Claire Bradford on professional bodies

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DO you remember that old TV ad for Unison? It had a cartoon ant trying to get past a bear, who couldn’t hear his little ‘excuse me’. He returns with a couple of others, still to no avail, then with an army of ants, who shout ‘Get out of the way!’ and the bear scarpers.

Whether or not you agree with the politics behind the unions, the idea of having a bigger body to turn to for advice and support, whether you are an individual in a profession like teaching, or a business owner, is a reassuring one. And while being a member of a union may not be relevant to a business owner, support does exist in the form of such organisations as the Federation of Small Business or professional bodies which promote best practice for the industries they represent.

These professional bodies can really give your marketing some leverage by raising public awareness of your industry. They often offer special rates of insurance and other deals, produce useful standards and guidelines, and provide great networking opportunities.

Being a member of a larger professional organisation is also reassuring for your clients.

Debbie Willsmer, of Willsmer Wagg Ltd, a promotional merchandising company based in Worthing, contacted me after my recent column on business awards to say that their business profile had indeed been raised from a recent ‘COGs’ award they had received. She added that another great profile-raiser was to get involved in your industry association.

She told me that last year she had accepted a board director position for the BPMA (British Promotional Merchandise Association), and said: “Not only did this raise our company profile, it has helped tremendously as it gives me a day away from the business a month, and I get time to think and really understand what is going on. It is always great to do business locally, but it is important to also raise your profile to a much wider audience within your specified field, so ensure you are a member of the right association, network with the right people, get nominated for local and industry awards and sit on the right committees. It really does help – we are the living proof.”

Which professional bodies do you belong to? Could you be more involved? Share your experiences at www.facebook.com/womaninbusiness or tweet me @coachbythecoast