After a week of online firestorms, SEMPO held their annual meeting last night in San Jose to address member concerns and update them on the events of the past year. Unlike the firestorm of accusations and arguments that have filled forums around the Internet this past week, the meeting tone was calm, if not downright dull.

SEMPO staff checked the IDs of members and the press at the door and closed them as soon as the meeting started. Unlike SEMPO's last meeting in Chicago, the room was packed, suggesting that this past week's controversy serves as a great tool to get your members interested in what you're doing.

SEMPO chair Barbara Coll spent the first portion of the meeting outlining the accomplishments and failures of the past year. Since its launch, SEMPO has attracted nearly 250 members, 20% of which now serve as active volunteers for the organization. SEMPO has been recognized by the government as a 501c(6) and they are quickly moving into International markets like Europe and Japan.

Coll also recognized the various failures of the board when it came to communicating with current members. "We were very sloppy in communicating with you," she stated at one point during the meeting. "It was an oversight." Coll went on to explain that members of the board have been working on ideas to help improve communication with members, including the option of setting up online forums and working to broadcast future meetings via the SEMPO Web site.

While addressing the financials of the past year, Coll also explained that the board had approved a stipend of $1500 a week for the executive director of SEMPO. While Coll is temporarily receiving this payment, the goal is to find and hire an experienced non-profit manager by November of this year. Coll also explained that only 23% of the $266,830 raised to date has come from sponsors, the rest has come from members of the organization.

Goals for the upcoming year were outlined and included an emphasized focus on better communication with members, staggered election of new board members, increasing the visibility of SEMPO and even entering the sticky area of defining best practice and/or ethical standards for members.

Dana Todd went on to unveil SEMPO's new marketing campaign, titled "Top of Search - Top of Mind." With a 2004 budget of $110,000, SEMPO is looking to educate traditional marketers and advertising agencies on the benefits of SEM. Plans include online and print ad campaigns through venues like AdWeek, ClickZ and iMedia along with direct mail campaigns, booths at events like AdTech and even some guerrilla marketing tactics. Todd invited members with suggestions for other advertising outlets and ideas to contact the board.

Overall, the meeting served to address many of the concerns that had been publicly raised over the past few weeks. Unfortunately, the bulk of the meeting time was taken up by sales presentations from Overture and Verizon SuperPages, leaving many in the crowd murmuring over the fact that they were sitting through advertisements rather than having the chance to interact with the board. Due to these lengthy presentations, the meeting lasted long enough to allow time for only a handful of questions from the audience.

The few questions that challenged the board on why those within the industry would want to join SEMPO were answered by invoking the spirit of JFK, and basically saying "Ask not what SEMPO can do for you, but what you can do for SEMPO." Ironically, the members that stood up to comment on how glad they were that they had joined SEMPO focused almost exclusively on the leads they had received from the site, or the clout they felt the organization lent to their business.

SEMPO clearly has a ways to go, but it's essential to remember that only a year has passed since its formation. Yes, there have been shortfalls in how the organization has run, but as the board themselves are quick to point out, they are learning as they go and taking steps to solve the problems that have been pointed out. Both Dana Todd and Barbara Coll pointedly asked for personal contact from members and even those within the industry that have specific ideas, suggestions and even complaints.

The meeting wrapped up with the announcement that three new board members would be voted in by members over the coming months. Members should expect to receive an email outlining the nomination process within the next week, with elections to follow soon after. Members can find more information on the SEMPO web site.
August 3, 2004





Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.







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