We say it often: AMA Chicago is a community. We are a community of marketers in the greater Chicago area who are committed to growing our expertise, keeping our skills sharp and building our networks. We’re a community of members and guests, both in and beyond the Chicagoland community.
But ”community” is much more than a nice word to AMA Chicago, to our members, to our board and to our volunteers. We know that because we feel it in the room at our events, a sense of shared pride in our professional identities, our unique role in any given workplace, and our love for the city we call home.
And, as smart marketers, we know it from the research we did on what Chicago marketers want. In 2020, AMA Chicago partnered with Threadline to conduct psychobiographical research on our members past, present and not yet. Here’s one of the big takeaways:
Marketing demands continuous learning and engagement in order for marketers to stay up to date and effective. It requires constant learning, evolving, and shifting. As a result, in a room full of marketers of various ages, every one of them is looking to learn something from the others. Marketing is at once an apprenticed profession and an egalitarian one. – Threadline
Since then, teams of volunteers and our board have been working to incorporate multi-directional mentorship more widely, despite a pandemic and busier-than-ever schedules. And, as it often goes, the answer was to bring back a beloved program from the past – but with the benefits available now and a plan for the future.
We’re exuberant to announce a member exclusive to deliver on what Chicago marketers said they wanted: shared interest groups, aka SIGs.
Diverse Marketers Finding A Common Interest
“What was reinforced in our research was that marketing is a really broad field, and it has lots of different specialists,” said Shannon Lee, who served as president during the planning and piloting of SIG 2.0. “With an organization like AMA Chicago, it’s challenging to have enough programming to cater to all of those specialties. But SIGs are a way to bring together those like-minded folks who are looking for each other in our city.”
Developed with the busiest marketers in mind, SIG 2.0 is a simple concept for making connections, having a sounding board and, in a way, geeking out over the parts of marketing you already love. SIGs meet once a month for about an hour, often in the format of a short topic presentation and then open discussion.
Beyond meetings, every SIG has a dedicated channel on Slack, the free messaging program. SIG members are invited to use Slack to quickly ask questions, help others with their marketing needs and build connections between meetings. It’s up to individuals to stay as connected as they’d like to get day-to-day or week-to-week value out of your SIG community. But if the pilots are any indication, SIG Slack will never be quiet for long.
“We’re bringing back this successful SIG model with the tools we have today, like research and new tech, to be able to collaborate virtually. Plus, because it’s virtual, it’s more accessible to members who live outside of the city. So in multiple ways, we’re bringing more people into the conversation and making a more enhanced experience,” said Lee. “These communities are meant to be informal, so they’re open for good conversations.”
What We’ve Learned Already
Starting in early 2022, longtime AMA Chicago member and former board member Kathy Alexander launched the Research SIG as a pilot of this program. In just a few meetings, she’s seeing the benefits and the excitement from fellow marketers.
“I come from a part of marketing that’s very specific: research,” said Alexander. “I really wanted to be able to connect with marketers of my own kind; people with the same passions and interests as I have, so we can filter what we’re seeing and doing through that lens. That’s what SIGs are. They’re about learning from each other and working together.”
A second pilot SIG, a book club, has met only once before a summer hiatus. Led by Kevin Davis and facilitated by Beverly Moore, the Book Club SIG plans to have collaboratively-built book reviews of member-suggested marketing books.
“For some, marketing has been enveloped in their role, and they need to learn it,” said Moore. “The Book Club SIG is a way for us to share and learn from each other. From early-career marketers to seasoned professionals, academics, entrepreneurs, and new and veteran chapter members, it’s great to bring a cross-section of people together. I look forward to others joining the conversation.”
You Get Out What You Put In
If there’s a consensus among the early adopters, it’s this: You get out what you put into a SIG.
“It’s a way to network and share best practices or share experiences, learn from each other, and build those long-term connections that you can reach out to throughout your career,” said Lee. “Slack keeps the conversation going – I can quickly ping someone with questions, share tools and get resources.”
Alexander remembers the previous iterations of SIGs, which were quarterly meetings with an expert speaker giving a presentation, followed by some discussion. She likes the new format better.
“The people interested in joining SIGs are interested in diving more deeply into a given topic or participating at a different level,” said Alexander. “You can’t show up for a SIG with your camera off and your mic on mute. These are the people who cluster in a corner after a program to discuss something more in-depth. They’re interested in getting to know their colleagues at this level. It’s not an observational group. “
It’s a common experience.
“I am excited about the conversations we’re having,” said Moore. “Even in our first meeting, the level of excitement to get to know each other and have these conversations was a great experience.”
Even as more of an observer, Lee agrees.
“Our Slack groups are inspiring to me. It has been heartening to see these niche communities growing,” said Lee. “I am in another group like this, and I learn so much. I bring all that I learn to my clients and my own teams. And I am building a network of very reliable people I can reach out to about specific questions or when we need a partner on a project.”
Join a SIG, Find Your Community
Right now, American Marketing Association Chicago has four SIG communities open for members to join:
- Market Research
- Book Club
But there’s more to come. In the coming months, members will be notified about SIGs on design thinking and being a marketing team of one.
What’s next? That partially depends on you. You can get involved by:
- Joining one or more SIGs through this application
- Letting us know what SIG you’d like to see next
- Facilitating a SIG on your favorite topic
“I’m eager to be a co-chair for the brand SIG with our president-elect, Chris McGuire,” said Lee. “In my day job, I do a lot with brands. It’s my wheelhouse, but I want more brand people to connect to. Who else is out there? And what can I learn from them? What can I share in my experiences that will help others learn?”