Bill is a former Gartner analyst who is best known in the US AR community for running a course on working with the analysts. Lighthouse has had a useful exchange of ideas with him since 2001 or so. When Bill’s firm, KCG, ran his course here in London a couple of years ago, we fixed up a training room here at Lighthouse for the course. This time last year, Lighthouse hosted a dinner for him to meet some of the leading AR figures here in the UK.
I came away from the discussion feeling that different people have different ideas of what an AR associations should be: who it should involve, what its goals should be and what sort of infrastructure it needs.
For example, a group of Silicon Valley AR managers met to discuss whether to develop an informal networking group in the Valley, or make into a standalone professional association with chapters world-wide.
It was decided by the group that the criterion for membership should be individuals that are doing (active or in-between jobs) day-to-day AR work. This includes people working at tech companies, PR firms or as contractors, but excludes AR services firms (although the differences between a PR firm’s AR service and an AR services firm could be hard to define – Lighthouse AR is the offspring of Lighthouse PR, for example, but we are excluded). 
There have been at least three attempts to create AR associations. All were limited to the USA, with only a small number of members scattered geographically and faded away after only a few meetings at Gartner Symposia. As we have found with the Analyst Relations Club here in Europe, starting with a regional group could be easier. By increasing the number of face-to-face meetings we have strenghtened the bonds between members and gotten the group firmly established. That makes it much easier to link up with other groups. However, if some groups have exclusive, elitist, membership criteria, that will make it tricky. An established organisation, like the IPRA or PRSA will counsel any AR association to have an open membership.
The Silicon Valley folk have identified a number of action items (e.g., final name, setting up an online discussion group, writing a formal charter, checking about affiliating with established associations and so forth). People are starting to volunteer to lead particular discussions. Through e-mail, an online discussion group and next quarterly meeting. participants will start making some decisions about what they want it to be. It’s unfortunate that I, and other AR people further afield, don’t seem to be invited into that forward-moving discussion. 
The consensus in the Valley is that organisation of vendors will not be acting in concert to collectively put pressure on firms. Rather, the focus is on networking, individual professional development and helping to promote IT analyst relations as a true profession. That sounds useful for the people involved, but it leaves a big weakness. The industry — both the vendors and the AR firms — need a clearer code of ethical conduct. That needs engagement with the analyst firms, and it needs a open, and inclusive AR association which can be representative of the whole AR community.
 To be optimistic, let’s say that that it excludes us ‘for the moment’: at their first meeting they will not have had time to think through every issue finally, and they are the sort of people who are mature enough to re-think things when they want to.
 At the same time, everyone in this group is working hard to make sure that folk know what is going on there. They have decided on who they want to involve, but that doesn’t mean it’s secretive or sectarian. I would not have written this post without some of the central people in this group taking the time to tell me what they think will happen.