Now that the 2015-2016 fiscal year has come to a close and AMA Chapter Boards across North America have transitioned to new leadership teams, it seems an appropriate time to reflect on the progress our organization has made in the last 12 months. When I took over the presidency of the Cleveland Chapter in July of 2015 from the ever-popular Eric Barnett (now our VP of Volunteers and always an amazing brand advocate for the AMA), I had no idea some of the challenges our chapter would face throughout the coming fiscal year. What I did know is that we had a strong mission in mind. While we might not achieve every goal we set, our aspirations were noble as we set out to make the Cleveland AMA member experience stronger than ever.
The theme we set for 2015-2016 was “family.” I felt (and the rest of the Board agreed) that too often membership in the AMA (or other groups) was perceived as a resume-building credential, a means to attain a discount to events, or simply an aspirational move to “get more connected” that never quite pans out when people inevitably get busy. While we can all relate to some extent to the latter condition, we wanted membership to be more than a formality; we wanted membership to feel like you’re a part of a club where you are recognized, supported and celebrated.
That is why we established a mission of creating a “family of passionate, interconnected marketers in the CLE”. We moved quickly to set goals and make decisions that would help make the greater Cleveland marketing family a reality.
- We created the first-ever position of VP of Culture & Community in an AMA chapter—a leader tasked with creating a culture of support, caring and recognition that would set the Cleveland AMA apart. The VP of C&C is in charge of meeting with members one-on-one to determine what they want out of the AMA, working with outside organizations to elevate the profile of the organization and helping to make membership in the Cleveland AMA as inclusive and rewarding as possible.
- We elevated the Collegiate Relations Director to a Board position to capitalize on the AMA’s offer of a free year of professional membership for graduating collegiate AMA chapter members. We have succeeded in connecting with collegiate chapter leaders at several local universities, planning joint events to take place in the 2016–2017 year, and finding out how we, as professionals, can support the development of collegiate AMA chapter members.
- We dedicated ourselves to being more analytical, finding out what members liked and didn’t like from the programming and resources we offered, and adjusting accordingly throughout the year. For example, we learned that during our Marketing Mingle event (which I’ll explain further later), members would love to have a few more minutes to talk to their peers at roundtables—feedback that we plan to act upon at our next Marketing Mingle event.
Despite heavier-than-usual Board member turnover due to career changes, unexpected commitments and multiple periods of extended medical leave, I am pleased to say the Board never stopped working to elevate the chapter, covering for one another when necessary to advance the goals of the organization. Through countless hours of hard work by our dedicated (and unpaid) volunteers, we were able to achieve the following milestones this past year:
- Hosted a dozen AMA chapter leadership teams in Cleveland for a weekend to collaborate as part of the 2015–2016 AMA Midwest Regional Retreat. Visiting chapter leaders stated they had a wonderful impression of our beloved city … even in February.
- Hosted AMA CEO (and Cleveland native) Russ Klein to deliver an impassioned presentation to our members about the exciting changes, first-of-their-kind tools and other upcoming value-adds for members … all of which plays well into our local push to showcase member value. As a side note, if you aren’t familiar with what is happening with the Next AMA, I strongly encourage you to check it out!
- Delivered an engaging slate of programming featuring exciting local companies like Vitamix, the Cleveland Clinic, Great Lakes Brewing Company and others. Programs focused on hot marketing topics (as defined by members) and took place at hot venues across Northeast Ohio.
- We organized the first “Marketing Mingle” event that saw local marketers learn from each other during quick roundtable conversations. The program earned the National AMA's attention and they profiled it in their monthly newsletter to chapter leaders across the world. The program was so well received by members, too, that it will become a staple of Cleveland AMA programming.
- We re-engaged the Akron/Canton AMA chapter in merger talks, and now are to the point where both AMA headquarters and the Professional Chapters Council (which oversees professional chapter operations worldwide) have excitedly given their blessing. All members should now have received an email to vote on the merger; we are excited to see it through!
We achieved a lot this past year as a chapter—including a number of chapter firsts, despite our 80+ year history—and those accomplishments have not gone unnoticed on the local or national level. Especially now that we are on the verge of embracing an expanded family of NEO AMA members if the Akron/Canton merger is approved, and we are embracing an exciting new AMA brand, we are posed for continued success this coming year.
We have great momentum going into 2016–2017, and we have a great set of leaders at the helm both here in Cleveland and across the continent that are contributing to the allure of AMA membership. As I pass the mantle of chapter leadership and move into a new Board role, I am excited to continue building that passionate family of interconnected marketers not only in the CLE, but across our region. I look forward to working with you all in that regard.
2015–2016 Chapter President
2016–2017 Secretary, Immediate Past President