Should Your Association Respond to Outside Research?

Though a recent study on the increasing number of grumpy LEGO characters received a lot of media attention, the Toy Industry Association decided it’s not the time to speak up.

No matter how connected to your industry, members, or interests a study is—and no matter how tempting it could be to issue a response—sometimes it’s best for your association to stay silent.

That’s what the Toy Industry Association (TIA) is doing about a new study released last week [PDF] that shows LEGO mini-figure faces have gotten a whole lot angrier over the years. Reaction in the media has varied: Some outlets say the angry faces could affect how children play, while others argue the message is being skewed. TIA, following internal policy, had no comment on the study’s findings.

It goes back to our policy: If it’s company or brand specific, that’s the responsibility of that organization to comment.

“It goes back to our policy: If it’s company or brand specific, that’s the responsibility of that organization to comment,” said Stacy Leistner, vice president of strategic communications for TIA. “If it’s something that represents an industry issue, if it crosses multiple categories in the game aisle or multiple companies, then the association would typically have a perspective to offer.”

According to Leistner, TIA prefers to focus more on industry trends and safety issues in its own research and when deciding what kinds of studies the organization should weigh in on. Its communications team relies on monitoring tools like Google and fee-based databases to stay on top of new research coming out and other industry news.

“A lot of our topical experts in other parts of the organization are also monitoring for things that are within their area of expertise,” he said. “The communications group, we’re a support team for the entire organization, so whenever anybody spots something—whether it’s related to trends or product safety or legislative and regulatory affairs—we’re always working in close cooperation with the other groups.”

Action in the toy industry, perhaps not surprisingly, intensifies in the months leading up to the holiday season and typically lasts through February when TIA holds its annual tradeshow.

When fielding questions and responding to surveys and studies, Leistner said it’s important to bring the message back to the people the organization serves.

“We’re always focused on the ultimate audience, which is the consumer,” he said. “How we respond to something is usually with the perspective of the mom and dad, the grandparent, the caregiver, and potentially even the child, so we want to use language that’s targeted to them. We’ll usually try to work a message in about some of our key safety tips, and we’ll also make reference to where people can go for more information, whether it’s one of our websites or another leading expert on something.”

(photo by brieuc_s/Flickr)

Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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