OPINION4 October 2019

The value of being an MRS non-exec

Opinion UK

In the second in our series of articles from current members of the MRS main board, Richard Ellwood writes about the personal and professional benefits of being a non-exec.

If you work in market research, insights, big data or any kind of analytics, your career will have been impacted by the Market Research Society. As the industry body, the best practice that we all adhere to has been honed and adapted to changing market conditions over several decades.

So, why join the main board as a non-executive director?

First, as someone who works in the industry, I have a vested interest in how it operates and drives best practice.

Second, contributing to a board as a non-exec develops a specific skill-set in navigating how and when to support the executive team; how to influence the strategic and financial direction of an organisation you don’t work directly for; and how to develop your influencing and negotiating skills among senior leaders.

Over my tenure, I have learned a great deal. I have had the opportunity to represent the MRS at conferences, in papers and to contribute in sub-boards such as the Market Research Standards Board (MRSB) which sets the code of conduct and responds to questions on best practice.

Through all this activity, I have learned just how much the industry and range of people working in it need the MRS. The board is comprised of passionate, intelligent and impressive leaders who are determined to drive positive change and set the MRS up for the future.

We are tasked with finding a balance in supporting existing development of insights professionals while working with the high calibre board members to scrutinise how the MRS can remain relevant for the long term. This includes what the conference focus should be, event planning, branding and marketing activations, as well as the financial health and investments for the MRS.

A specific ask of board members is directing initiatives to increase or sustain membership. I have personally been involved in the young researchers’ programme &More which is led by Helen Oldfield, the MRS’s sales and marketing director.

My contribution was to help create a team of young researchers who could operate as leaders to establish what events and communications young researchers would find most compelling. This has been enormously successful in driving a significant increase in membership to &More and keeping the MRS relevant.

This approach of exploring and agreeing on the overarching strategy for the MRS as a collective board – and then giving specific and measurable goals to board members – means that everyone involved in making a difference and is accountable to update the board on their progress at each meeting.

The experience of being a board member is rewarding, developmental and rather than being onerous, is satisfying – you can see the impact of board decisions and activity on the MRS and the broader industry health.

Richard Ellwood is director of brand marketing and integrated planning at The Walt Disney Company.

You can find out more about the MRS Main Board vacancies and process for nominations here.