Over the summer a new report caught my eye. The Investment Association (IA), a trade body that represents over 200 investment managers, released Bringing our Whole Selves to Work – a study of the experiences of LGBT+ people working in asset management. The report set out recommendations for businesses across the sector to make their workplaces more inclusive.
My first thought was bravo for tackling such an important social issue. But what really struck me was that while any of its members could have launched their own similar campaign, it carried more weight coming from a trade body. Rather than the odd firm speaking out on LGBT+ inclusivity, this report represents an entire sector speaking out with one united voice. As a result, the potential for real change increases dramatically.
The role of trade bodies campaigning for change is not new. Linstock has first-hand experience. We worked with TheCityUK, the membership body for financial and related professional services, for five years, supporting on campaigns to change perceptions of financial services firms and drive debates on the UK’s future relationship with Europe.
We also worked with the then-Association for Professional Financial Advisers (APFA), now part of the Personal Investment Management & Financial Advice Association, to launch a campaign calling for the introduction of a ‘long stop’ for financial advice. Essentially a recommendation to enforce a time limit on complaints against financial advisers, it was based on extensive research and canvassing the views of the advisers APFA represented.
Trade bodies are ideally placed to tackle big issues. But it isn’t always plain sailing. Representing a whole sector brings with it a broad church of opinions. As a result, there is no guarantee that every member will support every initiative. Careful diplomacy is often needed.
This is where a carefully designed communications plan can help create broad buy-in. There are three ingredients in particular which are fundamental to success:
- Evidence. Basing recommendations on sound research – qualitative, quantitative or a mix of both – makes it much harder for doubters to remain sceptical. And of course, the danger otherwise is that calls for action are rudderless, based on assumption and hearsay rather than solid facts.
- Collaboration. Trade bodies are ideally placed not only to speak on their members’ behalf, but to actually get them involved in the process of designing and researching communications campaigns. The best thought leadership work is based on collaborating with partners to gather insights and gauge views. The ultimate benefit of doing this is an army of advocates come launch.
- Human interest. It’s critical to bring issues to life through real life examples and emotion. A solid evidence base provides the all-important foundation, but using case studies helps link the facts to real world experiences that will resonate with target audiences.
At the heart of trade bodies’ clout is the fact they have strength in numbers. They can both galvanise and reflect an entire sector of the economy. Adopting an evidence-based, collaborative and case study-led approach to communications can elevate their work even further and give their campaigns the best chance of success.