The Cable Television Public Affairs Association's membership can expect to march to some different drumbeats under a new strategic plan adopted by the group's board.
The initiative — approved three months ago but disclosed to CTPAA constituents last week through letters and at a Western Show meeting — has three goals: to create a favorable environment for business growth, provide professional development resources and recognition, and strengthen the association's effectiveness.
Over the next few weeks, the CTPAA will organize committees to determine how to attain each goal. Subcommittees will then deploy the tactics required to carry out each individual strategy.
CTPAA president Ellen East said the plan sets a viable road map for CTPAA through 2005, tailored to fit an industry sector whose business has taken on new proportions, due to consolidation and the emergence of new services.
"The lives of public affairs people have changed in terms of what they're expected to do on the job," East said. "Their lives are much more complicated."
East, vice president of communications with Cox Communications Inc., said the plan should inspire stronger cooperation not just between cable operators and programmers, but between CTPAA and such other trade groups as the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing.
That hits home with VH1 vice president of public affairs Bob Morrison, who chaired the CTPAA committee that drew up the strategic plan. Individual community outreach efforts, like VH1's Save The Music campaign, receive a great deal of press attention, largely through the channel's own initiative.
But collective efforts by operators and programmers have not drawn that level of attention, said Morrison, and some elements of the plan are designed to address what he sees as an oversight.
"Part of this is for us to be traffic cops to direct effective techniques for different people," Morrison explained. "Another is to elevate the credit, for lack of a better term, the industry should get for the stuff it does locally — the wiring of schools, donating goods or services, or programming initiatives.
"I'd argue that there's not another industry committing the type of resources in hard-dollar goods and services as cable, and we don't get near half the credit. We haven't been as effective in getting that message out there."
Each goal has several strategies, with specific tactics assigned. For instance, to create a favorable environment for business growth, strategies include integrating social goals with industry or company business objectives.
The tactics CTPAA members will work out involve crafting common talking points for industry issues; establishing an industry public-relations speakers' bureau; distributing best practice techniques perfected by operators, programmers and equipment vendors; and using the association's Web site to highlight messages targeted to various constituencies.
Among the near-term issues CTPAA will address in the strategic plan are rate increases, new-product rollouts and competition from direct-broadcast satellite, East said.
"We can be the aggregators for everyone to speak information over those issues with one voice," she said.