Make no mistake about it: whether it’s an email, a headline, your mission statement or a discussion about membership or sponsorships…Words Matter.
In a recent W.A.C.E. Chamber Leadership Podcast, I asked Rob Engstrom, former senior vice president with the U.S. Chamber: “What are your three key words for chambers and chamber CEOs to keep top of mind in 2021?”
Rob responded with: “UNITY, SOLUTIONS and INSPIRATION — those three words capture fully what chambers of commerce across the United States do every day and are poignant in this particular moment.”
“Inspired” by Rob, I reached out and asked the same question to several chamber professionals who are, or have been, in the business of working with chamber executives on a day-to-day basis.
I’ve decided to focus on one of the words from each of them, to give us a nice list of 9:
• BELIEVE from Ruth Littlefield, who manages the Oklahoma Chamber Executives: “In order to get ourselves into an inspired state, we need to truly believe. Beliefs are ground zero for success.”
• CONFIDENCE from Tammy Long, director of the Missouri Chamber Federation: “You need to have confidence to know that you are the best at what you do!”
• CONNECT from Dot Miller, CAE, who runs the Association of Colorado Chambers: “People are feeling disconnected from everything right now. Disconnected from their family, their co-workers, their clients, their chamber. In order to retain members, they need to feel connected with you and your organization. Find ways to connect.”
• FLEXIBLE from Colene Martin, with Oregon State Chamber: “Be ready to adapt to a change in course at any time. Have a Plan B at the top of mind, so you can smartly and gracefully transition.”
• IMAGINE from Shelley Short with the Arkansas State Chamber: “Now that we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and aren’t in pure reaction/survival mode, take time to imagine the organization you’d like to have. Explore what your chamber should be doing and be willing to act.”
• INNOVATION was highlighted by Lisa Weitzel, who manages the Illinois Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives: “We need to create programs of work which encompass the need to move beyond events as a primary revenue generator, understand the bigger role chambers should play and move toward engaging in that space.”
• LISTEN from Tiffany Fulmer, who manages many state chamber executive associations, including Georgia, the Carolinas and Pennsylvania: “It will be important for chamber leaders to go out and listen to what their member (and nonmember) businesses say they need in a post-COVID environment and figure out how to provide those resources.”
• MODERATION was one of the words mentioned by Chris Mead, author of The Magicians of Main Street: “Traditionally, most chambers have flinched from extremism, and that’s a good thing. We need that hometown chamber spirit now.”
• STORY was one of the words mentioned by former Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) President Mick Fleming: “In the past, events were the story of your organization’s visibility. Now you must constantly TELL your story — without being repetitive. The secret is to tell ‘their’ stories.”
To wrap this up, here are three more words that W.A.C.E. Chair Chris Romer, ACE, president and CEO of the Vail Valley (CO) Partnership, has emphasized: “Focus, Value and Leadership!”
As always…we have serious work to do.
Stay safe and stay strong.
Dave Kilby is president and CEO of W.A.C.E. and executive vice president of corporate affairs at the California Chamber.