Posts Tagged ‘social media

22
Jul
14

Association membership is on the rise

association-membership-recruitmentI love my Barnes and Noble membership. Last Christmas, I saved nearly $100 because I was a member. I also love my World Market membership because, well, I enjoy the wine discounts.

And then, there’s my Public Relations Society of America membership, which provides professional development, networking opportunities and member-only must-haves for public relations junkies like me.

Simply put: Membership has its perks.

So that must be why associations are experiencing a steady increase in memberships.

Marketing General Inc. recently released the results of its annual Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, in which 53 percent of associations reported membership growth throughout the last year.

An unprecedented 865 associations responded to the survey, reporting on things such as membership recruitment and renewal, social media usage and marketing budgets.

“The purpose of this study continues to be the development of meaningful benchmarks by which the leadership of individual membership and trade associations can evaluate their own membership marketing strategies and tactics,” MGI wrote.

Associations representing nonprofit companies, health care and professional services experienced the largest membership growth. As for membership recruitment tools, email and world-of-mouth continue to be the most effective, but this year’s results revealed that direct mail is quickly gaining steam.

But membership renewals seem to present separate challenges. Membership may be growing, but data seem to suggest new members – not renewals – account for that.

For a while, association members blamed shrinking budgets and a poor economy for not renewing memberships. Now, the economy is slowly on an uptick, so association leaders believe lack of engagement with members is the reason for stagnant or decreasing membership renewals. Second: If membership ROI isn’t evident, it’s on the chopping block.

In the study, the majority of associations reported a two- to three-month grace period for membership benefits once memberships expire.

bar graphAlso in the report, associations indicated communicating membership value is the No. 1 challenge, while cost remains an obstacle.

Other interesting takeaways:

  • Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the most popular social media platforms (in that order), with Twitter experiencing the biggest boom in usage. Most associations reported their communications staff manages social media accounts.
  • On average, associations send their members about four emails per week.
  • A slight decrease from last year, 56 percent of associations said they increase dues as needed, with 27 percent planning to increase dues this year.
  • Branding and marketing are becoming more important, as 32 percent of associations have increased budget line items for such expenses.
  • Associations with membership growth also saw increases in attendance for tradeshow/conferences and professional development offerings; volunteerism; non-dues revenue; and certifications.
  • Associations with a renewal rate of less than 80 percent are less likely to experience a decline in membership.
  • Most association leaders believe networking is the top reason for joining an association.
  • To improve member engagement, 65 percent of associations have made changes to their websites.
  • About half of associations offer a student membership.

At the end of the report is a Words of Wisdom section, in which survey respondents shared their thoughts and ideas on issues, challenges and lessons they’ve learned as association professionals.

For example, one of the associations indicated it has expanded mentoring programs by 600 percent and has introduced a Visa Reward Card whereby members who have not attended an event in the past year receive cash rewards for doing so. As a result, event attendance is up 38 percent, while non-member event attendance is up 11 percent.

“Don’t just join an association; take full advantage of what we have to offer,” another association leader wrote. “When you come to us for help or resources and can’t find what you’re looking for, let us know so that we can keep improving. We want to be a true partner in your professional success, but we struggle with knowing what it is you need.”

So, where does your association fit into the membership equation? Has it experienced membership growth?

Take a look at the MGI report and see where your association stacks up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

08
Jul
14

Six Ways to Intersect Publications and Education Events

This month’s blog post is by Kim Howard, CAE, an award-winning publisher and president of Write Communications, LLC. Write Communications works with association leaders to create mission-aligned content for every channel for measurable results. She is the immediate past president of Association Media & Publishing. Howard can contacted at kim@writecommunicationsllc.com.

Kim Howard

Kim Howard, president of Write Communications, LLC

Delivering content to your members is a cornerstone of not only your publication program, but also your education events. In a perfect world, all our members would attend our events. But because they don’t, how do we share that information while not reinventing the wheel? How do we help sell the value of our education events? How can we showcase the content in the best possible way before, during and after our programs? Here are some ideas.

  1. Go beyond an ad. Cross-promote your events in the publications that you have. When you have a regularly published magazine, your content, if it’s mission-aligned, will likely fall in line with topics discussed at your education events. Is your editorial calendar in line with broad issues that are discussed at your conferences? Are you covering your content through the applicable lens for your members? Many associations have membership that runs the gamut, from students to c-suite executives. While it’s difficult to serve them all in one publication or conference, you can successfully integrate your content to cater to the cross-section of members. I use the term education events loosely because this could mean an in-person conference, webinar or podcast, lunch and learn or brown bag, etc. Have staff, freelancers or volunteers cover the event and write an article about the topics and subsequent discussion during the event. This is an excellent way to generate content for your publication and showcase the discussion. It’s also a great way to showcase your volunteers. Many members covet a byline on your association’s blog or in your publication. Covering select sessions at your events drives home the message to those members who didn’t attend that the event’s content is something to hear first hand. Think of it as your indirect sales guy.
  1. Give sidebars new meaning. Sidebars help break up your content and add an element of information that otherwise may be awkward to include in the main story. You are likely housing your speaker’s content somewhere on your website and the subject will also pertain to something you’re covering in your publication. Remind your readers that the content is still there and provide access to it by showcasing it in a sidebar. You could have content available from a webinar, a whitepaper or a slide presentation from an annual conference session. Use it. You don’t have to showcase the entire resource—just use a link, headline and blurb. And don’t forget your association’s other resources such as whitepapers, reports, webinars, podcasts, blog posts and other nuggets of information that show your members they have access to solid industry or profession information.

published

  1. Ask speakers to convert their presentation into an article, or interview them. This approach works best if you have your editorial staff attend the selected sessions and figure out which ones will translate into content for your publication. It also helps to weed out the presenters who were less than stellar: You probably don’t want to showcase their content in your publication. And it’s unlikely their content would translate well in a new format. Add an editor’s note at the beginning or the end of the piece letting readers know the topic was first discussed at “XYZ” conference, webinar, etc. I have used this approach for years and our publications have received many excellent articles that we published.
  1. When you have a hot, timely topic of discussion, ask the speaker or panelists to write blog posts about the subject before the event. There is always some piece of relevant information that speakers wish they could include, but can’t because of time constraints or because it diverts from the subject a little too much for an event. Not only is this a good way to showcase the content, but also it creates buzz about your event and may even increase the numbers from last-minute registrations or day-pass registrants.
  1. Cross-promote your education event through Twitter. If you know that certain members are into social media, especially Twitter, and they have fast fingers, ask them which sessions they would consider covering for you. This approach works best live, but after the event, consider picking out the top five or 10 tweets from the meeting and using that information as a sidebar to post-event coverage. The great thing about this approach is that you are covering a session that may not be covered a traditional way. It’s yet another insight into the education content that your meetings and events offer.
  1. Additional ideas might include:
    1. Videos or other enhanced content in digital publications. Careful planning and scheduling can yield good video clips from members when they are onsite.
    2. Executive summaries of content, ideas or discussions to share with attendees/those who were unable to attend as resources rather than simply as informational articles. (Think of this as a note-taking service or perhaps even enhance these notes with new information to make them that much more useful).
    3. Leverage sample content/learning outcomes/ROI/testimonials in next year’s event marketing materials to make the promotion that much more compelling.
    4. Consider year-round opportunities to position your annual meeting vs. only the two to three months leading up to the conference; keep the conversations going.
    5. Consider repackaging content into an infographic or other visually interesting format to help members/attendees digest the information in a new way.

Even if you can’t implement all these ideas, pick one that you know will work with your membership and any internal constraints you may have. Starting small will be the first step to yielding better results for your educational events and content that you deliver to your members.

10
Jun
14

Post-Relay reflection: passion and public relations

The Event Garde-ians

The Event Garde-ians, from left to right: Jenny Hill, Ashley Jones, Cally Hill, Aaron Wolowiec, Kristen Parker and Sara Mller. All are employees of Event Garde, LLC.

It was 3 a.m. Sunday and I’d been up since 6 a.m. Saturday. By now, the midnight coffee was wearing off and I was punchy.

But the jokes were rolling as Aaron Wolowiec, president and founder of Event Garde, LLC, and I sat in the glare of stadium lights trying to stay awake. We’d been at East Lansing High School for the East Lansing Relay for Life since early Saturday morning. Our team, The Event Garde-ians, decided a year ago that we would do our part to help find a cure for cancer.

Wolowiec sat on the committee and chaired the luminaria event, while I served as a team captain.

So why did we do it?

Because a sleepless night is nothing compared to the battle of cancer. And because each of us on the team has been affected by cancer. I lost my dad and my father-in-law to lung cancer eight years ago. For our team, “Cancer Sucks” is more than a bumper sticker or a magnet – it’s reality.

Our team raised nearly $3,500 and placed fourth out of 20 teams. We walked hundreds of miles, sweated buckets, wore silly costumes and participated in three-legged races in the middle of the night – all in the name of cancer. During the luminaria ceremony, we cried as we remembered loved ones who lost the battle to cancer and celebrated the survivors among us.

Overall, the East Lansing Relay for Life raised more than $44,000 for the American Cancer Society. And while The Event Garde-ians were inspired by personal stories of loss and triumph, we also realized the importance of giving back.

As you may remember from previous blog posts I’ve written, giving back and community engagement are wonderful ways to say “thank you” to the community that supports your organization. And people notice: If a member is trying to decide which association to join, your organization’s commitment to social responsibility could make that decision a bit easier.

“The association community is founded upon the passion, integrity and commitment of members,” Wolowiec said. “As consultants, industry partners and association staff who understand the complexities of volunteer management, it’s incumbent upon us to use our considerable knowledge and expertise to help our local communities organize around and raise money for causes that are poised to imagine a better tomorrow – in this case, one that is cancer free.”

Relay for Life sign

Event Garde was a bronze-level fundraising team for the East Lansing Relay for Life event.

In addition, participating in such events is good – and easy – public relations. In our case, Event Garde was listed as a supporter and a bronze-level fundraising team on an American Cancer Society web site. Event Garde was included in promotional material and mentioned in word-of-mouth conversations. As a committee chair, Wolowiec networked with key community leaders and vendors to earn support.

That’s not all. Event Garde was tagged in social media posts and we engaged media. In fact, I did an interview with WLNS, one of Lansing’s main news outlets, talking about the importance of rallying together to some day find a cure for cancer.

So the next time an event such as Relay for Life comes to town, consider signing up. Your commitment doesn’t have to be expensive; you can easily start a social media campaign. If you choose a well-established organization like American Cancer Society, chances are, vendors will cut you a break – especially if you cross-promote their services.

Poll your members and staff to learn which causes they support and about which issues they’re passionate. If you can, donate to those organizations. Become a sponsor. Form a team and walk at midnight wearing your swag.

And get in front of the camera. Talk about your efforts to support your members’ causes. Don’t be afraid to get personal, because those are the stories your members – and potential members – will remember.

In closing, thank you to everyone who supported The Event Garde-ians’ crusade against cancer. Keep fighting, and we’ll do the same.

Luminarias spell hope

Luminarias spell the word “hope” on the East Lansing High School bleachers.

22
Apr
14

Life goes on…and so does learning

AlbertEinstein-001As some of you may know, in addition to my role with Event Garde, I work for Michigan State University’s central communications office. I love working with students. They’re brilliant. They’re ambitious. They’re overachievers. And some of them are old, well, older.

I’m amazed by the nontraditional students I encounter on campus. Some are undergrads and some are grad students. And others are lifelong learners. MSU, like many universities around the country, offers lifelong learning credits. In fact, I took my first graduate class as a lifelong learner because it was so much cheaper.

Lifelong learning seems to be on the upswing as curious minds look for answers. But sometimes, universities don’t fit the bill, which is where associations should step in.

“With the short- and long-term value of traditional degrees increasingly in question, the number of people looking for alternatives will grow,” said Jeff Cobb, co-founder of the consulting firm Tagoras. “As a result, certification programs, assessment-based certificate programs, digital badging and competency-based education are likely to be areas of significant growth for continuing education and professional development providers.”

Why? Globalization.

Even mom-and-pop businesses are dabbling in international business. It’s safe to say that in today’s global economy, employers require skills that go beyond a degree. They want trend-savvy employees, so professional development is a must.

Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele

Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele, co-founders of Tagoras

And so, Cobb said, associations should beef up their education staffs. Cobb recommends hiring in-house subject matter experts to address increasingly complicated global issues. Their specialized industry knowledge and stakeholder connections are invaluable to creating lifelong learning materials. Remember this as your association competes with cheap, easy-to-find educational resources a la the web.

That said, associations should capitalize on technology, not shy away from it. For example, if an association offers online certification, it can easily incorporate a YouTube video or podcast. Crowdsourcing is also key. Associations should provide a platform to allow their members to share virtual resources.

At the same time, technology provides incredible tools to measure the effectiveness of your association’s lifelong learning opportunities.

“A variety of tools – from web and social media analytics to e-mail statistics to low-cost feedback systems like iPerceptions – can be used to extend and strengthen traditional, less agile market research methods,” Cobb said. “Organizations need to get more adept at using these tools, testing new ideas quickly and moving to full implementation with decisiveness.”

Tagoras has produced a list of tips for associations that want to compete in a global market for continuing education and professional development.

Simply put: Learning doesn’t stop after high school or college. And your association can easily meet the demand.

So now I’m wondering, where do Massive Open Online Courses fit into this equation? If you know of an expert on MOOCs, or if your association uses MOOCs, please contact me. I’d like to write about this in the near future.

11
Feb
14

Goodbye e-learning

TechStockPhotoAs a former journalist, I love data. And trend data are even better.

So when I came across “Association Learning + Technology 2014,” a recent report by Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele, founders of consulting firm Tagoras, imagine my delight!

Young or old, technology has redefined the way we learn and work. As 8-to-5 days at the office have slowly turned into 24-hour social media networking from the car and virtual meetings during the kids’ soccer practices, social media has filled in the gaps.

“The world of continuing education and professional development has changed dramatically in the past few years,” Cobb and Steele said.  “To meet member needs and stay out in front of the competition, you need to arm yourself with real data targeted to help you grow your programs.”

The 52-page Tagoras report provides such data, which were collected based upon a survey of 200 trade and professional associations. “Association Learning + Technology 2014” is designed to help association leaders strategize for a new learning landscape, while meeting their members’ needs for convenient and quick access to information.

There’s a goldmine of information in the report, which you can get for free if you subscribe to Tagoras’ free e-newsletter.

I’m sure the trends and data provided in the report will provide future blog fodder. But for starters, Cobb and Steele have abandoned the term e-learning and instead use the term technology-enabled or technology-enhanced learning.

Nearly all survey respondents – 88.7 percent – indicated they use some form of technology-enabled learning. The most popular form of such learning, according to the report: webinar.

As for social media, 33 percent of respondents reported using YouTube for learning programs, followed closely by Twitter (32 percent). Facebook was next, followed by LinkedIn. Nearly 37 percent of those surveyed indicated they have a mobile learning platform, and live streaming – rather than virtual conferences – seems to be an upcoming trend.

Another key takeaway: The majority of all respondents report technology has increased their revenue from educational offerings, but less than a quarter have a strategy in place to launch new learning platforms.

Cobb and Steel found organizations that consider themselves to be very successful:

  • Report increased net revenue from their education offerings as a result of their use of technology for learning.
  • Have a formal, documented strategy for their use of technology for learning.
  • Have formal, documented product development and pricing processes that cover their technology-enabled and technology-enhanced learning.
  • Offer facilitated online courses, gamified learning, virtual conferences and at least some mobile learning.
  • Use a learning content management system (LCMS).
  • Offer a formal credential (e.g., a certification or license), regardless of whether the credential is their own.

As the association industry transitions into technology-enabled learning, other trends will emerge, the report said. There will be:

  • Growth in implementation of learning platforms and their integration with other key systems, like association management systems.
  • A continued focus on professional instructional design to help ensure educational products are effective.
  • The slowly growing use of social media for learning and increased dabbling in emerging products, like microcredentials and massive courses.
  • An increase in competition that will, in turn, drive experimentation as associations look at how best to deliver more value.
  • The professionalization of the education function overall, as the adoption and integration of sophisticated technologies increase the demand for savvy, experienced leaders in the continuing education and professional development business.
Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele

Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele

“We want to see more associations develop and use a strategy to guide their use of technology for learning,” Cobb and Steele said. “Gut-level governance can work, but more consistent approaches empower staff all over the org chart.”

While all this may seem overwhelming, “Associations Learning + Technology 2014” is an incredible measurement tool for associations, regardless of size and budget. As associations plan educational programs, sessions and conferences, it’s becoming increasingly important that technology take center stage.

But it’s O.K. to start small. Maybe the answer is a hybrid conference – in-person and live stream. Or maybe it’s establishing a professional group on LinkedIn. Or perhaps smaller associations can establish a YouTube channel and provide “tips of the day.” (By the way, this is a great project for interns, who love to create videos and are social-media savvy.)

The point is: Don’t be afraid to taste technology. And don’t leave your clients and members hungry or with a bitter aftertaste in a world full of ripe and delicious technological treats.

So, tell us, are you embracing technology-enabled learning? How do you incorporate technology into your matrix of educational opportunities?

14
Jan
14

Silence isn’t golden in the dark

?????????????????It was Dec. 21 and we were frosting homemade sugar cookies when our world went black. And it stayed that way – dark and cold – for a week.

After seven days, all our fish were dead. House plants – dead.  Pipes – frozen and burst.  It was a Christmas we’ll never forget, and while it could’ve been so much worse, when the house dropped to 38 degrees and we moved Christmas to my mom’s, it didn’t feel like it.

What we needed then was a glimmer of hope. Some sort of reassurance that power would eventually be restored and things would once again be bright, warm and fuzzy.

But instead, we got silence.

When I called to report the power outage, the recording told me there were system problems and to call back later. When I did, I got the same message – a dozen times.  At the same time, I checked Facebook and Twitter hoping for updates – nothing.

For days, our utility company, Lansing Board of Water and Light, left thousands of us in the dark. Stores ran out of generators, food spoiled and people got sick. And still nothing from BWL.

By now, many of you may have heard about the epic public relations failure of BWL in response to mid-Michigan’s days-long power outage after a major ice storm, dubbed “Icepocalypse.”

BWL pretty much broke every rule of PR 101. In fact, it’s a great case study for public relations students, and researchers and PR firms will have a field day analyzing this communications disaster.

First, media reported that BWL General Manager J. Peter Lark left town to visit family during the outage, thinking it wouldn’t really be “that bad.” At the same time, the company admitted it had no emergency plan in place.

In other words: mid-Michigan’s second largest utility company had no idea what to do and therefore nothing to communicate – which is probably why it took three days for messaging to trickle out on social media.

There have since been a couple public meetings, at which BWL employees mostly carried the floor to praise their leader. And this weekend, BWL took out a full-page ad apologizing for the situation. But most PR pros agree it’s too little, too late.

As a trained crisis communicator, I’ve learned that an organization has about 30 minutes to respond to a situation, even if it’s just with a holding statement. Someone needs to say something to let stakeholders know they’re engaged. And it’s just common sense that the leader should never leave the scene, but instead, rally the troops.

Kelly Rossman-McKinney, CEO of Truscott Rossman.

Kelly Rossman-McKinney, CEO of Truscott Rossman.

“Your reputation rides on how well you perform – especially in a crisis,” said Kelly Rossman-McKinney, CEO of Truscott Rossman, a Michigan-based strategic communications firm. “Your failure to rise to the occasion will undermine your reputation, short- and probably long-term. If your customers respect and trust you now, don’t lose them because you can’t meet their expectations under difficult circumstances.”

Crisis communications isn’t hard, but it does require preparation. If your organization doesn’t have a crisis communications plan, start one now, while things are calm.

According to Rossman-McKinney, there are three basic rules to crisis communications:

1. Acknowledge the problem with honesty, integrity and credibility. Don’t sugarcoat the facts.

2. Apologize for the situation sincerely and with care, compassion and concern.

3. Actively fix the problem and explain how and when action will be taken, what steps are involved, what challenges may arise, etc.

With these rules in mind, an organization can design its plan. Here are some must-haves, according to Truscott Rossman:

1. Identify your internal crisis team. Usually it’s your executive team and includes the CEO (always!), the COO, legal, HR, PR, etc. The team may vary based on the type of crisis but these are invariably the essential players.

2. Identify all your potential audiences and tier them based on type of crisis: internal (board members, employees, retirees, volunteers, donors, etc.) and external (starting with those directly impacted by the crisis, plus other customers/clients, vendors, suppliers, law enforcement, elected officials, media, etc.)

3. Determine your communications tools and tactics – and make sure you consider access to and credibility of those tools from your audiences’ perspectives. Traditional and digital/social media are both essential but also be prepared to think out of the box. Will phone calls, door-to-door, etc. be necessary under certain circumstances?

4. Know who will be responsible for what aspect of the crisis communications plan and have those folks prepared before a crisis. For example, if you know you will need outside expertise to implement portions of the plan, identify them now.  Also, make sure your spokesperson is the best, most credible individual.  Don’t send out the top dog if he or she comes across as arrogant, defensive, angry and patronizing. Care, compassion and concern are the leading attributes for a spokesperson in a crisis. Hire out if necessary – but make sure you hire credibility as well.

5. Don’t over promise. It’s better to exceed expectations by fixing the situation earlier than people expected than to let them down by missing a deadline.

6. Communicate, communicate, communicate. A vacuum of information from you will be quickly filled by others – and it won’t be pretty. Be clear on what you know, what you don’t know and how and when you’ll provide additional information – and meet and exceed everything you promise.

CrisisCommunications_2I think it’s safe to say that BWL may never recover from its PR nightmare. And I hope you never find yourself sharing a similar fate.

Does your organization have a crisis communications or emergency communications plan? We’d love for you to share it.

10
Dec
13

There’s an app for that

Mobile appsIn this appilicious world, it’s hard not to be addicted to smartphones. From recipes to sports to stocks, it seems there’s an app for everything.

And it’s not just big businesses that have jumped on the app bandwagon. I recently attended an app swap (we public relations professionals are obsessed with new trends) and discovered a Lansing-based mom-and-pop store has joined the app market.

Next year promises to deliver exciting new mobile technology, so when planning digital strategies, associations should consider mobile apps and websites, said Kim Harwood, president of  Results at Hand Software.

“Mobile is a great opportunity to serve your members better with tools and services to meet each member’s need,” she said. “Your association can leverage mobile technology for advocacy, education, member communications and engagement activities. Our whitepaper, ‘Strategic Mobile Trends for Associations in 2014 and Beyond,’ highlights some available tools and trends worth considering so that your association can get the most out of mobile and use it most effectively to engage your constituents.”

Results at Hand develops mobile-centric solutions for associations, events and direct sales organizations. For its newest research project, r@h has designed the 2014 Mobile Readiness Survey to gauge the mobile readiness of associations.  Those who take the short survey will receive a copy of “Strategic Mobile Trends for Associations in 2014 and Beyond” as well as results from the survey.

Based on its research and a recent report from Gartner, the world’s leading information technology research company, Results at Hand has identified 10 mobile trends that will influence the association industry:

  1. Native vs. Web-Based Mobile Apps
  2. Responsive Design
  3. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
  4. Cloud Storage and the Personal Cloud
  5. Geolocation and Near Field Communication (NFC)
  6. Mobile Payment Systems
  7. Mobile Video
  8. Mobile Advertising
  9. Mobile Security
  10. Event Apps

“An additional growing mobile trend we will hear more about in 2014 is the use of peripheral devices and wearable technology that integrate with mobile phones, such as glasses and watches,” Harwood said. “Given the diversity of mobile devices and mobile accessories, developing strategies that allow and encourage members to use the best tools for them to accomplish their goals will be of increasing importance. Association resources can be a great tool, but only if they work on the devices that association members use daily.”

For this blog post, I read the whitepaper – three times. But since I’m not a techie, I think it’s best to leave the details to the pros. So I encourage you to request it and read it. I think you’ll be amazed at the growth potential these trends offer.

That said, I think it’s especially important to point out trend No. 10, event apps, perhaps because they’re among the most common apps used by associations.

Results at Hand app.

Results at Hand app.

For mobile app newbies, event apps are a good place to start – for things like creating event guides. They reduce printing costs while increasing engagement and fostering networking. And users can easily integrate apps into their social media platforms. (Trend No. 4, cloud storage, is also an incredible cost saving tool. And, it’s not hard. My 11 year old uses it for school every day!)

The current trends in mobile event guides include polling, customizable agendas, gaming, video, contact exchange, geolocation and social media integration, according to the whitepaper. For associations, polling, gaming, CEU tracking and GPS are hot topics that will continue to dominate in 2014.

So as 2013 comes to a close and you plan for 2014, will you incorporate mobile technology into your communication plan?

Whether your IT staff is ready to go or whether you’re just scratching the surface, consider participating in the Results at Hand survey. Research is the first step to designing best practices, and, who knows, you may be more ready than you think.

12
Nov
13

Move over Fred Flintstone

George Jetson

George Jetson works in a futuristic office.

Remember the TV show, “The Jetsons?”  The funny robot housekeeper who talked back and the fancy buttons that made everything fly?

I loved it.

O.K. So maybe life won’t be that exciting 17 years from now. But I think George Jetson – or Hanna-Barbera I guess – was on to something.

Think about it. Seventeen years ago, I was in college, using dialup Internet to do research. There wasn’t Facebook or Twitter.  And I used the phone to talk, not text.

It’s amazing how far technology has come. So imagine what’s in store for the year 2030!

“Technology will specifically shape and challenge the meetings industry by 2030,” according to the German Convention Bureau. “The Internet, social media and mobile devices are the sources of this transformation.”

Recently, the bureau published, “Meetings and Conventions in 2020: A study of megatrends shaping our industry.” The study examines eight megatrends – globalization, demographic change, shortage of resources, urbanization, feminization and diversity, technology in work and life, sustainable development, mobility of the future and safety and security – to paint a picture of what the industry might look like in 2030.

I know what you’re thinking – it’s Germany, so why should I care? But Germany is second only to the U.S. as a meetings and conventions location, according to the bureau. And while it’s true that demographic trends may be different in Germany, issues such as technology and knowledge transfer apply globally.Techology

Obviously, I can’t write about all the trends here. But there are some key points of the study that are worth highlighting.

First, technology is a blessing and a curse. Infrastructure – meaning the venues that host conventions and meetings – will most likely change to accommodate more complex technology needs. As people become increasingly dependent on mobile news and social networking platforms, conference and event planners will look for facilities that are keeping pace. For instance, conference rooms will be better prepared for virtual speakers (i.e. webinars) and digital white boards. Of course, by 2030, who knows what fancy tools we’ll have? But one thing is for sure: Venues must follow the trends or they’ll lose business.

As we become an increasingly interconnected world, knowledge of other languages and cultures will be crucial, the study found. This means conference and event planners, caterers and wait staff may be expected to expand their global prowess. They may have to travel more. Learn a language. And adopt a love of lifelong learning. By 2030, these could be employer expectations,  rather than suggestions.

Along the same lines, the meetings and convention industry will gradually become more diverse, according to the study. And this means accommodating a variety of physical and social needs. An extreme example cited in the study: service robots in buildings. They may clean buildings, work security and help older guests get around.  Sort of like Rosie from the Jetsons.

The German study predicts by 2030 more older adults will attend meetings and conferences. People may work into their 70s by then, since retirement may one day become a financial luxury. So, the German Convention Bureau said the industry has to consider the needs of the older generation.

Fred Flintstone

Fred Flintstone

Another finding: Sustainability will become increasingly important. By 2030, environmental responsibility will soon be a top factor when businesses are choosing venues. In other words, certification systems (i.e. LEED certification) will be valuable, as will barrier-free accommodations.

The year 2030 may seem far away – as it did when we were kids watching “The Jetsons.” But as we parents know, time flies. So if you’re more like Fred Flintstone than George Jetson, get ready.

10
Sep
13

Mission possible: Finding and keeping volunteers

It’s the first board meeting of the year and the room is packed with enthusiastic volunteer board members. And later that month, committee members flock to your building to discuss the assignments for the year.

But slowly, throughout the year, people stop coming. Projects hit roadblocks. And by the end of the year, you find it harder and harder to recruit – and keep – volunteers.

Sound familiar?

It may be that your volunteers are bored, says Elizabeth Engel, CEO and chief strategist for Spark Consulting, LLC.

Elizabeth Engel

Elizabeth Engel, CEO and chief strategist for Spark Consulting, LLC

Unfortunately, many organizations are stuck when it comes to volunteers, she said. Like zombies, committee members engage in busy work instead of generating new ideas to further the mission of the organization.

Part of the problem is traditional committee structure doesn’t allow for quick decision making, Engel said, and that doesn’t work when GenXers and millennials are accustomed to 24-7 information and networking. We get impatient.

Thanks to Twitter and Facebook, these generations – which in 2011 surpassed Baby Boomers for volunteerism – value virtual networks and don’t often communicate face to face. But because of traditional volunteer models, defined by committees, boards of directors, meetings and high levels of commitment, these young professionals may be hesitant to jump in.

So that’s why associations must embrace mission-driving volunteering, Engel said. She and Peggy Hoffman, president of Mariner Management and Marketing, LLC, recently co-authored a whitepaper, “The Mission Driven Volunteer.”

“Volunteers’ work has to have meaning and impact, where they can clearly see it advancing the mission of the association,” Engel said. “That’s the cake. Recognition, rewards, honors and all that jazz are nice, but they’re the icing. Get the cake right first.”

For example, there should be volunteer opportunities other than joining committees or boards of directors.

“The most innovative volunteer opportunities I’ve seen recently are related to tasks like crowdsourcing,” Hoffman said. “The most innovative association staff positions are volunteer services director, director of member engagement and volunteer coordinator – all of which allow someone to focus on this area.”

When volunteers feel empowered to contribute to the good of the organization, using their own skills and passions, they’re more willing to give their time, the authors wrote.

According to Engel and Hoffman, here are some hallmarks of a mission-driven volunteer program:

  • Projects are evaluated based on how they contribute to the organization’s mission.
  • Structure is built around project-oriented teams rather than the budget cycle.
  • Volunteers are selected based on competencies and skills rather than for position title, tenure or political reasons.
  • The litmus test for maintaining standing committees is breadth of oversight (i.e. fiscal oversight, leadership development/nominations) or legal requirements (i.e. state or federal laws requiring an executive committee).
  • It embraces and enables micro-volunteering.
  • It democratizes volunteering, allowing more people to participate and for those volunteers to create their own opportunities.

    Peggy Hoffman

    Peggy Hoffman, president of Mariner Management and Marketing, LLC

To sum it up, while younger generations are willing and enthusiastic volunteers, they seek different kinds of volunteer experiences, ones that are less about structure, position and prestige, they wrote. They want experiences that are focused instead on independence, meaning, impact and “getting it done,” none of which are easily accommodated by the traditional committee model.

“People like variety, so the question to ask [if you’re struggling to keep volunteers] is whether people were driven out of your organization because of a lack of variety,” Hoffman said. “And a good percentage of volunteers stop because life changes their availability – a new job, a new responsibility at work, a new baby. So the question to me is, how do we address this by crafting volunteer programs that recognize this?”

One solution: micro-volunteering. Think about it as bites of volunteer work: short-term projects, flexibility, ad-hoc committees and taskforces. Micro-volunteers contribute 49 or fewer hours per year and contribute most frequently in ways related to content (research, conducting literature reviews, analyzing data, preparing background information for regulators and press, reviewing proposals) or teaching and mentoring, Engel said. In the whitepaper, Engel and Hoffman present some questions upon which associations can reflect:

  • Which of your standing committees have gone “zombie?”
  • What does your demographic breakdown of volunteers look like? Are you seeing a surge in GenX and millennial volunteers? What are you doing to discover and accommodate their preferences in volunteering?
  • Among your current volunteer opportunities and groups, which support primarily infrastructure? Which support primarily mission? How could you go about getting more into the mission support category?
  • What types of decisions in your association would benefit from a deliberative decision-making process? Which would benefit from a more rapid decide-experiment-learn-iterate process? How do you see your committees and taskforces contributing to this?
  • What current volunteer projects could be turned over to mission-focused taskforces?
  • What current volunteer projects should be dropped to allow you to refocus volunteer and staff resources on mission-driven projects?
  • Ad-hoc volunteers give the least amount of time but as a group represent the largest number of volunteers. Can you identify yours? What do you know about them? How different – or similar – are they to your volunteer leaders?
  • Have you audited your volunteer opportunities to assure a variety of options that target low, medium and high commitment, as well as differing levels of task complexity and expertise required?
  • What do your volunteers say is working and not working for them?
  • How visible is volunteering in your association?
  • What is one action you could take today to start your association on the path to mission-driven volunteering?
"The Mission Driven Volunteer," by Elizabeth Engel and Peggy Hoffman

“The Mission Driven Volunteer,” by Elizabeth Engel and Peggy Hoffman

You can download “The Mission Drive Volunteer” from Engel’s website. Of special interest: It includes three case studies of associations that recently changed their volunteer programs and are now flourishing.  So read it and let us know. Do you need to make some changes?

Editor’s note: You can follow Hoffman and Engel on Twitter at @peggyhoffman and @ewengel. For more information on this topic, please read Aaron Wolowiec’s column in the fall issue of Michigan Meetings.

06
Aug
13

The many hats of marketers

Scott Oser

Scott Oser, president of Scott Oser Associates

Editor’s Note: This week’s guest blog post is by Scott Oser, president of Scott Oser Associates. He’s speaking this morning at the ASAE Annual Meeting in Atlanta. Follow along in real time on Twitter using #asae13  and continue to monitor Twitter for feedback from Oser’s session.

A couple months ago I wrote an article for “Associations Now” about how marketing requires different skills than it once did. As more potential tactics and options for marketing have emerged, more is expected of a marketer.

You can read the full “Associations Now” article here, but following is a quick summary of just some of the roles marketers are now expected to play:

  • Channel expert. It’s the marketer’s job to be informed about all the traditional and new marketing techniques.
  • Implementer. Marketers must have strong implementation and project management skills.
  • Data analyst. Association marketing professionals must understand how to read and interpret the numbers.
  • Brand champion. In most associations it’s the job of the head marketing professional to make sure the essence of the brand is reflected in everything the association does.
  • Community creator. The stronger your community and member engagement, the more effective your marketing will be. So it’s up to the marketing professional to help create that engagement.
  • Cheerleader and politician. Marketing requires trying new things and some staff members are more resistant to change than others. Therefore, it’s necessary for a marketer to get people on board even when they’re skeptical.

While I was at the beach a couple weeks ago on a brief vacation I re-read the article I wrote. I thought about how even though the role of a marketer has changed and the number of ways in which we market has grown, the goal of our marketing has remained the same.

Regardless of which of the roles above we play and regardless of which medium (direct mail, email, telemarketing, word of mouth, social media, etc.) we use, our main goal is to show recipients the value of what we’re asking them to do so they’ll act.  With all the competing products, services and marketing messages, this has become increasingly difficult – but increasingly important – to do.  Unfortunately, many marketers focus on the role they play and the tactics they use but don’t always do a great job of knowing their target market, the different needs of the segments within their target market and the messaging they need to use.

You can be the best marketer in the world but the bottom line is that value drives response.  Do you understand your value proposition and are you communicating it well?  If not, I recommend you take a step back and start working on that as soon as you finish reading this sentence.

Scott Oser Associates
Scott Oser Associates was formed in 2006 to develop customized solutions to solve unique membership, marketing and sales challenges. It has partnered with a large number of associations, for-profit and non-profit organizations to increase their bottom lines from memberships, marketing and sales efforts. Oser has more than 17 years of marketing experience in the association and publishing industries. Before starting the firm he worked for market leaders like National Geographic Society, AARP and Science. You can follow him on
Twitter




meet aaron

Association learning strategist & meetings coach. Founder & president of Event Garde. Passionate about cooking, hot yoga, blogging, old homes, unclehood & pet parenting (thanks to Lillie the pup).

meet kristen

Writer, editor, public relations professional. Proud mom of three. Total word geek. Spartan for life.

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