What is a community? Well, according to Webster’s Dictionary, it’s a “unified body of individuals.” As we near the end of another year, I encourage everyone to ask themselves: “What does that word mean to you?”
For me, being a part of a community like the DRMA gives me the sense of comfort that I belong to something bigger than myself, for both personal and professional accomplishments.
Fifteen years ago, when I accidentally stumbled into this industry, I had no idea what to expect. Coming from a job as a news producer – where my day was filled with watching crimes and tragic events unfold – I frankly welcomed any change. And when the words “infomercial” and “direct response” were said to me, as different as it sounded, I thought to myself, “Sure, why not give it a try?!”
I expected a career change, but what I didn’t expect was to become part of a community where people not only enjoy what they do but genuinely enjoy each other. With a background in theater, where every cast felt like family, I never knew I could gain that same connection with my colleagues – and even competitors.
Looking back, I vividly remember the first time I had the chance to meet DRMA co-founders John Yarrington and Tom Haire. We were at an industry event in Spain, and I joined them on a spontaneous trip to Morocco – often referred to as “The Day We Spent a Week in Morocco.” It was instantly clear this organization was different. It was special. And, boy, was I lucky to have found it.
Now, years later, I can say I would not be where I am today without an organization like the DRMA. This fine group of people offers so much more than what meets the eye. It’s evident we are an evolving industry. And with the landscape of direct response constantly changing, none of us can paint the picture of what our industry will look like in five to 10 years. Now, more than ever, it’s vital to not only be a part of that change but to stay ahead of it. And the best way to do that is to belong to this community.
This organization has helped me to grow not only professionally, but personally as well. I thoroughly enjoy being able to attend DRMA networking events. They give me the opportunity of meeting and talking to a vast group of people: from newcomers with a savvy tech background, from whom we can learn the latest technologies and trends to keep our businesses growing; to old friends who have helped pave the way for where we are today; and, finally, getting the opportunity to put faces to the names of people we speak with every day, so we can continue to build a personal relationship.
But it’s not just about having fun and enjoying each other. It’s about learning from each other so we, as an organization, can continue to grow. The opportunity to attend educational sessions, where we hear from trusted colleagues, is underrated, I believe. These are individuals who give us their time to share their success stories, their failures, and what they have learned. Having a superordinate goal, we as an organization are stronger and more unstoppable because of it.
But it’s not only important to be a part of something; it’s equally as important to be involved. Will the organization always get it right? No, but if you’re going to speak up, you need to step up. Join committees, attend the events, learn from the educational sessions. We must work together to continue to build this industry, to teach and educate our colleagues and even our competitors so we can continue to grow.
I remember a staple marketer in our field saying to me once that they get excited when their competitor has a giant hit. I was perplexed until they shared the reason why. And it’s simple: when someone has a hit, it means our industry is still alive, and we are strong. And we do this together.
We need organizations like the DRMA. Without them, we become vulnerable and we stand alone. Being a mother of two young children, I’m often reminded that, in life, everything we need know we learned in kindergarten. And our wacky direct response world is no different. At the ripe young age of five, we are taught to work together.
So, thank you to the DRMA for giving us this platform. It’s what makes our industry so special. Next time you see John or Tom, thank them for giving us all a place we can feel we belong, a place that unifies us toward our superordinate goal, and a place we can continue to grow together.