Those people called members

I’m not a member of the Direct Marketing Association, so I only know what I read about a dissident board member alleging that the organization “is managed with casual regard for the by-laws that ensure that members come first and that DMA stays a leader.” According to, the “dissident board member” was able to have some “reform” members named to the board and also some “adjunct board” members who will participate in board meetings, but not get a vote.

I learned about the controversy today because I follow the blog of Matt Blumberg, one of the new board members, who wrote about it today.


“I don’t normally think of myself as a rebel. But one outcome of the DMA’s recent proxy fight with Board member Gerry Pike is that I’ve been appointed to the DMA’s Board and its Executive Committee and have been labeled “part of the reform movement” in the trade press. While I wasn’t actively leading the charge on DMA reform with Gerry, I am very enthusiastic about taking up my new role.”

What are some of the reforms? Again, I’m not a member and I’m just learning about this today, but I was struck by some of the universality of what Matt’s “reform” concerns are (in an abbreviated way):

1. The DMA could be stronger in fighting for consumers’ interests. Why? Because what’s good for consumers is great for direct marketers. Marketing is not what it used to be, the lines between good and bad actors have been blurred, and the consumer is now in charge. The DMA needs to more emphatically embrace that and lead change among its membership to do the same.

2. Despite a number of very good ideas, the DMA’s execution around interactive marketing has been lacking. The DMA needs to accept that interactive marketing IS direct marketing – not a subset, not a weird little niche…the DMA’s government affairs group, perhaps its greatest strength, still seems disproportionately focused on direct mail issues. The DMA should maintain its staunch support of traditional direct marketers while investing in the future, making interactive marketing an equal or larger priority than traditional direct marketing. We have to invest in the future.

3. The DMA suffers from a lack of transparency that doesn’t serve it well.

Wow. This all sounds familiar.

Back in August, in a wrap-up post I wrote on’ coverage of the convention and expo of the American Society of Association Executives, I quoted author and consultant Gary Hamel, who sounded a warning to association leaderships who are committed to the status quo. “Problems happen when the leaders of an association are behind the thinking of their members,” he said. “That’s when denial occurs. That’s when digging in and protecting the status quo occurs.”

It’s also when most great changes take place, he declared.

Just ask the DMA.