So What Does SEMPO Mean To You?
Posted 28 July 2004 - 12:50 PM
That notification to "stop by the corporate office" is the standard compliance veil for many non-profits, but given the rocky first year of SEMPO, I agree with you that full, WIDELY distributed financial disclosure would seem to be the better course.
I run a non-profit of my own, have for over 10 years now. We are required to make public (literally to anyone off the street that requests it) detailed financial information. IRS compliance rules dictate this, though it may vary a bit by type of non-profit structure. So, it shouldn't be all that hard to get SEMPO's financial records if anyone is really that interested.
Before making any sort of contribution, commitment, or membership to a non-profit, the prudent thing to do is to determine what percentage of income goes to administrative and promotion/marketing expenses vs. spending on the "stated goal" of the organization. When digging around, it's not uncommon to find very high percentages (I've seen as high as 95%) being used to keep the organization in the business of perpetuating the bureaucracy rather than funding the goal itself.
Posted 28 July 2004 - 01:12 PM
Will these 'elections' that we are hearing some (still somewhat vague) reports of enable us to choose who will run the organisation at the payment scale that Barbara has generously set for this (I guess) demanding role?
Ideally, I would like the person who is nominally 'at the helm' of SEMPO to not be an SEO who will thereby be in competition with the members at times, and privvy to inside knowledge about the members/competitors. I think that whoever runs SEMPO should have that as their sole job, which is perhaps (hopefully) why Barbara has set a reasonable wage for the job.
Posted 28 July 2004 - 01:25 PM
Ammon, the information I've been given (which seems to be in line with all the little snippets gathered at various forums) indicates that the search engines themselves are major, or at least significant, financial contributors. If that is the case, what are your thoughts on that? I've yet to run across a fund-raising organization that can truly keep major contributors' interests separate from their own.
Posted 28 July 2004 - 01:39 PM
Of course anyone with 'clout' may have an undue influence on the affairs of a trade association. That 'clout' may come because they are a major financial contributor or because they devote many person-days to the affairs of the association.
Indeed thinking aloud, a much greater concern for me is whether the $ 5,000 SEMPO Circle members have more clout than the humble $ 299 Executive members.
Posted 28 July 2004 - 01:54 PM
That when the fleas decide to get organised, the dog wants to vote against drinking it dry. Or, if you prefer a slightly less tawdry comparison than comparing SEOs with fleas, the smart cows have decided that while they may not like being milked, they far rather be milked than butchered.
the search engines themselves are major, or at least significant, financial contributors. If that is the case, what are your thoughts on that?
Posted 28 July 2004 - 03:22 PM
Ideally, I would like the person who is nominally 'at the helm' of SEMPO to not be an SEO who will thereby be in competition with the members
Posted 29 July 2004 - 12:55 PM
Posted 29 July 2004 - 01:10 PM
Posted 29 July 2004 - 03:37 PM
Zunch Defends Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO)
“Mike seems like a good guy and a very knowledgeable search pro,” said John Sanchez, President and CEO of Zunch Communications, a Circle Member of SEMPO, “But I think some of his questions about what SEMPO is doing with his membership dues were a little harsh and not necessarily founded in truth. This organization is just one year old, and Mike, by his own words, chose not to join at first, believing that SEMPO would be no different from other do-nothing professional organizations. When you come at us from a negative attitude to begin with, it won‘t be hard to find fault with what we’re doing.”
I'm not a member of SEMPO, and I agree wholeheartedly with much of what Mike brings up, but, if I were a member of SEMPO, I'd be worried a bit right now about what this is doing to the reputation of the organization and how that might play out in the long run.
Anyone who did pay the fee may be feeling a little squirmy. If you belong to an organization with a shakey rep, how is this helping your business?
How is SEMPO responding, if not to defend itself, but to protect the integrity of its paying members?
Posted 29 July 2004 - 04:35 PM
Everyone seems to be assuming that all the main actors will be together next week at the SES in San Jose and that something good is bound to happen. However I think the problems are much more serious than can be resolved in a few days. Problem resolution seems to require a common will to solve the problem and I have not seen evidence of that.
In some ways the discussion that took place in the Search Engine Watch Forum on Improving the Reputation of the SEM/SEO Industry was a trial run at just one issue that SEMPO has got to develop a position on. I don't believe that considered and multi-day discussion really advanced understanding much. People seemed to end up in the same positions that they had started in.
In addition to that, SEMPO has some other major issues to resolve, such as how does the UK contingent develop its appropriate place within the organization, does the organization need a professional trade association chief to lead it, is the organization only for the big companies or do all those small SEM/SEO companies have a significant position, and so on.
I hope any members of this Forum who attend SES in San Jose can feed back to us anything that helps us to understand exactly what SEMPO should mean for us.
Posted 29 July 2004 - 04:54 PM
But, the fact that you asked ("What does it mean to you?") in the first place and so many people jumped on it, is also an indicator that there are concerns. And that list of concerns continues to grow.
To their credit, there are good people who care about SEMPO and if listened to, can make a difference and help lead the organization forward.
<<added>>Perhaps at their San Jose gathering they would benefit from something in this - How to run a brainstorming meeting >>
Posted 29 July 2004 - 07:00 PM
Posted 29 July 2004 - 10:49 PM
this one after receiving some news from SEMPO.
OK, I have news passed along to me on behalf of the SEMPO board. Why isn't this coming direct from any of the SEMPO board members? Because they've decided it makes the most sense to address these items directly to the membership itself at the meeting Monday night rather than through the various forums.
Barbara's stipend was approved on May 15 and she began drawing it on that date. She began taking it because she also assumed a second hat, that of acting executive director, in addition to her role as president.
Posted 30 July 2004 - 06:57 AM
OK, I have news passed along to me on behalf of the SEMPO board. Why isn't this coming direct from any of the SEMPO board members?
I would ask the same question. Why is everything coming out second or third hand? Frankly, each communication from SEMPO makes me a little more cynical and more wary.
I would assume most of the rank and file members are scattered around the globe (or at least N. America) and not able to make these SES based meetings. Yet communication directly to the membership with all the tools provided by the Internet seems to completely baffle SEMPO.
I think it comes down to this: if keeping the members informed was really important to SEMPO they would have been doing it right from the start. They would have found a way months ago not just now.
I have a demotivational calendar on my wall that has a picture of a phone with cobwebs covering it. It says, "Apathy: if we don't take care of the customer, maybe they'll stop bugging us."
Posted 30 July 2004 - 07:08 AM
If I wanted to join, I would feel I was buying a brown paper bag at the moment. I would just have to hope I would like what I found in the bag.
Posted 30 July 2004 - 07:45 AM
A couple of topics that they might want to consider at their meeting:
What does it mean to be a nonprofit organization? What are the responsibilities? What responsibilities are there to the membership? When your membership is worldwide, might there be a need to provide communication in a manner capable of having them participate? A legal obligation?
When an organization starts claiming "industry leadership" and seems to be using that perception to land contracts with clients, do they develop legal obligations, responsibilities, and risks?
Posted 30 July 2004 - 08:15 AM
We are now still in July, and being told that Barbara has had this $1,500 per week stipend approved for "some months". If more than two months ago then I feel somewhat deceived in what I was told in June. In fact, unless this was a very hasty decision, I wonder how there could be no plans to pay anyone in Barbara's posts in this discussion in May, yet the matter has been tabled, discussed, and approved by the board 'months' ago before the end of July.
Earlier in this discussion, from a couple of months ago, Barry calculated that membership fees had raised some $220,000. We can only speculate at what monies may have been paid by non-member supporters and search engines, etc.
However, deciding to spend $78,000 per year on one single person does seem like it needs to have some very clear expectations. I mean, surely $78,000 is still a pretty big chunk (well over 10%, and probably over 20%) of the organization's total funds, and must therefore be expected to generate a very good ROI in real terms. I'd love to know more about that. Not because it is unrealistic to pay for an organiser and chairperson to do a hard job (indeed, I said this was a requirement back on page 1 of this thread), but simply because I'd like to know the job description, the accountability, and the expectations placed upon the role.
When an organisation asks me for money (and I have been directly asked to join) I think it is right and proper that I know what I'm buying, and in the case of a non-profit, exactly where my money is going. I need to know what I am supporting - meaning who gets my money and how they'll use it.
The fact I haven't yet managed to get a clear answer (and that I now have some cause to question the one clear answer I ever did receive) is the only major reason I have still not either joined SEMPO, nor decided to ignore it completely.
As things stand right now, I'm positively glad that I haven't put money into this (not even the cheap basic level membership). That's bad for SEMPO, because what I ought to be feeling is regret that I didn't get involved sooner.
Posted 30 July 2004 - 08:58 AM
Posted 30 July 2004 - 09:22 AM
As someone who might have wanted to join but has not yet seen a reason to do so, this current ruckus is not promising.
As well, I noted a comment in the SEW Forums thread (by Bob Massa) that SEMPO ought to just ignore all this and let it die out.
In my opinion, which includes a certain amount of training and experience in public relations, that would be a major mistake. They are, in essence, having a public relations flap which includes many questions raised publicly for all the industry and world to see, and which SEMPO has (AFAIK) yet to answer satisfactorily. Since these include questions about transparency and forthcoming-ness, etc., SEMPO's silence only tends to "prove" the issues in the absence of answers from SEMPO.
SEMPO aside, people do not like to live in a vaccuum; they like answers; they like to understand things. Where there are no answers, they will adopt any answer whether right or wrong. Unfortunately, most of the "answers" out there are not SEMPO's and are extremely detrimental to SEMPO's perceived actual mission and reputation.
Of course, the only other answer is that all the negative comments are correct.
Posted 30 July 2004 - 09:25 AM
This was therefore a rather important ommission from the information I was given in June.
I think your revelation pretty much says it all about SEMPO.
I think Mike Grehan's suggestions form the basis for a new organization:
1. Membership of individuals not firms.
2. Membership dues more in keeping with the estimated 80% of one person shops.
3. Clear, frequent and regular communication with the members and for the members about membership business. Not only retroactive but also with a heads-up to members about new business.
4. Perhaps elect the board members first, then start paying out salaries. Looks funny when a board appoints itself then start paying salaries.
Insert the rest of Mike's suggestions.
My suggestions might be, that such an organization should also be more welcoming to the SEO end of the business, not just PPC services. That would mean that no search engines can be members. I do not think any organization that purports to serve SEO/M industry can have two masters in this.
Posted 30 July 2004 - 09:28 AM
The thing is, having watched an earlier such organization in its early days, I noted that it takes a *terrific* amount of work to get something like this going.
Hm. Unless it's done at a time when industry eyes are focused upon it. That wouldn't preclude the necessity of a lot of work, but ... it's an interesting idea.
Posted 30 July 2004 - 09:50 AM
However, if such an organization is desired, Mike's blueprint is a better one than the current SEMPO setup.
Posted 30 July 2004 - 12:50 PM
Sunshine is often the best remedy when the complaints leveled are about a serious lack of communication. That problem doesn't get resolved by clamming up.
But in this instance, maybe it's a good idea.
If the caliber of the press releases coming from SEMPO B2B committee members and circle members is a measure of their notion of open communication, then maybe they should consider keeping their mouths closed.
Danny's post communicated a start, but it was partially what I was responding to above. It's not enough. There should be a statement for members and potential members on the front page of the SEMPO site. It should address some of these issues, and it should show that an action plan is being put into place to address the concerns of the members and industry that the organization purports to represent. That's what an executive should do - handle the day-to-day issues and problems and emergencies. We know now that SEMPO has an executive officer.
I'm glad I'm not a member of SEMPO. I think I would be really mad if I was.
As it is now, I'm happy to be here where I can participate in a forum to help business owners, and web designers, and people engaged in SEO, SEM, and Usability.
When I think of industry leaders, I think of people who make a difference day-in and day-out to others by providing them with forums where they can interact, support each other, and share information.
When I think of industry leaders, I think of efforts like searchenginewatch, searchengineguide, SERoundtable, and similar efforts that share news, and try to remain helpful and objective.
When I think of industry leaders, I don't think of SEMPO.
Posted 30 July 2004 - 01:08 PM
However all that's written still confirms for me that the organization has the wrong name.
It currently is called SEMPO, that is:
Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization
I believe it should really be called, SEPMO, that is:
Search Engine Professionals Marketing Organization
Posted 30 July 2004 - 01:41 PM
In it's own way, it's even worse than the press releases I pointed to above.
Posted 30 July 2004 - 03:23 PM
I'm having a harder time sitting on my hands and biting my tongue this time. I'm seeing too much nonsense from too many directions. As a friend of mine likes to say, "truth means not having to remember which story you told whom."
In response to the WMW post from a SEMPO board member:
SEMPO is a California nonprofit, and not a Delaware one. I would have expected a member of the board to know that, or have it explained to him, especially when he starts quoting the legal requirements for whether or not the Board has to be elected. (Under California law, it needs to be indicated in the by-laws whether they are elected or selected, and there need to be statements addressing those issues in those by-laws.)
The criticisms I've made are towards an organization that claims to be a leader of the industry. Most of the criticisms I've seen come from people who appear to want SEMPO to be in a posture where it succeeds.
An ad hominem attack on people criticising SEMPO by stating that those people are in bed with the seach engines is a pretty sad ploy for someone with considerable experience moderating a forum. I've never been to a Google dance, nor shared drinks with a google engineer, and I'd refuse the opportunity to have a Googleguy posting here because we value the freedom to voice honest criticisms without fear of losing the insider viewpoint. Hmmmm.
There's also an internal inconsistency in the WMW statement which discusses SEMPOs own, closer-than-arms-length relationship with search engines. An industry leader of the SEM/SEO community should have the ability to form independant opinions and views about search engines. When the purse strings are held by the search companies, it's unlikely that will happen.
Posted 30 July 2004 - 06:44 PM
As a director of a nonprofit organization, it's important to exercise obligations under that role while fulfilling certain duties.
One is a duty of loyalty. It's the one that says that you are not supposed to use the position to make secret profits that the members of the organization don't know about, or to gain access to information for your own personal use, or for the use of just a small circle of insiders.
One is a duty of care. This one requires that a person undertaking the responsibilities of acting as a director make informed decisions, and ones that have some basis in the exercise of a reasoned business judgment.
Another is a duty of obediance, which would require directors to exercise care in their undertakings and conform to the appropriate and applicable laws. I'd guess that would require knowing which laws are the ones that guide your actions.
Here are a couple of pages that cover these types of duties:
One reason why it can be helpful to actually hire one or more people as directors who have previous experience is that they recognize the potential problems and responsibilities under these duties.
Anyone who is a member of a nonprofit should know a little bit about these types of duties owned to their organization by their directors.
Posted 30 July 2004 - 07:29 PM
The momentum has been building for a representative SEM body, and it is reaching a head. This is an important opportunity which should be seized.
I agree with Mikes recommendations (outlined by Brad above).
As Ammon pointed out, the head of this organisation should not be an SEM. They can't be expected to effectively work two full-time positions, and there is potential for conflict of interest. The head of a fledgeling organisation should be someone with sufficient experience at running a non-profit organisation. As such, is Barbara Coll the right person for the job?
Nobody questions the work involved. Most people support payment for a full-time position. It is now a matter of selecting the right people for the job, and to to fix the problems thus far.
As for the "communication issues", I concur. There had to have been a complete lack of desire to communicate with the membership. Why?
After all, sending an email, writing to a blog, posting to a bulletin board, or posting on the front page of the SEMPO site is elementary. Even now, SEMPO feed communication via third-party, or via offline conferences that most people cannot get to.
Find the cluetrain and climb aboard.
Posted 30 July 2004 - 09:32 PM
Posted 30 July 2004 - 10:45 PM
Welcome to the forums, and thanks for your words.
One of the paragraphs that really stood out to me as I was reading through the links I posted was this one:
A business consultant to nonprofit organizations was asked whether the directors of his client organizations understood their responsibilities. He replied, "about 70% of the boards we've seen and worked with see themselves as passive bodies serving for name recognition. They do not realize their responsibilities and when I've pointed them out some of the directors resigned on the spot."*
* emphasis mine.
Though some of the SEMPO board members may not have the experience to know it, one of the responsibilities they have as a director in a nonprofit is to take action, and not sit by passively. Look over those duties I listed before and ask yourselves if you are fulfilling them. Look through the rest of the articles I linked to, and read what it says about oversight of executive decisions.
Read the excellent post from Peter, above. I agree with him. I will add that I'd much rather see you all find the cluetrain on your own than to have someone come along and smack you with it.
Posted 30 July 2004 - 11:27 PM
Posted 31 July 2004 - 12:50 AM
My main problem with SEMPO right now is that it represents nothing. I can't even sell it to a potential customer as the equivalent of SquareTrade. For that nothingness they want money. That money goes into nothingness. I simply don't see a value for me. It's a great brainwave for a money making site but really - would you advice a family supporting business starter like me to spend money on this?!
Posted 31 July 2004 - 01:54 AM
There are a lot of issues that seem to need to be discussed between the members of this organization, and it seems like that won't happen until next week.
It would be wonderful if a SEMPO director or member would join this thread and explain to you and I, and the rest of the forum, what the benefits would be of membership to us.
I'm not sure that they could.
I don't think there is any value for you or I.
Posted 31 July 2004 - 06:17 AM
I'm not sure that they could.
This seemed to be the problem right from the start, SEMPO's 'reason to be' and it's objectives seemed fuzzy and sometimes evasive. It is like they created an organization and tried to find the purpose for it later.
Many people wanted to suggest other roles for SEMPO (just look at the title to this thread), and it might be better to have several purpose built organizations for those very different roles. One would be an informational/lobbying type org like SEMPO says it was to be. Another might be about certification, or whatever people want.
I don't think there is any value for you or I.
That also hits it on the head Bill. For those of us that do some SEO, but don't hire ourselves out SEMPO offers nothing.
Posted 31 July 2004 - 08:31 AM
That, to me, is the ultimately damning factor, and the reason I find myself with absolutely no faith in all these talented individuals ever being able to act as an equally talented collective body.
The root of the problem, as I see it, is that very problem of talented individuals. Many of these folks are strong entrepreneur types. People able to set things up alone, and delegate the running while focusing on policy, using their dynamism to drive things forward. Trouble is that it is all entrepreneurs, barely able to find time to speak with each other, and seemingly having no managers to delegate to.
In addition, because these individuals are successful, they already have full-time jobs, and additional responsibilities. I don't think any of them have the time to do this right, and paying just one person to put a bit more of a part-time effort into it is not a solution. Every single member of the board, and advisory board, needs to be able to do the job it will be, with full commitment to the serious responsibilities it entails.
They are having to ask now, after policies have been implemented, just what those policies are, when decisions were taken, and who by. Even now, there doesn't seem to be any channel for them to all communicate as a board, nor to react as a board, not even to elect a spokesperson. It is a union without unity, and an organization without organization.
Sure, this whole matter may help them see these lacks and fix them. But hell, this organization is a year old. If it has taken a year, and a fiasco, just to realize that they need to communicate and know what is going on, rather than being point one of the original constitution, then frankly I don't think shoring up this edifice will work. The problem is in the foundations.
Posted 31 July 2004 - 09:07 AM
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