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SEMPO: My View

By Christine Churchill

Well, I don't know about the rest of you, but the last two weeks have been rather eventful times for the SEM world. In case you were on vacation on a remote tropical island, my business partner, co-editor and friend Mikey Grehan wrote an article about SEMPO, the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization, which prompted a lot of comments on the forums.

Now, I'm accustomed to Mike's rants, it comes with the territory, but since I am also a member of the SEMPO Board, Mikey definitely put me in an awkward position. Obviously, I'm not speaking for the entire SEMPO Board. I'm speaking as an individual here, but Mike's article and the succeeding forum postings reminded me of the James Taylor lyrics, "Maybe just like a friend of mine, it hit me from behind."

Once I regained my composure, I re-read Mike's article objectively. Okay, he definitely had some valid points and, since he had attempted to convey his criticism in the past without resolution, I even respect his method of delivery.

There are a lot of parallels of a business relationship to a marriage. Sometimes you get mad at your business partner, but you still need to respect their opinions. Sometimes that can be very difficult. But you work through those times because there are more important things at stake. That is the case with Mike and me. I'll defend his right to criticize an organization I helped create, even if I don't necessarily like that he did it.

Obviously, I think creating SEMPO was the right thing to do. If it didn't exist, we'd want to create it now - and would probably regret that someone didn't try to create it a year ago.

But, when I take a step back and view SEMPO from the outside, I can also see where SEMPO has made some errors that need to be addressed quickly. I appreciate Mike and the many forum posts pointing out mistakes. The first step in any 12-step program is admitting there is a problem. Yes, SEMPO has problems. I think that message came in loud and clear.

While mistakes were made, they were honest mistakes. Based on my personal experience, SEMPO is an organization on a fast track. It is made up of a lot of strong-minded, goal-oriented individuals trying to accomplish a lot in a very short time. That said, I see no hidden purpose or dishonest intent. That doesn't excuse making mistakes, but it puts them in a more tolerable light. The very fact that Mike knew about the stipend was because he asked about SEMPO expenditures and I told him. It was never meant to be a secret. As a non-profit I knew that our financial statements were public records.

To SEMPO's credit, it did accomplish a lot in a year. Take a look at this ClickZ article (http://www.clickz.com/news/article.php/3390761) about the SEMPO meeting where Dana Todd spells out some of the accomplishments.

Could SEMPO have done a better job communicating? Absolutely, in my humble opinion poor communication is SEMPO's biggest sin. Now that we know there are problems we need to fix them. I think in short order you'll see more member communication channels opening up including a SEMPO forum on the SEMPO web site, more regular newsletters, and better coverage of SEMPO activities on the SEMPO site.

But this will only happen if more members get involved. Many of SEMPO's problems can be fixed by getting more members more actively involved in the organization - at all levels. And this will require more delegation down to the members, something that has not always happened in the past.

One upcoming bright spot is that there are three new slots being opened up for members to elect new Board members. I'm excited at the prospect of getting an infusion of new blood and energy into the top level of the organization.

So, to answer Mike's question - Who needs SEMPO? - let me say we all do. Mike thinks I'm an eternal optimist - even after all the criticism I see great promise for SEMPO. In fact, I look at the last few weeks as the best therapy that SEMPO could have. It is going to be a better organization because of what it's gone through. I still believe that a grassroots trade organization is beneficial for the SEM industry - and I also believe that SEMPO is in the strongest position to play that role.

Personally, I'd like to see SEMPO taking up more causes for SEOs than we did in our first year - so we have an even louder, more unified voice in our second year. As the owner of a small SEM shop, I would like to see SEMPO offer health and insurance discounts to small businesses. Do we need to define best practices or standards? Hey, these aren't decisions that the Board or I should make. These are subjects the members should decide, but bringing them up for discussion is part of what SEMPO is all about.

I also think that the vast majority of the current members haven't given up either. My dear friend Barry Lloyd whom Mike quoted as saying "I gave them $5000, what more support do they need?" will be the first to tell you he is renewing his SEMPO membership. He landed his biggest contract ever partly because he was a member of a professional industry organization. Congratulations Barry!

Okay, I've had my rant…back to the newsletter. You know, I never used to speak out this way until I started working with Mike. Hmmm, I'm starting to like it. ;-)

© Mike Grehan & Net Writer Publishing 2004

Editor: Mike Grehan. Search engine marketing consultant, speaker and author. http://www.search-engine-book.co.uk

Associate Editor: Christine Churchill. KeyRelevance.com

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