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Marketing and the american college of rheumatologya professional approach for a professional society.

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MARKETING AND THE AMERICAN COLLEGE OF RHEUMATOLOGY:
A PROFESSIONAL APPROACH FOR A PROFESSIONAL SOCIETY
ROBERT F. MEENAN
The mission of the American College of Rheumatology states that the ACR will be the single professional society for rheumatologists dedicated to the
needs of its members and providing unified leadership
in research, education, and in the care of people with
rheumatic diseases. In order to realize this mission,
the ACR, as an organization, uses a variety of approaches derived from the field of management. These
include a formal planning and evaluation cycle, budgeting techniques, and a functionally oriented organizational structure. Marketing is another management
technique that the ACR can and should use in the
pursuit of its professional mission.
Marketing is an approach that an organization
uses to effectively manage exchanges with its major
interest groups. For the ACR, these major interest
groups include rheumatologists, researchers, referring
physicians, patients, people with arthritis, policy makers, third-party payors, the media, and others. All of
these groups have some interest in what the ACR
knows, what it does, o r what it advocates. The concept of an exchange relationship indicates that the
ACR and these other groups have something of value
to offer each other. The goal of marketing is to
maximize the benefit that flows in both directions.
A marketing orientation is emphatically not the
same as a sales orientation. A sales orientation seeks
to stimulate the interest of potential consumers in an
Robert F. Meenan, MD, MPH, MBA: First Vice President.
American College of Rheumatology.
Address reprint requests to Robert F. Meenan, MD, The
Arthritis Center, Boston University School of Medicine, 80 E.
Concord Street, Boston, MA 021 18-2394.
Submitted for publication October 31, 1989; accepted November I , 1989.
Arthritis and Rheumatism, Vol. 33, No. 3 (March 1990)
organization’s products or services, even if these
products or services are not wanted o r not valuable.
The ACR has no intention of pursuing a sales approach. A marketing orientation, particularly when
applied to a professional society like the ACR, emphasizes the need for the organization to pursue activities
and provide services that will enhance the well-being
of its members, its interest groups, and society as a
whole. A marketing approach stresses what the interest groups want from the ACR a s much as it emphasizes what the ACR wants from them.
Marketing involves a number of different approaches. It is not synonymous with advertising; many
well-designed marketing plans, including the ACR’s,
involve no advertising whatsoever. The ACR’s marketing plan emphasizes internal and external communications, public education, and advocacy. The accomplishments of this plan to date include a new name
and logo for the organization, an improved newsletter
for the membership, an increase in media stories about
arthritis research and therapy, a formal Washingtonbased advocacy program aimed at educating research
and reimbursement agencies, and direct participation
in 2 major studies undertaken by the influential Physician Payment Review Commission. The ACR’s marketing plans for 1990 include research to learn what
certain key groups want from the ACR, the development of a new educational publication for members,
strengthening of the advocacy system through the
identification of prominent and effective advocates,
and the hiring of an in-house public relations person to
manage media relations for the College.
Marketing is by no means the avaricious approach that Dr. Hadler believes it to be. A marketing
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orientation is completely compatible with the legitimate objectives of a professional society like the
American College of Rheumatology. It will help the
ACR look outside itself and address the demands of a
rapidly changing health care environment. By developing and implementing a formal marketing plan, the
ACR does not turn away from its basic mission of
research, education, and patient care. To the contrary,
the underlying purpose of the ACR’s marketing plan is
RESPONSE
to advance this mission more efficiently and more
effectively.
Marketing is a tool of modern organizational
management that Hadler’s historical physicians would
have embraced just as they would have embraced such
modern clinical tools as cortisone and joint replacement surgery. If he ran a 4,000-member medical association in the 1990s, Aesculapius would indeed say,
“Marketing? What’s wrong with marketing?”
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