Paul Holmes 19 Apr 2001 // 11:00PM GMT
The Torrenzano Group executed one of the first visibility raising programs using new Internet polling technologies for an association in its work for the Security Traders Association (“STA”).
Breakthrough Thinking: Internet-based polls are inexpensive and lightening-fast. The polls re-connected the STA with its membership and gave them a powerful voice in the financial markets.
Strategic Approach: Harnessed the Internet to leverage the power of the members’ opinions, resulting in increased media visibility and clout with regulators and lawmakers.
Integrity: The program was founded upon STA’s purpose: to give its members a voice and represent their interests. Full polling data posted on website for public viewing.
Effectiveness: Immediate success across all fronts. STA made into a “player” in eyes of media, regulators and lawmakers at a fraction of the time and cost of traditional methods.
“That’s my grandfather’s golf club,” said one of the STA’s younger members to its new CEO, Lee Korins. This was no news to Korins. Membership was declining. Media visibility was low. The association wasn’t being consulted on industry issues.
Korins saw a tremendous opportunity about to be wasted. With 7,700 members, the STA was the largest organization of its kind. Its traders were on the front lines of securities markets undergoing unprecedented change. They had the unique opportunity to have a hand in shaping key issues such as decimalization and extended hours trading – if they spoke now.
With a central staff of four, and limited financial resources, Korins didn’t have the manpower or money to conduct a large-scale campaign. In May of 1999 Korins turned to The Torrenzano Group. The mission: energize the membership, get the STA in the front of media discussions on industry topics, and increase the STA’s clout with lawmakers, regulators and exchanges.
First, The Torrenzano Group determined where the STA stood with its key constituents.
Media – Determination: the organization had low visibility.
News searches revealed that previous CEO was quoted by major publications only 11 times in the year prior to his departure.
Articles on major industry issues did not reference STA positions. No press releases in 1999, prior to Korins taking charge.
Members – Determination: members viewed the STA as decreasingly relevant to their needs.
Interviews with STA board members (representatives from affiliate organizations) revealed that many members thought the STA was outdated and out-of-touch.
Membership declined 10% in the year prior to Korins taking the job.
Conference attendance was lackluster, with only 800 members attending in 1999.
Government and Regulatory – Determination: the STA lacked clout.
Interviews with staff revealed that the STA was not being consulted on industry issues such as decimalization and extended hours trading.
Staff was frustrated that no progress had been made on reducing Section 31 fees.
STRATEGIC APPROACH AND EXECUTION
The key strength of the STA was the size of its membership. If that membership could speak in one voice—through polls—their opinions would carry great weight. Based on this assumption, The Torrenzano Group put together a four-step plan centered on Internet technology.
Step 1 – Build new website:
The previous website, outdated and ineffective, implied the same about the STA.
The Torrenzano Group crafted a new website the STA a dynamic, high-tech look.
News items and releases kept members coming back.
The STA’s positions on industry issues were included for the media and lawmakers.
With this new “headquarters,” the STA was ready to re-introduce itself to its constituents.
Step 2 – Lay groundwork with media:
The Torrenzano Group set up over 15 meetings between Lee Korins and journalists at top publications to introduce him and explain the STA’s positions.
Publications included The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Dow Jones, Reuters, Bloomberg, and The Chicago Tribune (See Appendix B).
Step 3 – Conduct Internet-based member polls:
On-line polling services had just established themselves, offering polling at a minimal cost, with results instantly tabulated and reported.
The STA was one of the first associations to use this technique (using ).
The Torrenzano Group designed and mailed bright
[orange ?] cards to the STA’s members, asking them to log onto the polling site and answer multiple-choice questions.
Future polls were conducted mainly via email, augmented by postcards (see Appendix C).
Step 4 – Convert poll results into media coverage:
The Torrenzano Group composed news releases based on the poll results, targeting “hot” industry issues currently in the press (see Appendix C).
Immediately, the first poll bore fruit. Members were enthused and media coverage was excellent, with over 25 mentions in the 90 days following the poll. Building on that success, members were polled four more times in 2000. Specifically, the results were as follows:
- The STA became known as a definitive expert on issues such as decimalization and extended hours trading, and was quoted in virtually every major article discussing these topics.
- Quotes by Mr. Korins tripled in 2000 versus his predecessor. Overall mentions of the STA surged 47% (see Appendix D).
- For the STA’s 2000 convention, the STA’s media prominence allowed The Torrenzano Group to put together one of the highest-profile financial media panels ever assembled anywhere by any organization (see Appendix E).
- Annual convention attendance in October 2000 grew 50% to versus prior year.
- Over members participated in the initial poll. Decrease in membership halted.
- Image of STA transformed to high-profile, high-tech, responsive organization.
- Government & Regulatory:
- The SEC’s staff began to consult STA on decimalization, extended hours trading, industry technology, trading regulations, and other issues.
- For the first time, Arthur Levitt agreed to speak at the STA’s annual conference.
The NASDAQ consulted the STA on the design of its new uperontage system.
After years of pushing for Section 31 fee reductions, this topic was given newfound importance with lawmakers, with Senator Phil Gramm making it his top priority in 2001.