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Siegfried Schmitt, PhD, Principal Consultant at PAREXEL, discusses how to gain benefits from interactions with industry associations.
Q: Our management is willing to pay for two industry association memberships of our choice. Can you offer any recommendations in terms of decision criteria we should focus on to evaluate which associations are the best fit for us? We are a contract manufacturing organization.
A: The decision to join industry associations is a positive and sensible one by your company’s management, as memberships with these associations provide a wide range of benefits. Membership can benefit the organization as well as individuals on a personal development level. To evaluate which industry associations are a best fit for your organization, it is best to first draw up a list of requirements or needs. Developing these criteria will help with decision making.
First, let us examine your business environment. Say, for example, that you are a well-established organization that covers the entire drug-development lifecycle, from the clinical phases to commercial production and to postmarketing. Industry associations can be broad in focus or specialized. Some are more focused on the engineering aspects, whereas others are more concerned with quality, compliance, and/or regulatory subjects. That said, the first step in deciding which association is best for you is to identify where your interests are focused. For example, if your company is involved in facility and equipment qualification, including automated systems, then an industry association whose members share this interest would be your first choice. Conversely, if you were in a quality unit-focused role, you would look for an association with a quality and compliance focus. It would not make sense to join an organization whose focus is entirely different than that of your company, thus it is key to hunt for those whose focus aligns with yours.
Before you make a final choice, there are additional considerations to make. One is regarding locality (i.e., does the organization cover the countries or regions where your company is located and is interested in expanding to?). These don’t necessarily have to be the same. You may prefer to be actively engaged with the association (e.g., through participation in interest groups, say for equipment automation, data integrity, or any other subject of interest), which means that you would be looking for a local branch or chapter of that association. On the other hand, your company may also be interested in selling your products globally, which would then make membership in an association with a global footprint preferable.
Next, consider the tangible benefits that you hope to gain from your association membership. Do you want access to strategic concept papers, technical or scientific reports, newsletters, interaction with peer groups, the possibility to interact with agency regulators, or perhaps benchmarking opportunities? Some organizations offer all of these benefits while others only offer some.
Finally, membership may offer you opportunities for personal development through active engagement, such as organizing events or conferences, authoring papers and reports, or even helping to shape the association as a board member. Such engagement can also provide major benefits to your company, as its name will become more prominently known. Its networking opportunities are increased, and its industry standing will be heightened due to its association membership. For this reason, it’s important to look for associations that encourage member participation.
With all this information in hand, you should be well prepared to make your association choices. Do not forget that to gain the most from your membership, you must remain engaged and committed. Not knowing your personal preferences, I cannot recommend individual organizations, but with these tips in mind, I am confident you can identify suitable industry associations.
Volume 41, Number 5
When referring to this article, please cite it as S. Schmitt, "Engaging with Interest Groups or Industry Associations," Pharmaceutical Technology 41 (5) 2017.