What’s Driving Gerry Pike’s Crusade?

Gerry Pike’s three-week campaign to collect proxy votes of Direct Marketing Association members to bring to its annual meeting on Sunday has caused a stir in the blogosphere and other social media channels.

So far, many seem to be in Pike’s camp. Pike says he can count on “one or two hands” the negative feedback his proxy vote campaign has received.

Who is Gerry Pike? He used to run the Royal Silk apparel catalog and stores in the early 1990s, and he’s currently the managing director of direct marketing firm DMSA. And he’s a member of the DMA board and a former member of several DMA committees.

Why is Pike doing this? The DMA seemed to be falling apart, and it had stopped listening to its members. Pike talked with MULTICHANNEL MERCHANT today about why he wants DMA members’ proxy votes, and why the campaign is important to him.

MCM: So why do you care about these proxy votes?
GP: There are three reasons.

First, our association is in deep trouble. The DMA is out of communication with its membership, it’s bringing up rear when it comes to changes in the direct marketing environment, and where it is headed. Members are ahead of the game instead of the DMA taking the lead. It has lost its relevancy, and not giving state-of-the-art educational opportunities and expertise for its old and new members.

At the same time it is not responding to historic contingencies like telemarketing, catalog marketing, lists and insert media. DMA management is not working to keep those people actively a part of decision making process, or teaching its members how to handle direct marketing in a digital era.

But the most worrisome reason is that management has isolated itself from its membership, and the changes in industry. It has taken a cavalier approach to bylaws, and that is critical to the good welfare of its members and in the equity it has as a corporation.

After long negotiations with management, and asking questions, and them coming up short, I though the proxy channel was the one that would force the DMA’s management to listen to its members. What I am doing is a completely legal manner in which I can deliver a message, and it cannot be controlled, contained or ignored by management.

MCM: Where are you with the proxy vote campaign?
GP: We’ve been very encouraged by the response of DMA members. It is clear to me that membership is out in front of management. They want to see change, and they want to know how to adapt to digital marketing. They are tired of the tin ear they have speaking into for too long, and they have welcomed the chance to speak up.

MCM: Do you think this reaction is because DMA members did not want to attend the DMA annual meeting, or because they feel they won’t have a say even if they did attend?
GP: The annual business meeting is on a Sunday, and many of the members who are going to the show don’t get in until Monday. Many of them have had their travel plans in place for a while and would not be able to participate.

But they have been appalled at the sultan-like salaries management has received, even though the organization has been bringing up the rear. Members feel they are disconnected from the DMA and despondent that management has ignored them. This proxy is way of saying we want it to stop, we want it to change.

MCM: Even if you have the majority votes, can the DMA be saved?
GP: If we did not have confidence in the resiliency and the integrity of our members and the savvy skills of direct marketers, we wouldn’t be in this proxy campaign. The problem is not with the membership, it’s with the management, and the members of the DMA need to reclaim a leadership role.

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