Tag Archives: leadership

Falling off the Bandwagon

My wife is
a librarian. If you don’t know a librarian, you should. They remind us of two critical
things in life: we don’t know nearly as much as we think we know, or should,
and the sources we rely on these days for truth are not nearly as reliable as
we’d like to believe. I met my wife when we were both just starting out. She
was on her first gig as a reference librarian at a public library, and I was on
my first gig as a journalist. I was searching for truth, and she new where to
look it up.

In the
seventeen years that we’ve been together, I’ve developed a profound respect for
the library profession. Librarians as individuals are smart,
inquisitive and very well informed. But as a profession, they transcend. They
know the origins of their profession and its evolution over centuries. They
understand their role in society and their value to the community they serve. They
work hard to face the tremendous challenges that technology brings, and to
constantly maintain relevance in a society that often, perilously, forgets
their worth. 

When I look
at the library profession, exemplified at large by the American Library
Association, I see a profession that is fully engaged with society and with
their peers. They don’t always get everything right, but they’re on the ball. And
when I look around, I see other professions and professional associations that
are similarly dialed in, like the American Medical Association. Again, they’re
not perfect, but they’re fully engaged, with a strong vision of the challenges
and opportunities they face as a group.

I don’t see
the same image with marketers, or with the American Marketing Association. We
are a profession that is fragmented and in disarray. Most
marketers have little or no understanding of our professional history. We don’t
fully understand, or admit, our role in society, or the value we offer to our
community. We do work hard to face new challenges, but almost never as a
cohesive group. Instead, we elevate gurus and trade in buzzwords until a
dominant theme emerges, often simply trading one trend for another.

At the
figurative head of this chaos, the American Marketing Association serves less
as a professional body of leadership, than as the leading beneficiary of our
ignorance. Rather than driving dialog and debate over the right path into the
future, the AMA feeds off the marketing community with endless seminars and classes
promising to enlighten us about the latest buzz trend. I get spam from the AMA
that is indistinguishable from any other guru garage, promising to teach me how
to stay one step ahead of impending doom.

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With all of
the significant challenges marketers face in redefining their role in the
corporation, and their relevance to corporate strategy, you would think an
organization like the AMA would find its voice in leading the way forward. Instead,
they are always leading the bandwagon to the top of the bell curve. That’s not
to say the AMA doesn’t have good people or informative programs. But what
marketing needs today in a professional organization is leadership, not
fast-following. I wish we could find that leadership in the AMA.