Knowlton.
That is, we need to be able to sail the ship well while we're rebuilding it and modernizing it. That's the approach that I've discussed with Tom Benton, our CEO, and intend to bring forward. I see communications as one of the best assets a trade association has to advance the industry's agenda. It does this not only by communicating with external stakeholders, including the media, it also does this by being a strategic advisor, and resource, and partner to the other parts of the organization.
I will work very closely with government relations. I know Peggy Hudson. We worked together over the years in Washington. She heads DMA's government relations program. I will work with Gina [Scala], who heads our education program, to ensure that communications is really effectively communicating to the industry, as well as [to] those outside the industry, just how smart our members are, our industry is and our association is.
You create a reputation for the industry where there's a benefit of trust and goodwill, because it's known that we're smart, and we have integrity and we effectively self-regulate. I think about communications as an asset, and as an advisor, an ally with the other parts of the organization.