I never thought I would call an MRA Conference a “home run” but MRA put together a terrific conference this week. There were plenty of areas to nitpick but on the most important element, content, MRA got it right. The content stimulated high level thinking and was forward-focused. Most of the speakers were well prepared and well briefed. They focused on research as an industry rather than the details of a few methods. Most of these speakers caused the audience to ponder the future of the industry and their place in it.
My two personal favorites sessions were:
- The face off between Bill Neal and Marshall Toplansky was one of the most entertaining and thought-provoking sessions I have seen in a conference in quite a while.
- “What it means to be a connected human in the 21st Century” by James McQuivey of Forrester Research.
This conference and recent MRA decisions gives the impression that the MRA is on the rise. The Marketing Research Association (MRA) has long been a great place for “data collectors” to gather, build friendships and share/commiserate with one another. The association had little to offer other players in the industry. That impression is changing at warp speed.
First of all, as mentioned, the conference content was far and away the best of any MRA Conference I have ever attended.
Second, the MRA Board announced that MRA is moving to Washington, DC. This is an overdue and gutsy call by the Board. MRA has long been the only MR association with a full-time presence on Capitol Hill. Now MRA will solidify their leadership as our industry’s government relations voice and be located in the rich association talent pool of Washington, DC.
Third, MRA is boldly reaching out to Corporate Researchers by eliminating their fall conference and replacing it with a conference specifically programmed for Corporate Researchers. MRA has grasped the understanding that if Corporate researchers are involved, the rest of the industry will follow. Given MRA’s historic weakness in this area, establishing a Corporate Researcher Conference was another gutsy call.
There is only one way that an organization changes its trajectory so quickly: leadership. I want to publicly commend David Almy (the new CEO), Elisa Galloway (outgoing President) and the MRA Board of Directors for making some tough but necessary calls that put MRA in a new trajectory as an industry leader.