BRANDING HAS BECOME one of the buzzwords of modern marketing, and for good reason. A brand is much more than a name: It's an identity that reflects the look, the personality, the consistency, and every other aspect of an organization.

Companies that achieve brand recognition — think Sony Electronics, Southwest Airlines, Ritz-Carlton Hotels — can create amazing customer loyalty. When I purchased a television recently, I wanted a Sony because the brand name led me to think the TV would be reliable. Southwest is my first choice in airlines because I believe it will get me from point A to point B with the least disruption. And if I'm lucky enough to stay at a Ritz-Carlton, I know that I can expect an extremely comfortable night's sleep and exceptional service.

Branding — and rebranding — continues to make headlines in the insurance and financial services sector as companies merge, purge, grow, shrink, and otherwise reinvent themselves. For example, check out the interview with Michael Burke in our cover story beginning on page 26. Burke is the new president of Financial & Insurance Conference Planners, the 48-year-old association that recently changed its name from ICPA to FICP. He also works for a company, The Hanover Insurance Group Inc., that just changed its name from Allmerica. Talk about an immersion in branding! One thing Burke has learned is that the creation of a successful brand involves more than a marketing campaign. What it really comes down to, he says, is the “consistent performance of our people and the perception of our various stakeholders.”

Who Is The Meetings Group?

That said, allow me to introduce my company brand, The Meetings Group, a division of Prism Business Media. Formerly Primedia Business, we're now a stand-alone, business-to-business media company with nearly 900 employees, owned by Wasserstein Partners.

Financial & Insurance Meetings (formerly Insurance Conference Planner) is part of The Meetings Group family of niche-specific meeting and incentive travel magazines that also includes Medical Meetings, Corporate Meetings & Incentives, Association Meetings, and Religious Conference Manager. We target our content to the specific needs of our readers, but together we represent the full spectrum of the meeting industry. Our group of telecommuting editors and art directors, who collectively have an average of about 10 years' experience at our company alone, communicate constantly, not just about our niches but about how our brand can best serve our combined constituency.

What we bring to the table for our stakeholders (in addition to our magazines) is a wide range of products and services designed to educate, enlighten, and entertain. For example, check out our redesigned Web site (www.meetingsnet.com) for everything from handy, how-to checklists to thought-provoking blogs by Web editor Sue Pelletier, the original meeting industry blogger. Our weekly e-newsletter, MeetingsNet Extra, doesn't just regurgitate press releases: It gives you short, easy-to-read analyses and opinions on the latest meeting industry happenings. MeetingsNet Extra is an industry-wide resource e-mailed to readers of all our magazines, while complementary, monthly e-newsletters such as Financial & Insurance Meetings Extra drill down to the niches.

And, recognizing that so much of what we learn is from face-to-face interaction, we pool our expertise to sponsor events that range from large conferences to small roundtables. We're proud of MM's hugely successful Pharmaceutical Meeting Planners Forum, launched in 2005, which will be followed by a second forum this March, and of AM's roundtable of industry experts at the International Association for Exhibition Management annual meeting in December. And recently, FIM, CMI, and MM editors brought together a roundtable of high-level corporate planners from different industries to share their thoughts on the challenges facing their departments. Look for their insights in our March/April issue.

We're constantly striving to make our brand relevant, exciting, and fun. How can we help to make your job easier? Write to me with your ideas at regina.baraban@penton.com.