Posts Tagged ‘communication

18
Oct
16

The communications struggle continues

2016-association-communications-benchmarking-report_page_04If you’ve been following this blog for the past five years (heck….even the past year), you know I’m a communications nut.

Seriously. It’s the center of everything I do – from my personal life to my professional life.

Without communication, both internally and externally, there’s no content, no strategy. Nothing.

But not everyone knows how to communicate, at least not effectively. That goes for businesses, too.

Last January, I wrote about Naylor’s 2015 Communication Benchmarking Study. Naylor has been conducting the survey for five years, and last year, the survey found most associations were continuing to struggle with communications. In fact, only 6 percent reported having a communications strategy.

Fast forward: Naylor recently released the results of its 2016 Communications Benchmarking Study. And….you guessed it. Associations are still struggling.

The top two communications challenges reported this year: communications clutter/overload and the inability to communicate membership benefits effectively. Both challenges have increased since 2011, with 69 percent and 67 percent of associations stating those are the largest obstacles.

At the same time, nearly 80 percent of associations said their members ignore their communications – up from 59 percent in 2015.

Also of note:

  • More than half of respondents recognize a serious or significant problem with the lack of revenue generated from their communication vehicles.
  • Most respondents believe they are good at creating relevant content, and more than half are conducting communication-specific surveys at least once every 12–24 months to stay on top of members’ needs. But, as stated above, those efforts are often being ignored.
  • Although 57 percent believe they could improve member engagement by improving their ability to customize for different subgroups, not many are actually doing it.

While under staffing remains a top concern among associations, especially in the communications department, some positive trends emerged in the 2016 survey.

communicateThis year, more associations reported success in helping their members find desired information quickly and keeping them informed about education opportunities and events.

While e-newsletters and print magazines remain top communication vehicles, associations seem to be expanding their communication vehicles. For example, according to the results, Facebook, webinars and online career centers have gained traction.

Finally, again this year, associations reported difficulty with communicating to young professionals. While integrated communication is paramount to success, segmentation and customization of communications is key to enticing young members. As such, Naylor advises associations to develop specific events, communications and mentoring opportunities unique to this group.

“In general, associations are doing a better job at organizing information and making it accessible to their members, as well as keeping their members informed about new events and education,” Naylor says. “It’s more critical than ever to make every message count. And while associations appreciate the importance of segmenting member data to provide tailored communications to combat the ‘overload’ challenge, a relatively small percentage feel they are leveraging technology available to do this effectively.”

13
Sep
16

Pay attention to what matters most

same-pageThis probably won’t come as a surprise to many of you, but it seems associations and their members aren’t always on the same page.

According to a recent report by Abila, what members want from associations vs. what associations think members want don’t always align.

For example, millennials just starting their careers often turn to associations for job opportunities and career advice. But baby boomers, who are winding down their careers, may instead rely on associations to provide industry news and trends.

The problem: A one-size-fits-all approach to association management and communication doesn’t work, but associations aren’t always good at segmenting their memberships.

Furthermore, many professional organizations take pride in providing numerous meetings and conferences when instead they should focus on job opportunities, credentialing and certifications, Abila found.

“Understanding generations and how they like to engage now is essential for any organization,” Abila said. “And acknowledging that an emerging generation will change the rules of engagement down the road – and planning for that – will help ensure success.”

Some key takeaways from the Membership Engagement Study:

  • Sixty-eight percent of members feel organizations are responsive to their needs, while 91 percent of organizations think they’re responsive to members.
  • Only 63 percent of members feel they’re getting good value for the membership fee, while 81 percent of organizations think they’re providing good value.
  • Seventy percent of members feel the organizations to which they belong are the voices of the industry, while 84 percent of associations think they’re the leading voices.

I alluded to it earlier, but segmented communication is crucial to member retention. In the survey, members said they most want to hear about industry news and trends, followed by professional meetings. Third: networking opportunities.

Perhaps surprising, however, was social media’s influence. While millennials indicated they’re much more willing to use social media platforms to connect with associations, email is still the No. 1 communication tool. Email messages were the most popular, followed by e-newsletters.

In terms of frequency, members said monthly communication is optimal. For social media, weekly communication is satisfactory.

career-journeySo what does this all mean?

“First and foremost, organizations need to have a sharp, well-defined understanding of where members are in their career journey and cater their content and communication strategy to address the needs and desires of their members based on age and/or career stage,” Abila said. “A ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach no longer works in the targeted, highly personalized and technologically advanced world in which we live.”

Abila offers some tips:

  • An association should explore data within its AMS to identify new segments of its membership. Doing so will help associations tailor communications and think strategically.
  • Paying special attention to members who are just beginning their careers will reap great rewards – especially in terms of members retention. More than any other demographic, millennials (and in some cases Gen Xers) need career guidance and networking opportunities.
  • When it comes to programs, education and professional development, associations should offer a variety of choices, from hybrid to online to traditional conferences, and they should explore a spectrum of content delivery options. Simply put: Determine members’ career needs and meet those.
  • All the above is moot unless associations know their members. To learn more about their members, associations should engage in dialogue and survey them about their membership preferences.
24
May
16

No more masses for association marketers

email-marketing-for-your-home-businessAs some of you may know, Event Garde sends a monthly e-newsletter. So every month, I jump into Constant Contact to look at stats.

Admittedly, I’m a word nerd, but I find the stats and data fascinating. I get excited when the click and open rates increase. And I use those – based on the popularity of certain topics – to decide what to write the next month.

Email marketers: Does this sound familiar?

According to most reports, email is the No. 1 tool for marketing among associations. But do email campaigns work?

A new report by Informz may help marketers decide.

The 2016 Association Email Marketing Benchmark Report analyzes nearly 2 billion emails sent by associations in 2015. According to the report, email volume rose nearly 12 percent from 2014.

We’ll delve into the findings shortly, but first, Informz points out marketing automation technology has transformed the way associations communicate. For example, it allows senders to more easily segment audiences, allowing for topical, personalized responses.

“Associations are making a purposeful shift to integrate and maximize their digital marketing reach, utilizing all their data assets,” Informz says. “Websites, email marketing programs, account management databases and online communities are no longer perceived as separate functional entities. Taking a holistic approach means moving away from a single communication strategy to a tailored, one-to-one communication approach.”

click-460In addition, the report revealed email relevancy is top of mind for subscribers. As such, marketers are moving away from mass emails, instead sending customized communications to members – which translates into more meaningful member experiences.

And now the findings from the Informz report:

  • The average email metrics for associations include a 98 percent delivery rate, 36 percent open rate and 16 percent click rate.
  • More than 70 percent of email subscribers were sent one to five emails per month.
  • Emails containing eight or more links represent 77 percent of the email sent volume.
  • Audiences between 5,000 and 50,000 accounted for 63 percent of all emails sent; however, the smaller the audience, the higher the open and click rates were.
  • For the second consecutive year, emails sent during midday hours accounted for the largest percentage of emails sent, as well as the highest click rates.
  • Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday had the highest email volume with an average open rate of 35 percent.
  • Friday had the highest weekday open rate at 37 percent.
  • Subject lines with fewer than 40 characters had open rates that exceeded the 2015 benchmark of 36 percent.
  • More than 60 percent of opened email had engagement for more than 10 seconds, which is an increase from last year’s metric of 62 percent.
  • Mobile readers engage with emails longer than desktop readers, with 67 percent of mobile readers spending longer than 10 seconds.

So…what are your thoughts? How does your association use email?

Remember that newsletter I referenced? We’re always looking to feature examples of success so if you’ve developed an email campaign that works, please send information to Kristen Parker at Kristen@eventgarde.com.

17
May
16

Creating Conscious Meetings

Holly

Holly Duckworth

This month’s guest blog post is by Holly Duckworth, a keynote speaker and consultant. She’s the author of the award-winning book, “Ctrl+Alt+Believe: Reboot Your Association for Success.” Follow her on Twitter: @hduckworth.

As you look around it doesn’t take long to recognize the world of business is evolving. What used to be “woo woo” spiritual practices like meditation, essential oil and choosing holistic foods, is becoming more main stream.

As such, “same old” meetings will no longer work. Now, participants demand a deeper connection to self and to the experts in their field. And CEOs must create companies that reflect what they believe in order to keep the highest levels of talent.

At the same time, hotels and venue partners are struggling to create open spaces that support connection in this new way.

I have been active in the meetings industry since 1999 so I’ve had a front row seat to watch this happen. The most successful meetings now reflect the societal evolvement toward mindful business, and that’s where I step in. I use spiritual tools (meditation, visioning, affirmations, intentions, essential oils) to shift the consciousness in meetings/business from fear to faith.

Time for a New “Woo & Wow” Conversation

By spirituality, I don’t mean religion. Instead, I approach spirituality as a broad concept with room for many perspectives — a sense of connection to the wholeness of life. Meetings are a universal human experience —something that touches us all. How can we get conscious about co-creating more mindful, meaningful and powerful soul-connecting meetings? First we must give permission to connect to our own soul.

Try this “woo woo” on for size:

Accept the authenticity of your feelings in the moment. Feel your feelings fully and allow yourself to recognize this is how you feel in this moment, without self-judgment. Ask for help. Don’t assume people around you are too busy or unwilling to help. A two-minute closed-eye meditation at your desk can help you get more clear about who you are, what you need and what your meeting attendees desire.

Breathe in and out. Focus on feeling the air come in your nose and out your mouth. Repeat this several times. This can center your energy on what is truly important. Have you tried essential oils? Simply putting a little lemon essential oil on your wrists can elevate your mood; a little lavender can calm you.

Choose compassion toward yourself. When you take a moment to realize just how wonderful, capable and amazing you really are, you inspire others to show compassion toward themselves and it becomes reciprocal. Use an affirmation to focus in a positive direction. My favorite saying is, “Success is all I see; success is all I feel; success is all I know in my business and life.”

I believe it’s time to have a new conversation in the meetings business. Meetings are a key contributor to conversations and social change and we are living in an era when social change is rampant. The illusion of a division between church and state is that — an illusion. Equal rights, marriage equality, globalism and technology are all working to evolve the consciousness of the planet. Younger employees require bringing their heart and spirit to the work they do — and the meetings they attend.

My work as a CMP, meeting professional, CAE, association executive and licensed religious science practitioner trained in using spiritual tools and traditions positions me to be a clearinghouse for this new conversation.

10
May
16

Building community with a click

communityOne of the best benefits of attending professional events is networking – whether face to face or via social media.

And it often starts before an event. Personally, before I attend a conference, I search Twitter for the event’s hashtag to engage in conversation and “meet” colleagues.

That said, searching Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn can be time consuming and overwhelming.

But event apps can help, according to a new e-book by DoubleDutch.

“It’s time to make use of innovative technology to enhance face-to-face connections, redefine engagement, keep the conversation alive, inform better content, build more robust social media communities and ultimately demonstrate the ROI of event marketing,” DoubleDutch says. “An event app provides community managers countless opportunities to build an audience before the event, engage during and keep engagement thriving long after the event has come to an end.”

Nearly all event marketers – 88 percent – use social media to create event hype. This means more than just promoting products and services; it means fostering conversation and building a community.

Event apps allow attendees to check in to events and post status updates. In other words, an event app mirrors an event-specific social networking platform. At the same time, apps allow event planners to gather and analyze data. In addition, by engaging in conversation, speakers can tailor presentations to address specific questions and concerns – thereby boosting ROI for event participants.

ts_140501_smartphone_apps_800x600

DoubleDutch has a few suggestions:

  • A welcome video from a CEO/chairperson
  • Interactive case studies in the form of Q & As
  • Access to presentations and other content
  • Live polls and audience surveys
  • Exclusive deals and promotions
  • Exhibitor giveaways

During a program, an event planner should:

  • Assign an app champion – Appoint a staff person to visit sessions and walk the exhibition floor to identify hot spots and key takeaways to share with attendees.
  • Stay in control – Sometimes things happen (room changes, session cancellations) and an app allows event planners to communicate quickly with attendees. At the same time, by following in-app conversations, event planners can nip a potential issue in the bud.
  • Share in real time – Build a crowd-sourced multi-media library in which participants can post resources and photos – both during and after the event.
  • Elevate key influencers – Find active app users and promote their posts. Call them out and show your appreciation. Encourage app users to sync apps with their social media profiles to maximize engagement.

In short, event apps allow attendees to learn from others; network before, during and after an event; and transfer their knowledge to their teams long after an event ends.

“Event marketing is crucial for forming connections with customers and sponsors, growing your digital community and building brand sentiment,” DoubleDutch says. “It is an opportunity to amplify engaged communities around your brand, product or service. Social media grows and engages those connections, but even the most adept community manager can’t attain the best event results through social media alone.”

12
Apr
16

Use the media to manage your relationships

media_monitoringIn the early stages of my career when I was working as communications director for a nonprofit, I was amazed at how quickly a national issue could become local.

National grassroots efforts steadily trickled down to local and state governments and organizations so I found myself buried in issues management. Every day, I scanned news outlets across the nation and throughout the state to see which issues may affect my daily operations, but more importantly, the operations of our members. Think federal and state funding!

After a few years in public relations, I’ve learned that to build support, staying on top of trends and issues is key, as is listening to your audiences – otherwise known as key publics.

A new whitepaper by Media Miser – a media analytics and tracking company – spells out the importance of relationship management.

“Effective communications means more than just managing issues through the media,” Media Miser said. “Companies and organizations must also be aware of their external publics – the people and groups outside of an organization’s sphere that affect, or are affected by, what that organization does. This is known as relationship management: the discipline of identifying key publics and establishing strategies for building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships with them.”

Step 1: quote analysis. Chances are, your communications staff is monitoring media, but pay attention to quotes. Doing so will allow you to see what your stakeholders are thinking and saying about the trends and issues that could affect your organization. If you’re not on track, their words will tell you.

Also look for advocates and “badvocates.” By scanning for quotes and statements, you can assess who’s on your side – and who’s not. If the media heavily quote someone, he or she could be an opinion leader – and a media favorite – so it’s wise to determine whether your organization’s positions align with that person’s agenda.

As I mentioned before, keeping an eye on regional news will give your organization a taste of the key publics within that region, and could help your association strengthen its presence and capitalize on hot-button issues and trends. For example – knowledge. Is there something happening about which you can best educate that region?

And messaging. It’s so important. Whoever handles communications in your organization needs to develop consistent messaging. That said, staff can tailor those messages to a region or stakeholder’s concerns.

“If you want people to trust you and your organization, consistency is a must,” Media Miser said. “Trust is the first step in developing a relationship with opinion leaders and your key publics. The last thing you want is to communicate different messages regarding the same issue: Without consistency, you run the risk of looking insincere. This will inhibit your publics’ ability to trust you, and without trust it’s impossible to maintain a mutually beneficial relationship.”

It goes without saying that people appreciate transparency, so always, I mean ALWAYS, be honest. Your organization doesn’t want to be caught in the middle of a public relations quagmire.

business-relationshipIn summary, pay attention to what media – and this includes bloggers and niche reporters – are writing about. Even if an issue doesn’t seem important to your industry, it could tangentially relate. Remember: Media are key to helping you build relationships.

Other questions to consider:

  • Is there mutual trust between your organization and your key publics?
  • Is there an equal exchange and benefit? Are you seeing a reaction to your relationship management efforts, or are they falling flat? Should you focus your efforts on different key publics who are more likely to reciprocate?
  • Is your company committed to maintaining a relationship with your key publics? Are you continuing to nurture every relationship that you’ve developed?
  • Are you satisfied with the relationship? Are your key publics satisfied? What can you do to improve these levels of satisfaction?
08
Mar
16

The makings of a good nonprofit

nonprofit word in letterpress type

As some of you may know, I launched my career in nonprofit. I quickly learned that nonprofits play a crucial role in just about every industry.

While each nonprofit thrives on its own accord and each offers something unique to the constituents it serves, there are common traits that define a good nonprofit.

Perhaps more than anything else, good leadership molds a successful nonprofit. Excellence starts at the top, trickling down to those who support leadership.

But what else?

TVD Associates recently unveiled an infographic, “10 Traits that Make a Nonprofit Great.”

I won’t go through the entire list but a few traits are worth pointing out.

  • Focus on a few things – Think quality not quantity. It’s tempting to provide everything to everyone, but it’s much more effective to specialize in a few products and services. Nonprofits that stick to a mission and develop measurable goals perform the best.
  • Develop diverse funding sources – I’ve written before about methods to increase non-dues revenue since members shouldn’t provide the only funding stream. In addition, funding should also come from grants, special events and local foundations.
  • Reach the right audiences – I’ve said before and I’ll say it again: Communication is key, especially tailored communications. It’s best to identify three key audiences and craft messages specific to those communications needs. Key audiences include staff, board members and volunteers (internal messaging works well for this audience), those who might use products and services (think potential clients here, too) and potential donors.
  • Say thank you and ask for help – Nonprofits often ask for dollars, but a good nonprofit lists specific needs and builds financial transparency by providing examples of responsible stewardship. And when receiving funds, nonprofits that thank donors – based on their amount of giving – will earn respect.
  • Commitment to excellence – Good nonprofits keep apprised of industry trends and engage in professional development. They follow and seek out best practices; evaluate their programs and services; measure and publish outcomes; and communicate their efforts toward excellence.

excellence-340x213

“There are many other traits that are easy for organizations to overlook or to let fall by the wayside in favor of achieving day-to-day objectives,” TVD Associates said. “Also, for most nonprofits, the prospect of reflecting on, evaluating and altering the organization’s guiding tenets is daunting at best.”

What are your thoughts? What defines a good nonprofit?




meet aaron

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

meet kristen

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

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