November 10, 2014
Global associations looking to make an impact on an international scale
Kellen hosted its first Greater China Update event on October 20. Held in partnership with ASAE and Meetings & Exhibitions Hong Kong, speakers included the Deputy Director-General of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing at the U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration and me – Steven Basart, Manager, China.
We had an enormous amount of interest in the event, and as not everyone was able to make it to Washington, D.C., I wanted to share with you some of the key points that came from the event:
- There are over 506,700 legally registered “Social Organizations” in China, with 1.2 million staff (as of June 2013)
- Historically, associations have been linked to the government and subject its administrative guidance
- Plans for association reform (the separation between government and social organizations) have been in the pipeline for over a decade
- Progress provides global associations the opportunity to exchange and collaborate on joint programs with local counterparts
- Legal registration for international associations in China is still not possible and only accepted on an experimental basis
The size of the Chinese market, and its influence in the political and economic arena, presents great opportunities for global associations looking to make an impact on an international scale. If you are looking to establish a presence, here are a few things you need to consider:
The strength of your market, membership and counterpart opportunities.
Strategic assessments are an incredibly effective tool in helping you quantify your opportunities in the region. A strategic assessment should be one of the very first things you do, as it will help you prioritize the steps you need to take to successfully grow your presence. Your assessment must address the opportunities to work with local counterparts and the possibilities to tailor your organization’s membership benefits to match local needs.
Knowing your local counterpart organization.
You need to understand what type of organization you are dealing with and whether or not they are aligned to your mission. While they may serve the same industry, without a shared vision, they will be unable to support your association’s goals in the region.
Localizing your membership benefits and communications.
Simply translating your website or member packs isn’t going to cut it. Your programs and communications need to consider the perspective of your Chinese reader, what they deem valuable, their preferred communication channels and more. Associations need to realize that popular global networks, including Facebook, Twitter or YouTube are generally inaccessible to the local public due to government restrictions. Instead, you will need to establish a presence on Qzone, Renren and Youku to reach your prospects and members. If you are interested in learning more about China’s home grown platforms, see Kellen’s Social Media Report for Associations published earlier this year and a blog post I wrote last year.
Your legal obligations.
Whether you plan to work through an Association Management Company (AMC) or establish a legal for profit entity in Mainland China or Hong Kong, you need to be aware of the limitations on association activities in the region. An experienced AMC (like Kellen) will not only be able to guide you through your legal obligations and representation, but will also help you prepare for the cultural and business variances.
Most of all, you need to be prepared to localize your global strategy and adapt to the local circumstances. By remaining flexible, but always true to your mission, your association will be able to deliver value and grow its strategic presence in the region.
If you have any questions regarding association activity in China, or the benefits of working with an AMC, feel free to get in touch at email@example.com.