Lessons From a Stalwart: A Century of Sleep Advocacy

Where there are newbies, there are usually stalwarts with experience and wisdom to share. For example, meet the International Sleep Products Association.

The International Sleep Products Association was formed in 1915 by 39 bedding manufacturers and today represents manufacturers and suppliers in more than 50 countries. As ISPA celebrates its centennial this year, its leaders reflect on sustainability and relevance, offering this advice to the new kids on the block.

Remember you’re a member organization. “Protecting the best interests of your members is most important,” says ISPA Vice President of Marketing and Communications Mary Helen Uusimaki. She says the association is always looking for feedback, even if it’s about something as seemingly trivial as the food provided at a conference or other ISPA event.

Think about where you’ll achieve maximum impact. If only 2 percent of your members are using Facebook, don’t invest all your resources in social media. Likewise, Uusimaki says, if you are working with new legislation that requires resources to inform and educate your membership, make that a priority, rather than splurging on a catchy campaign.

Stay modern, but respect traditions. A large percentage of ISPA’s members are family owned and operated, and most have been in the industry more than 15 years. “As we celebrate our 100, we want to respect the long-time members and traditions,” Uusimaki says, “and also show new members who only network digitally that there’s an opportunity in face-to-face meetings.”

Encourage members to get involved. It’s vital for members to network, even with their competition, Uusimaki says. “Don’t sit on the sidelines,” she tells members. “Reaching out to other companies exposes members to a broader perspective, and that helps the industry as a whole.”

Be the industry’s eyes and ears on the ground in Washington. The more relevant an association is on Capitol Hill, the better off it is. “We try to create a positive business environment for our members,” Uusimaki says. “Having a louder voice than they would as individual businesses is key.”


Melanie D.G. Kaplan

By Melanie D.G. Kaplan

Melanie D.G. Kaplan writes regularly for the Washington Post and is a contributing editor at Smart Planet/CBS Interactive. MORE

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