Industry associations are accustomed to balancing resources between lobbying activities and providing support for individual members.
Although resource intensive, individual member support is often seen as one way of retaining and attracting members.
But Optometry Australia (formerly the Optometrists Association Australia) was surprised to find that its members were interested in changing the balance between individual needs and the profession as a whole.
A survey found that members wanted the organisation to lead and promote the profession rather than focus on meeting individual needs.
As a result, Optometry Australia has embarked on a strategic redirection including a rebranding exercise.
"There’s a shift away from people being members because they feel it’s a good thing to do and with increasing competition for many individual services, we need to respond to remain relevant ," says Optometry Australia CEO Genevieve Quilty.
"They’ve told us that leading, promoting and advocating on behalf of the sector is more important than solely concentrating on meeting individual member’s needs."
A new name and logo are only the beginning of the process, which includes newly focussed public awareness campaigns to promote the critical role of optometrists in maintaining the eye-care needs of the community, using newer media channels.
Another challenge is to provide optometrists with more opportunities to network.
"In this profession, you tend to be in a room by yourself," says Quilty. "So it’s important that members can collaborate and share information."
Some state divisions have already set up membership hubs to encourage more interaction, which will facilitate the organisation becoming a true national collective. A network of seven conferences per year will further facilitate these important connections. National webinars are already on offer and as technology becomes more effective and affordable, members working in regional areas will be provided with other platforms to participate.
Words of advice
Members’ involvement was critical to the brand review process, says Quilty.
"Don’t shy away from delving into questions of trust, relevance and reliability," she says.
"You may not like the answers, but they help you judge organisational performance and relevance and implement the right strategies for improvement."
Optometry Australia set up panels of members in each state and their feedback helped tweak the brand platform until it was right.
"We also appointed a change management facilitator to work from the board room down to ensure a deep and ingrained understanding of our new direction," she says.
That vital step, says Quilty, "will ensure our realignment is a managed process designed to take all stakeholders on the same journey at the same time".
In other words...
- Listen to your members. Their frontline experience can help you redefine your strategy.
- Encourage interaction and networking. Give members opportunities to collaborate wherever they are.
- Don’t be afraid to bring in outside experts to ensure a managed realignment process.
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