The Convention Industry Council has launched a public messaging task force to improve the image of meetings. The group hired Y Partnership Inc., a well-known advertising, public relations, and marketing company in the hospitality industry, to develop a half-dozen messages for CIC's 34 member associations to use for internal and external communications this fall.

The work of the task force will complement the U.S. Travel Association's Meetings Mean Business campaign, launched earlier this year to fight the public perception that corporate meetings are nonessential and often excessive.

CIC Chief Strategy Officer Gregg Talley stressed the need for close coordination between U.S. Travel's legislative work and the public messaging developed by CIC and other industry organizations. “One thing that has become abundantly apparent is that if we don't play in the process, the process plays us,” Talley said. “We may be restricted as nonprofit organizations in how much [legislative activity] we can be involved in legally, or even from a resource allocation standpoint. But that doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't engage our individual members to make their elected representatives aware of the importance of this industry.”

Talley said there is no restriction on the steps industry organizations can take to mobilize members and encourage individual lobbying. However, approaching legislators directly is different. Meeting Professionals International, which is incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit under the U.S. tax code, has only limited ability to engage in direct lobbying. As 501(c)6 organizations, CIC and the Professional Convention Management Association face fewer legal restrictions.

But either way, Talley said, U.S. Travel is in the best position to carry on the legislative battle. “I actually think the combination works well,” he said. With multiple voices in a political fight, “it would be hard to coordinate all our contacts and efforts on the Hill. We would end up bumping into each other rather than empowering one organization while the others rally the troops.”

Jeff Busch, MPI's vice president of strategic communications, agreed that U.S. Travel is speaking well for all elements of the industry coalition. “Sure, they've got an underlying emphasis on the travel component, but they're taking a unified message to legislators from all the associations,” he said.

Of CIC's 34 member organizations, the following are participating in the new task force: ASAE & The Center, Destination Marketing Association International, MPI, PCMA, International Special Events Society, International Association of Exhibitions and Events, Site, and the Center for Exhibition Industry Research.

Estimate Your Meeting Spend

Average company meeting spend equates to
0.5% to 1%
of annual gross sales
or
25% to 30%
of total travel and entertainment spend
or
60%
of corporate air volume
or
2% to 3% of revenue

Source: National Business Travel Association Groups & Meetings Committee

Institute for Supply Management and National Business Travel Association
Summit on Travel & Meetings
Tampa, Fla., www.nbta.org