Editor's Notebook: On the importance of professional associations

April 23, 2020
When a crisis strikes, you can depend on your industry associations to help pull you through.

During the past few weeks, as COVID-19 has become more widespread and the measures put into place to “slow the spread” and “flatten the curve” have grown more restrictive, our attention has turned to those frontline workers who serve in healthcare, supply chain, restaurant, grocery and transit industries, as well as those who work as first responders. They have received and should continue to receive our gratitude for helping keep both the United States and Canada functioning through this crisis.  

However, there is one group of professionals who have worked tirelessly on our behalf and received little of the thanks: Our industry associations. During normal times, our associations work to share best practices, provide networking and learning opportunities and advocate for the interest of their members with elected officials. During times of crisis, they shift to become central hubs of information, allowing their members to share best practices, brainstorm on solutions and help in a collective recovery effort.

I started my career in late August 2001. The tenth day of my employment was Sept. 11, and while the world sat stunned, the industry I was involved with at the time had several strong associations working to mobilize recovery efforts, organize blood drives and create educational events built around resiliency.

While the crisis experienced in 2001 was all about coming together, our current crisis is about staying apart, which makes the efforts of our industry associations more important now than perhaps ever before.

I realize I’m being vague by not naming these organizations, but it’s out of fear that I will leave out a key contributor and, thus, lessen that contribution. We are all walking on uneven ground and these professional associations are helping us navigate.

Usually, with extreme business conditions comes extreme cost cutting. It’s a good business move and many of us are trying to find what can be shelved for next year or removed completely. My ask is this: If memberships in professional associations are at risk, spare them a second thought. Understand the value these memberships bring to you personally and professionally, as well as to your company.

At times of crisis, our professional associations rally to support their members – us. It’s in the time directly following a crisis where they need our support through continued membership and involvement. If we commit to doing this, we and our industry will be made stronger for the next crisis.

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About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.