Washington, D.C., policy elites believe trade associations are highly effective advocates for their members and industries, awarding these organizations the strongest performance ratings to date in delivering on public policy representation. While there continue to be areas for improvement, associations are perceived to be getting results in a tough environment, according to an APCO Worldwide survey of policy leaders in Washington.
Following a one-year break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, APCO’s TradeMarks study returns to reveal the landscape in which trade associations are operating and assess the impact associations are having with the policy work.
“With DC and Capitol Hill still virtual in many regards, associations have had to use all the tools at their disposal,” said Bill Dalbec, the study’s principal investigator and managing director for APCO Insight, the global research, analytics and measurement consultancy at APCO . “Advertising is one way to promote the efforts of your industry and members. Speaking with a unified voice in your outreach and demonstrating the breadth of your membership is another. Washington, D.C.’s newsletters and media landscape have been crowded with such efforts and are getting the attention of policy elites.”
Previous TradeMarks studies have shown that the first year of a Congress is the ideal time for trade associations to identify and build relationships with key players for their industry in the legislature. However, the all-Democratic federal government, divisions within Congress and in-person restrictions due to the pandemic have amplified the importance of relationships in 2021.
“It is critically important to identify and build key relationships, across the executive and legislative branches, and within the two chambers and caucuses,” said Licy Do Canto, managing director of APCO’s Washington, D.C., office. “At a time when there have been so many asks, lobbying has never been more crucial and associations are being recognized for their efforts, not only in terms of winning aid and legislatively, but also in terms of their effectiveness ratings.”
Collectively, the 50 trade associations assessed by policy leaders recorded the highest aggregate TradeMarks Index—APCO’s policy effectiveness score—since the survey began in 2013. The 2021 aggregate of 69.6 (on a 0-100 scale) is 3.3 points higher than 2019’s 66.3, which itself was the previous high recorded.
The 2021 TradeMarks study surveyed 322 policy leaders in Washington—congressional staff, executive branch officials and private sector executives—to measure perceived performance on 15 characteristics that make an association an effective public policy advocate in the eyes of its key stakeholders.
This year, nine different associations were identified as top performers. The top-ranked association for each characteristic is listed below:
For more information about the TradeMarks study, visit trademarks.apcoworldwide.com.