Thursday, August 29, 2013

Association Boards, CEOs and Talented Association Staff

I was stunned several years ago when our CEO walked out of an executive session with the board and told me they had chastised him because “there isn’t enough turnover in your top staff. You must be paying them too much.”

Yes, it really happened!

Rather than complimenting the CEO on creating a culture that produced loyal staff, they complained that there was not enough turnover.

I thought about this as I read the Best People chapter of John Spence’s Awesomely Simple ... a book you should be reading if you haven’t already. 

Spence noted that “the future of your association is directly tied to the quality of the talent you attract and keep.” 

The late Woody Hayes (former Ohio State football coach) said, “You win with people.” 

Both are right!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

10 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer for Your Association

In his book, Awesomely Simple, John Spence (@awesomelysimple) cites that “robust communications” is one of the six (6) principles of business success. He devotes an entire chapter to the importance of open, honest, frank and courageous communication both inside and outside the organization.

Writing – whether speeches, blogs, memos or publications – is the cornerstone of association communications and a key to success of association executives.

When I coached youth ice hockey, I opened every season with this point:
  • Practice makes perfect is a LIE.
  • Only PERFECT practice makes perfect!
In 10 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer, Brian Clark, CEO of wrote:

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Does Your Association Use a Tagline?

And, if so, does it reinforce your vision/mission? Do you use it universally across all your products and services? And, is it short, sweet and easy to repeat?

If you don’t have a tag line, why not?

Three memorable tag lines (above) have benefited their organizations (can you name the sponsoring organizations of these taglines?  I bet so!):
  • Just Do It
  • Got Milk
  • Like a Rock
I thought of organizational tag lines as I read the USA Today story about the 25th anniversary of Nike’s Just Do It slogan.  
  • "It caught on because it was short, simple, easily understood and remembered and – to the point – a little bold and confident, like many of the Nike athletes at the time," said Lisa Delpy Neirotti, associate professor and director at George Washington University's School of Business. 
  • "You did not see Nike without 'Just Do It.' The slogan became synonymous with the brand and vice versa."

Why should your organization create and use a slogan or tagline?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Creating Great Conferences and Generation Gaps: Association Readings for the Week

This is Crowdsourcing in Action and it’s AwesomeBy Maddie Grant via SocialFish

Rick Johnston and I presented a session (well, Rick presented, and I ran around the room helping people log in ) at ASAE13 called Problem Solving Live! where we took the audience through an exercise in crowdsourcing. (Read a refresher on what crowdsourcing is here.)

With the help of Josh Folk from Ideascale, a crowdsourcing platform (see resources from Ideascale here), we asked for ideas related to this challenge

We have all left conferences feeling that there were attendees we should have met and did not… people with common interests, experiences, challenges. If only our associations could facilitate these connections, our members would find extra value in the meetings and recognize our associations as helping to expand our professional and personal network of colleagues. But how can we best do that?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

New association initiatives take more time than you think

In their book Road to Relevance Harrison Coerver and Mary Byers, CAE, mentioned issues around launching new association initiatives:

“With associations operating in an environment of unprecedented competition, involved volunteers can be very naïve about what it takes to launch a successful venture. They are apt to sorely underestimate what it takes to shepherd an idea from concept to implementation in today’s era of crowded markets and service alternatives. And, they talk cavalierly about identifying new sources of net revenues like it was an effortless, uncomplicated walk in the park. They fail to understand that it will likely take a concerted application of the association’s most significant strengths if they are to have even a chance at success.”

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Are podcasts returning as an association communications tool?

The other day, I was the featured expert on a professional speaker’s internet radio program. The topic was cause marketing

I was more interested, however, in the technology and process. And, whether podcasting is still a viable communications vehicle.

I wondered how many associations use podcasting as part of their content delivery tools.

The following day, USA Today featured a page 1 story titled “Remember Podcasting? It’s Back and Booming.”
  • “The rise in smartphones and the ability to access podcasts without wires has changed that, and greatly expanded the audience. Additionally, new apps to listen to podcasts directly beyond iTunes — including TuneIn Radio, SoundCloud, Stitcher and iHeartRadio — "gave podcasts an entirely new audience," says Allen Weiner, an analyst with Gartner.
  • Many new cars have Bluetooth connections, which play audio from a smartphone directly through car speakers without having to be plugged in.
  • Podcasting is still a "small portion of overall listening, but we need to invest in it," says Brian Lakamp, Clear Channel's president of digital. "We need to be wherever consumers are."
  • Start-up BlogTalkRadio has a similar feature, offering free Web tools to let anyone record a show, using their telephones as microphones, and a Web platform to bring on guests and callers.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Should associations use faux research to advocate a cause?

I started my career as a news reporter. 

I’ve spent the better part of the last 35 years working with the news media. And I’ve been involved in market research and polling for more than half of those years.

It continues to amaze me on how “gullible” the news media is to faux research reports produced by advocacy groups.

In a front page story headlined Work Here? Can’t Afford to Live Here, our local paper (the News-Press) ran a story based on “research” from the Center for Housing Policy’s 2013 Paycheck to Paycheck study.

People employed in 57 percent of jobs studied cannot afford to rent an average two-bedroom apartment in the county, according to the national Center for Housing Policy’s 2013 Paycheck to Paycheck study. Forty-three percent cannot afford to buy a mid-priced home.

As you dig deeper, one discovers that the study covered only 76 job categories. The newspaper (probably using the Center’s news release as its basis) carefully parsed the study’s results as the percent of “jobs studied.”

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

How do you tell your association board they're not the experts?

What happens when your board or committees attempt to tackle issues for which they are not trained?

Harrison Coerver and Mary Byers CAE raise this question in their new book Road to Relevance

Their specific example hit my “hot” button.

“We’ve seen physicians or engineers in committee meetings attempting to wordsmith advertising copy or critique broadcast commercials instead of leaving it to the professionals who specialize in this line of work.  And, then they wonder why initiatives fail to product results.  Do board members know anything about product promotion?”

Well, having managed at least three associations which had a major focus on product promotion, I really could relate to those comments!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Top Talent Vital to Making Your Association Shine

The other day, my wife and I visited the Dillards Department Store in Estero (FL). 

I needed to replace a pair of shoes. Knew exactly what I wanted and knew that this Dillards had them. Like most men, I planned to go in, ask for the shoes, pay for them and leave.

Well, an impressive Dillards Men’s Shoe Associate by the name of Tina changed my plans and showed a highly unusual (in my experience) personal commitment to her work.

Reaching out her hand to shake ours, she said “Hi, I’m Tina. What are your names?” We answered with our names. “How can I help you today?”

She carried on a running conversation as she helped identify my needs repeating our names several times. When she filled my request for the specific pair I wanted, she said “Have you ever heard of this brand (mentioning it by name).” “No,” I said. “Oh,” she said, “you’ll like them … you should try them,” she responded.

As I walked out of Dillards with not one but two pairs of shoes, my wife and I were still talking about Tina and her unique style and clear enjoyment of her work.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

What business is your association in?

Why do associations exist?
Leonard Pitts Jr. opened his column on Jeff Bezos purchase of the Miami Herald writing:
  • “... so newspapers wound up in the ignominious position of surrendering our product — information — to Internet and cable outlets and watching them reap handsome profits from aggregating and re-reporting it while we furlough employees and cut back home delivery. They take our product and kick our butts with it.”
He is correct!

The newspaper industry thought they were in the paper, ink and printing business. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What Hiring Criteria Does Your Association Use?

I was catching up with an old friend at a conference banquet the other day. He shared a story about his son that may offer staff recruiting advice for association executives.

My friend’s son was invited to a tryout for a nationally-regarded junior college baseball team. After the tryout, my friend and his son were invited up to the baseball office to meet with the head coach, a respected professional with a long resume of championship teams.

After listening to the coach talk for several minutes, my friend asked the coach, “What we want to know is whether you’ll be offering my son a scholarship?”

The coach responded, “Oh, that’s a given. I wouldn’t be meeting with you if we weren’t going to offer him a scholarship.”

And here are the coach’s comments that might serve association executives.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Should an Open House be in Your Association’s Future?

Another couple invited my wife and I to attend an “open house” at the local hospital.

Not sure why, but we went. And, so did 75 other people!

I was surprised ... 

  • by the large number of people attending a hospital open house
  • by the valuable content (not “sell back”) that key hospital staff shared
  • by the fact the hospital administrator and all the VPs and Directors sharing information were women
  • by the fact that the marketing director stopped us in the parking lot and, finding that we had attended the open house, peppered us with questions about it, how we found out about the event and what we learned
  • that a hospital with no competitors in the region would invest that much staff time for an open house for the community

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Libraries like associations facing challenges of generational differences

A story about the “controversial” make-over at the New York Public Library caught my eye.

As you read the story, you’ll see a “divide” between those wanting a traditional library and those wanting a “wired library.”

Key quote from the story:
  • For libraries in general, "this is a moment of transformation," library President Anthony Marx said in an interview. "And certainly the controversy over this building and its renovation is, I suppose, the most visible aspect of that transformation."

Monday, August 12, 2013

Content, Millennials, Decision-making and Teaching: 4 articles for association professionals

Is it Content Marketing or Clever Advertising?  By Joe Pulizzi via Content Marketing Institute

CMI’s Chief Strategist Robert Rose calls these so-called examples “clever advertising.” In short, many still view content marketing as the Old Spice-style viral campaigns that are fueled by traditional media. 

To qualify as content marketing, a program needs to:

  • Be focused on attracting or retaining a targeted customer audience
  • Share compelling, useful, and/or entertaining information
  • Be consistently delivered
  1. When we focus on attracting or retaining a targeted customer audience, some key concepts emerge
  2. When we focus on developing compelling and useful content for our content marketing program, these key concepts emerge
  3. When we focus on consistently delivering the content, these key concepts emerge

Sunday, August 11, 2013

7 Career Tips for Association Professionals (and Others)

Last week, the Agricultural Media Summit invited me to speak (as part of a panel) on the topic of Creating Drama in Act III of Your Career. The session was designed to share insights for mid career professionals or others who might be in a job transition.

After briefly outlining my career path (journalist, public relations, association staffer, AMC owner, consultant/speaker/blogger), I offered seven tips or themes:

  1. It is their organization not yours but it is your career not their’s. So, when issues surface, you should think about yourself and your career.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Positioning That Makes Sense for Associations

Whether marketing, conferences or cause marketing, it is important to partner with others (companies, associations or nonprofits) that make sense and have a good fit with you, your mission and your culture.

A recent radio ad caught my attention because it illustrates this kind of fit.

Hammermill papers sponsored the local traffic report. 

The ad is simple, focused and topical

“This traffic report is brought to you by Hammermill paper. Hammermill is guaranteed to be 99.99% jam-free. Don’t you wish traffic was? Hammermill. No worries.”

Brilliant connection!

The message resonates, especially if you happen to be stuck in traffic.

Shouldn’t we in association management be working to ensure our messages resonate with our members and prospects?

Are there events or partners that would connect our message and our audiences?

Are we exploring all the opportunities?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Golf Offers Lessons for Association Management

Now that I’ve “taken up” golf and have done some consulting work for golf course superintendents, I’ve discovered that golf and associations share common issues.
  1. We both seek time and money from members and participants
  2. We both have catered to (and been led by) Boomers
  3. We both find it is difficult and intimidating for newcomers and that we are struggling with engaging Generation Xers and Millenials
Golf’s leading organizations (USGA, PGA, etc.) are working to overcome golf’s challenges: 
Now, a relative new golf course owner (Bob Griffioen) has determined to face the issue with some creative options for golfers. John Paul Newport summarized the concept in his Wall Street Journal column titled A Golf Course Experiment: Why Not Five, Seven, 12 Holes? 
  • Depending on how much time they have, they can play five-hole, seven-hole, nine-hole, or 12-hole rounds. "The fewer holes you play, the less you pay," said Griffioen. 
  • Griffioen says his inspiration came from childhood idol Jack Nicklaus who has said “all the experts say, that the three big uglies in golf are—it takes too long to play, it costs too much money, and it's too difficult and intimidating for newcomers.”
  • So Griffioen modified his course play in an attempt to eliminate objections to golfing.
Now, let’s focus on similar challenges for associations.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Blockbuster week for newspapers: what it means for trade associations

What a week for the media business? 

First came the announcement that the owner of the Boston Red Sox had purchased the Boston Globe from the New York Times (NYT).

Then, came the announcement that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos had purchased the Washington Post for $250 million.

The value of media companies is drastically lower than five years ago. The New York Times purchased Boston Globe for $1.1 Billion 20 years ago. They got only $71 million for selling it this week. (FYI, that means the smart folks at NYT cost shareholders $50.6 million per year in lost market value!)

These are on top of Warren Buffet’s purchases of newspapers around the country.

“A lot of people had written off the (newspaper) industry but we’re seeing more transactions occurring, “ Ariel funds exec told USA Today. “People view them as newspaper companies but they are content providers and we know content is valuable.”

What is going on in the media business. 

And, more importantly what does it tell associations?

Monday, August 5, 2013

4 readings for association management

Retention vs. Acquisition: Do You Focus on the Funnel or Fix the Leaky Bucket? 
By Stan Phelps Via 9" Marketing
Answer: Retention is Fast Becoming the New Acquisition/Satisfaction Drives Loyalty. More importantly, it drives retention. The key to a healthy bottom line is the ability to keep your customers.

Got taglines?
By Shannon Neeser via Allee blog
When you’re a small business and don’t have a highly recognizable brand already established, a tagline is a great way to let people know who you are and what you’re all about. You need to do what milk did. Let’s take a look at why “Got Milk?” might be the best tagline ever and what your small business can learn from that.

Four Agri-Marketing Campaigns Any Marketer Can Learn From 
By Doug Austin via Marketing

When someone says the word "agriculture," what comes to mind? Cows? Corn? Innovative marketing campaigns? That last item may not be your top-of-mind association, but the truth is that the agricultural industry, though under the radar, comes up with fresh, forward-thinking campaigns. Take a look at these four campaigns that have something to share with any marketer—ag-focused or not. The four campaigns are:
  • Cheese & Burger Society—Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board
  • John Deere YouTube Channel
  • DEKALB's Clothing Line
  • 2010 Pioneer Hi-Bred Corn and Soybean Commercials

Scary Workforce Stats
From XYZ University

As a next-generation research and consulting firm, we are the experts organizations look to for recent statistics and trends related to the generation gap and leadership development. Our workforce is changing. Rapidly. Struggles abound in areas of dwindling workforce (retirement), lack of leadership and business cultures that are not suitable for the next-generation of employees. In our ongoing research to provide the most relevant information to our clients, we have developed a list of statistics related to the workforce to get you thinking and moving forward; making a plan for your future and the future leaders of our country.

Here is a small sample of the information they have gathered:
  • By 2015, Generation Y (1982-1995) will outnumber Baby Boomers in the workforce.
  • Only 22.9% of associations have a plan in place to engage the next generation.
  • Nearly 84% of associations report that getting members involved with advocacy efforts is a major challenge.
  • The proportion of working 65-69 year olds in the US has risen from nearly 18% in 1985 to 32% in 2011.
  • More than half of 18-44 year olds are looking for a job with a company that offers flexible work options.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Why Attend An Association Convention?

If you are like a lot of associations, you have a significant number of “aging Boomers” attending your annual convention. They may still be active in their companies or professions but they are starting to wind down. 

A key question is will they continue to attend your conferences?

Well, I’m in Atlanta attending another annual meeting of ASAE: the Center for Association Leadership. 

This gives me a chance to share my thinking because it is probably similar to the thought process your members go through when deciding whether to attend your association’s annual conference.

I’ve been attending ASAE meetings for almost 30 years so it seems to be a “thing I do.”

It is an expensive meeting – even if your association pays for it: 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Integrated Marketing in the Digital Era

I’m facilitating an awesome panel focused on marketing in the digital era at the ASAE annual meeting in Atlanta this Monday afternoon (8/5). #ASAE13 LD49

The panel of four top association marketing executives at association management companies includes:
  • Russ Lemieux, Group Vice President, Kellen Company
  • Jill Hronek, Director, Communications, The Sherwood Group Inc
  • Jeanne Sheehy, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Bostrom Corporation
  • Laura Davis, CAE, Director, Marketing & Membership, Association Management Center 

Each case will be presented in four parts:
  • Problem
  • Strategies
  • Tactics
  • Results
Here are the 12 cases we’re covering: