DMA's Woolley: 'Advocacy is core to any trade association'

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On May 16, Linda Woolley was named acting CEO of the Direct Marketing Association following the resignation of Larry Kimmel, who was two years into a three-year contract. Woolley had been DMA's exec VP of Washington operations since 2008, overseeing the association's advocacy and lobbying efforts. She has a B.A. in government from Hamilton College, and a law degree from American University's Washington College of Law. Woolley spoke to StraightLine about her appointment and plans for the association. StraightLine: Can you tell us a little about your background and association experience? Linda Woolley: I worked for several years in the environment section of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington. It's considered the mother of all trade associations with a diverse membership; and a lot of that experience definitely is applicable to the DMA. After that, I headed up Washington operations for ITT Corp., which at the time owned Sheraton Hotels, Hartford Insurance and huge telecom operations. That was amazing because there wasn't an industry I didn't work with. After that, I formed LegisLaw Consulting, a public affairs consulting and publishing company and ran that for 10 years. And then I came to DMA in August 2008. StraightLine: Your title is “acting CEO” of DMA. Can you tell us about the search process to find a permanent CMO for the association? Woolley: There is no search process at this time. In that way, it's different than when Bob Allen took over. (Following the January 2010 resignation of John A. Greco as DMA president-CEO, Robert Allen, former president-CEO of cataloguer the Vermont Country Store, took over as “interim CEO” for six months until Larry Kimmel was chosen permanent operations head by a DMA search committee.) StraightLine: What's highest on your agenda at DMA? Woolley: We'll be looking at all our events and figuring out what best meets members' needs. Obviously, our signature event is our annual meeting, which is in Las Vegas in October. It's important in taking care of our members and making sure they have the best experience there possible, but it's also important for the sake of revenue. It's our big event. A trade association should do two things: One is advocacy and the second is the care and feeding of members. Just in terms of resources that second one has to be narrow initially. But it can take the form of networking opportunities, conferences, events, seminars. I can't answer this more specifically at the moment, but in three months I'll have a clearer idea of it. One of my goals is to look very critically at what we're doing and how we're serving our members. We are in a very compressed period of change right now. We have to look carefully at serving our traditional members but also serve the companies that we want to attract to DMA—the ones that are using innovative marketing techniques. That will involve coming up with new programs, content and education. StraightLine: Any new programs on tap? Woolley: Beginning in July, we have a brand-new educational offering—the Data Government Certification—aimed squarely at marketers on how to shepherd and husband data, and what is involved in good data practices. There have been several data breaches lately, and 95% of those things aren't the companies' fault. But there are other things that companies can do to have good data practices, and that's what this certification is all about. It will involve a three-day course July 18-20 in New York, followed by an assessment. StraightLine: How will your appointment impact DMA's Washington operations? Woolley: I'm not moving my residence; I'll still live in D.C. But especially in the beginning, I'll be spending a lot of time in New York. If there is testifying in Washington, obviously I will have to be there, but I plan to go back and forth as needed. Lobbying and advocacy are definitely core to our mission; and, to be honest, it is core to any trade association's mission. That's why companies join trade associations. It won't be any less robust. We have a great team in Washington, and I manage it in a collaborative way. Everybody knows what everybody is doing and can jump in as needed.
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