Curley Company founder and CEO Jennifer Curley, who is also publisher of the Association 100, shares her views on the role associations play in a rapidly changing marketplace on the latest “PR’s Top Pros Talk” video interview with Doug Simon.

Since many associations put on events, Curley says that the pandemic posed major challenges for them. Going virtual was their go-to solution, and she tells Simon that “for the time we’re in, it really worked, and they were able to provide the member value they wanted to.”

As companies look toward next year, she says many associations are “thinking about hybrid and thinking of ways they can keep some of the things that they liked” about the virtual strategy.

Member value is key for associations, and the events of the past year have inspired several ways in which associations can ensure that they are providing that value, Curley says.

“First of all” she says, “advocacy is always important.” In addition, companies are looking for strategies and guidance on “diversity, equity, inclusion and some of the social justice issues.”

Curley talks about a client in the agriculture space that put together “an agricultural DE&I working group with panelists from both D.C. and their member companies to talk about hiring in the agricultural space when it comes to diversity.” This is just one way in which “associations are really, really stepping up when it comes to social responsibility issues,” she says.

With the sea change in Washington, the role of association leaders in advocacy efforts will still be very important, Curley tells Simon. “I think these association leaders really have a role to play, and they've carried a lot of water for their members on some of these issues.”

Associations also face a political arena in which change is constant. “Every issue is on the table, whether it's climate change, or infrastructure, or healthcare, technology. Every sector has got a play right now when it comes to Washington.”

Dealing with that requires being nimble, she says. Associations “don't have the luxury of the time that they did before because D.C. is moving so fast.”

Association leaders are also being called on publicly push and promote their messages. “There's a lot of lack of trust in government. So, businesses and CEOs and leaders of associations are all stepping up right now to fill that void.”

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