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ECPA Wire: Industry Issues

ECPA Members Supported by Industry Advocacy

Tuesday, March 1, 2011   (0 Comments)
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by Mark Kuyper, ECPA President/CEO

ECPA Strategic Goal #3

ECPA will serve as an advocate to encourage the awareness and distribution of Christian resources, work to preserve the rights and licenses of our member’s content, and support legislation and industry standards that benefit our members.


Pride doesn’t appropriately express the depth of what I feel when I think about what my adult children have chosen for their vocations. Both work in the social services field and have set aside recognition, compensation, as well as their time, to serve those in need. My daughter’s title in her first supervisory role was "Child Advocate,” where she managed the team that supported children who had to be removed from the home of their birth parents for their own safety. As an advocate she had to analyze the needs of children in her care and determine the unique combination of services that would most fully support that child and help him or her thrive. 

As your Association, ECPA strives to do the same thing for you.  Advocacy is the third goal in ECPA’s new strategic plan (accompanying Networking and Information, which we covered in my last two articles). By definition, an advocate is... someone who publicly supports, recommends a particular cause, or pleads on some else’s behalf. As an advocate for our member companies, our efforts are built around encouraging awareness and distribution; preserving the rights and licenses of our members’ content; and supporting legislation and industry standards that benefit them.


Most trade associations provide some form of awareness-building activity. One of the most famous is the Milk Advisory Board’s ‘Got Milk’ campaign, featuring milk-mustached celebrities.  ECPA made a new attempt at raising awareness for our members through a consumer event, the Christian Book Expo held in Dallas in 2009. The goal was to create an event where attendees could meet authors and hear them talk about the subjects they write about. We expected to attract major media and use social media to take the message global. Though that concept failed, many publishers expressed support for the idea behind the event and a continuation of a collaborative effort to raise awareness of our authors and their resources.

Consumer Awareness Task Force:  As a result, the board approved the launch of a new task force that will develop a strategy and a plan to increase general consumer awareness. I encourage you to sign up today (see Task Forces under "Community” on our website) particularly if you have a marketing or communications background. We need the collective expertise and talent of the industry to make our next effort, whatever it may be, a success.

Book Awards, Bestsellers, Consumer website:  We are also involved in a number of other projects to raise awareness of your products. The Christian Book Awards are now supported by nearly every major Christian and general market retailer via print and electronic promotions.   We have worked hard to forge relationships and agreements with these vendors so that award winners and finalists are announced to their customer base each year.  In addition, the ECPA Bestseller lists have more exposure and distribution than ever before with more than 8,000 page views a month—nearly 100,000 in a year!  Each title on the list has an order option and also features book and sales awards it has earned.  ECPA has also redesigned the Christian Book Expo website, growing its audience with consumers, and showcasing authors, bestsellers, and titles that have Christian Book and Sales Achievement awards.  (ECPA members will soon receive instructions for uploading Author Profiles on this site.)

Category Representation with Major Retailers:  We have also developed relationships with many key retailers, which has allowed us the opportunity to demonstrate the power of our category and influence their decision-making. We have asked retailers to run their metrics for our membership list instead of just looking at the Religion category. Without fail, our membership has proven to outperform the category and in some cases even overall store averages. At our Executive Leadership Summit last year, Barnes & Noble presented their very positive findings in response to our request. As a result, even in these challenging times for physical bookstores, they are maintaining or expanding their title base of our members' products.

Media Coverage:  Finally, the more data and information we have about the industry, the more we can encourage media coverage about your products. We are commonly asked by media to answer specific questions and speak on behalf of the industry, and good data is what we rely on to be your most accurate voice.  Aside from the benefits you receive from quality data, your participation in the Pubtrack Distribution reporting program will enable us to do even more to initiate stories with the media.  If you are not yet participating in this important program, please contact Michael Covington to sign up.


Legislation:  Many associations spend a lot of money hiring lobbyists to influence legislative outcomes in their favor. In fact, approximately 80% of national associations are located in Washington DC just for this purpose. As a small association, we don’t have the resources to invest in this activity, but we do have relationships that will allow us to support existing efforts. Just a couple of weeks ago I meet with the new President of AAP, Tom Allen. We identified several ways we could work together, particularly as it relates to protecting copyrights and freedom of speech. With assistance from AAP, we will keep you informed about upcoming legislation and the impact it may have on the publishing community. I will be sending information about AAP’s Capitol Hill Days to our designated representatives along with an invitation to join Tom and dozens of other publishers as they meet members of congress on March 30 and 31 to influence their vote on upcoming bills.   We will provide you with more information about these bills and other initiatives in the future.

Enforcements:  ECPA’s successful copyright infringement legal case against Andrew Amue and the biblecentre websites is an example of what an Association can do to form a collective of its members to accomplish a big task.  Our success set an important legal precedent for future cases and, in fact, the AAP cited our case before Congress in their continuing efforts to stem global copyright infringements.

Standards:  Industry standards have a huge impact on the processes and workflow in our member houses, particularly as we move more and more into the digital age. BISG (Book Industry Study Group) has become the primary source for the development of these standards and we are fortunate to have an active role in this organization too. I am a member of their board and both Michael Covington and I participate on a number of their committees and provide feedback on their initiatives related to coding, research, sales reporting and more.

Broader Industry Collaborations:  In December, I met with about a dozen organizations that support publishing (ABA, ALA, NACS, AAP, Children’s Council, etc.) with the expressed purpose of finding ways to work together to support the industry as it goes through dramatic changes. It was determined that we could all get behind a literacy initiative. Just prior to this meeting the ECPA board expressed a desire to increase biblical literacy and approved a task force to develop a strategy. There are other organizations, including the NAE (National Association of Evangelicals), who I met with last month and are also concerned about this issue. We hope to tie these efforts together to encourage reading and biblical knowledge, and invite your participation. (Go to the Task Force menu item of our website – under "Community” – to sign up for the Biblical Literacy Task Force.)

These are very specific ways that ECPA is advocating on your behalf. Yet we need your participation in committees, task forces, data collection, etc., to be of optimal value to you. We are here to build Networking, Information, and Advocacy opportunities within the industry and across multiple channels so that our members can more effectively produce and deliver transformational Christian content.  I invite your participation with us in any or all of the initiatives I have mentioned, and look forward to serving you!

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