2018 year marks the 25th anniversary of ICON. The association has undergone many changes – including its recent change in name from APSMA – but it’s always delivered a consistent set of core benefits to members. Our content manager Jodi Rabinowitz catches up with two of our most long-term members, Julia Davenport and Sue-Ella Prodonovich, to find out more about how ICON started and what they and others have gained from being part of the association.
Rumour goes that ICON was established in a bar in Sydney but, while that’s not quite what happened, it’s not far from the truth. ICON started as a series of coffee catch ups, which eventually progressed to after-work drinks. This group of friends realised they wanted to reach out to others in the professional services community and create a support network. As soon as they first started discussing the prospect of creating an organisation, they found themselves on a roll.
Professional services marketers didn’t have much understanding of what marketers did and we were very keen to educate them beyond the idea of the long lunch and support each other
Julia Davenport, who then worked with Clayton utz, describes how she and others started working after that first coffee in 1993 to start what was then known as the Australian Law Firm Marketing Association (ALFMA). She explains that the organisation was created to meet the needs of law firm marketers and quickly grew to include other professional services who shared common challenges as marketers.
“Professional services marketers didn’t have much understanding of what marketers did and we were very keen to educate them beyond the idea of the long lunch and support each other,” says Julia.
Soon after ALFMA was established, Sue-Ella Prodonovich joined the committee. These founding members have been recognised on the ICON Hall of Fame for their contributions, which included organising the association’s first conference in 1998. They had an international speaker Marc Mariah and more than 100 people attended. The conference was a huge success and gave members unique insights and resources about their careers that they didn’t have access to before.
Julia describes how exciting this was for all the organisers. “We were offering support that wasn’t there before, and people responded to it in a positive way.”
Sue-Ella adds: “It grew pretty quickly – it was terrific and focused, but still an informal group of friends. We knew we had something there… we used to have Thirsty Thursday, where there used to be a social get together, we used to just go down to the bar and it was good fun.”
From the outset, ICON was a place where marketers could come together and share information, knowledge
From the outset, ICON was a place where marketers could come together and share information, knowledge. It functioned as a place where members could share common experiences and discuss ways of solving problems that they were facing in their careers. It was also an incredible space for up-and-coming professionals to learn from other more experienced professionals in their field.
“Often at times you are in roles in professional services and you are quite isolated,” says Sue-Ella. “You’re an overhead and often you come in from a different state. You are looking for your buddies and you’re looking for a support network, there wasn’t much other support, these other firms didn’t have dedicated programs for the admin staff… We have a professional group, we share the challenges and we respect confidentiality.”
Once the association was established and members started sharing information in a formal setting they were able to bring in speakers that they individually wouldn’t have access to. “We could see people we couldn’t have on our own. If we’re a group we could bring in a good speaker for junior members,” says Sue-Ella.
Just as importantly, the various iteration of ICON have led to lifelong connections and friendships as members have found other like-minded people. This has become a defining feature of the ICON community. “It was a support system that was invaluable to me. I’ve made friends and 20 years later we’re still besties,” says Sue-Ella.
Pleasingly, ICON is still delivering value to a growing and vibrant membership 25 years later, and the sense of community within ICON is palpable for all who get involved. ICON has helped give recognition to a branch of marketing that was little understood 25 years ago, and I like to think that it’s helped support a great many careers” Julia says.