ABM's Pettit on SIIA merger, future of b-to-b media

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American Business Media members last week approved the merger of ABM with the Software & Information Industry Association. The 86-to-3 vote took place at the ABM Annual Conference in Amelia Island, Fla. Under the terms of the merger, which will become effective July 1, ABM will become a division of SIIA. ABM President-CEO Clark Pettit presided over the 18-month process that culminated in the merger. Pettit, former VP-global digital operations and assets management at EMI Music, took the helm of ABM in July 2010 and intends to remain through the end of September to work on the integration plan for the two organizations. He spoke with Media Business during the ABM Annual Conference. Below is an edited transcript of the interview. Media Business: What do you see as the advantages of the SIIA merger for ABM members? Clark Pettit: Fundamentally, it's going to give us substantially more scale to continue doing what we've always done. ABM has always aspired to cover the entire business information and media space, and we have wanted to have as broad a participation (as possible) in that whole space, including Big Data companies, etc. Some of those companies have joined ABM, and many of them already are in SIIA. This is an opportunity to continue the breadth of scale of the mission ABM has had but have those companies be part of it. So our committees and councils will have more thought leaders on them. Our events will be able to have more people at them, and government affairs will be something we can execute on a substantially larger scale than ABM's been able to afford as a standalone entity. Media Business: What do you see as the main challenges to the integration of ABM with SIIA? Pettit: Well, associations are interesting. I come from the for-profit world, so I'm used to a very ROI-driven kind of thing. When I've done mergers in the past, as long as my ROI and my offer for a customer are maintained, I can mess around with things in the back end and people don't care to a great degree. That's not true of associations. First and foremost, people are here to collaborate, network with, and celebrate with and learn from like-minded peers. They develop relationships and networking over time, and it becomes kind of the cornerstone of what we're all about. If you break that or mess with that on your journey to create products and services and ROI, it won't work. You can have the most compelling lobbying in the world and the most fantastic programming, but if people don't want to come, they're not going to come. So the complexity is that we logically fit together. We're all part of the same industry. Everyone buys that strategy, and there's a huge amount of enthusiasm about it. But we are also used to our own groups of services and collaboration. So what we have to do is spend some time together, cross-pollinating each other, and in a sense organically reforming in groups. ... Through that we'll be able to recreate events around a critical mass of what people want, recreate committees and councils and other services. It just has to happen a bit more organically but with that vision in mind at all times.
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