Monday, September 30, 2013

Hashtags|Facilitating|CEOs|Audiences: 6 Readings for Busy Association Execs

The Power of the Hashtag in Promoting Music (and Just About Anything Else)By Kyle Lacy via
Hashtags do not get enough credit. Hashtags are powerful, useful tools for marketing, communication, and driving engagement. In fact, almost every social network has implemented a hashtag system over the past couple of years, and hashtags are an excellent way to break through the noise of the Internet to better communicate with a valuable audience.

So, I researched the music industry's best examples of hashtag usage across Twitter, Google+, and Facebook. Use these examples as hashtag inspiration to market your music and improve your audience's experience.
  1. Hijack a hashtag
  2. Build anticipation around a new release
  3. Use #Music, Twitter's music app
  4. Host a live Q&A with fans
  5. Tap into Facebook's #NewMusic
  6. Target ads via hashtag on Facebook and Twitter
  7. Give your fans a community with a hashtag

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Branding Your Convention While Generating New Sponsorship Dollars

Pat Jones at Golf Course Industry magazine shared this Twitter picture with a note saying "Even the elevators are branded!"

What a great opportunity for associations and meeting planners.!

Most of us have found multiple ways to generate sponsor revenue and showcase sponsors. Key cards, lanyards, signs, etc.

So, why not wrapping the hotel elevator doors for the right sponsor? Or, if you can find a sponsor, wrapping the doors with your convention and/or association branding?

Are you doing it already?

If not, why not?

Please share at

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Think Before Changing Your Association’s Name or Logo

Rushing into a name change can create problems. 

I know. 

One of my associations changed its name (to broaden its reach) and lost its identity with its existing members!

Back in June, I wrote Rebranding Can Cause Controversy for Associations Too.
and focused on the swift criticism of The Phil changing its name to Artis-Naples.

Then in September, Katie Bascuas interviewed me for her Associations Now story about the potential name change for the American League of Lobbyists ALL. Association Weighs Letting Go of “Lobbyists."

This post aims to put all this information in a single document.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

NASCAR’s Monitoring a Model for Association Engagement?

Photo by USA Today Sports

I admire associations and companies that monitor (e.g., listen) to us (and respond) on various social media sites.

A few weeks back, I tweeted about an issue I had with Comcast service. A few hours later, Comcast tweeted back and put me in touch with their customer care folks who got my issue resolved.

Last year I blogged about how Molson Coors discovered and responded to one of my tweets about them. See Monitoring what is being said about your association.

One Key Stat

If you only staff social media 8 hours a day 5 days a week, you are “off line” 76% of each and every week. Hum, let me repeat that again: our “typical” 40-hour-a week work represents only one-fourth of the available hours in a week.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Renaming and Rebranding Are NOT the Same Thing

Over the last year, I’ve noticed several association management articles using renaming and rebranding interchangeably. 

Your association’s name is part of its brand but not all of it. The brand is your association’s promise to its members, customers and other stakeholders. It includes the name, tagline, programs and services that your association “delivers.”

Over the last couple of years Jim Schnurbusch (Founder + Chief StoryCrafter at OrgStory and I have partnered in both renaming and rebranding projects for several associations.

So, I reached out to Jim and asked him his thoughts about the topic and what he would share with association executives. Here’s his response:
  • Naming and branding are very different -- name is functional -- "what do we call it?"; a brand is experiential -- "how do we experience it/how does it make us feel when we're using it." Re-naming is giving something a new name; re-branding is giving something a new position that will elicit a new way for a target audience to think about whatever is getting re-branded. And I agree with you, these two terms get misused all the time. Most times, organizations will say, "let's rebrand" when they are really only talking about/willing to re-name.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Color+Content+Conflict+Crisis:Readings for Association Executives & Marketers

Three Ways to Juice Your Marketing Results Using ColorBy Tom Shapiro via

You might not think much about it, but we experience the world through colors. Every day, in all we do, we respond to the colors around us. When prospects arrive at your website, see your display ad, or click through to your landing page, they make decisions within seconds. Color combinations influence their reactions and behavior significantly. Therefore, it's critical to carefully select the colors in your marketing materials. Color Matters. Color is powerful. It evokes emotional responses, helping customers and prospects make associations with particular brands. In fact, color helps people remember brands longer and decide what to buy. Rethink your company's use of color in your marketing, and experience a colorful display of increased conversions.

12 Lessons for Focusing Your Content Marketing Strategy on Education
By Tracy Gold via Content Marketing Institute

Educating your customers (remember, for those of us in association management, members as customers) and prospects is a great way to generate the right kind of leads — and, often, to fulfill your organization’s content marketing mission. Starting with your mission is No. 1.

Traditional Management Will Always Be Bad at Conflict

... dealing well with conflict is integral to becoming a social business. And I suppose many of you out there would agree with my argument, but I’m also guessing that despite that agreement, you still work in organizations that are generally pretty bad at dealing with conflict. Conflict is one of those ideas that we’re good at dealing with when it’s just that: an idea. But in reality? Not so much.
Stop Tying Your Employees' Hands!
By Peter Shankman via Shankman | Honig blog
So many of the issues that become big customer service problems – the ones that wind up being tweeted about and land on the six o’clock news could be completely avoided if one simple thing had happened. Simply put, if an employee had permission to think “outside the script,” the majority of problems that keep you up at night could be avoided. It’s time to start trusting your employees to do the right thing. It’s time to give them more control to solve customer problems. 

5 steps for a social media crisis communications plan
By Samantha Owens Pyle via Team Slice Works and the Nashville Business Journal
To help, here are five steps that are essential for any social media crisis communications plan:
Step One: Identify individual responsibilities
Step Two: Identify potential hotspots
Step Three: Create a timely response deadline
Step Four: Commit to transparency
Step Five: Plan for persistency

The 5 Things Every (Great) Marketing Story Needs

Stories are fundamental to how we communicate as human beings. Tell the right story and you can capture attention, entertain, enlighten, and persuade … all in the course of just a few minutes.

1. You need a hero.
2. You need a goal.
3. You need an obstacle.
4. You need a mentor.
5. You need a moral.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Why Aren’t Associations Creating Walking Billboards?

Back in October 2012, I posted Are You Using Identity as Association Marketing Strategy.
  • “Sitting in the airport last Saturday, I noticed a huge number of people wearing logoed clothing that identified themselves with their team, cause, city, company. Rather than a team or cause, some were unpaid walking billboards for “cool” apparel companies.”
Back packs, hats, tee shirts, shoes, etc.

Walking through three airports a few weeks ago, I noticed the “walking billboard” phenomena once again. Purposely avoiding branded sports gear (universities, high schools, pro teams), I looked just for non-sports branded wear. Here’s what I saw and recorded (I missed a lot!):

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Is Your Association a Media Manipulator or Media Manipulated?

I’m reading Ryan Holiday’s updated book titled Trust Me I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator
  • A malicious online rumor costs a company millions. A political sideshow derails the national news cycle and destroys a candidate. Some product or celebrity zooms from total obscurity to viral sensation.What you don’t know is that someone is responsible for all this. Usually, someone like me.
  • I’m a media manipulator. In a world where blogs control and distort the news, my job is to control blogs—as much as any one person can.
  • In today’s culture,
  • Blogs like Gawker, BuzzFeed, and the Huffington Post drive the media agenda.
  • Bloggers are slaves to money, technology, and deadlines.
  • Manipulators wield these levers to shape everything you read, see, and hear—online and off.
This instructive and frightening book should be required reading for all association public relations professionals, association marketers and association executives.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Is Your Association’s Decision-making Fast Enough?

My dad was the general manager (CEO) of an agricultural cooperative. Co-ops – with elected boards – operate much like associations. Back in the early 1960s, the co-op he managed voted to cut the board from 33 to 15 and all the directors resigned and those who wished ran for the 15 board seats. 

When I became an association executive at a large national association with a 48+ member board, I asked Dad how he was able to convince his board to reduce its size. Dad responded with two things: “I helped them (1) realize that we could not do business fast enough with such a large board and (2) create a structure with no executive committee.”

As noted in Race for Relevance, most association boards have too many members. 

In reality, it is not necessarily the size of the board but the speed with which boards can act that creates the problem.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Are You Boring Your Association’s Members?

Think about it ....

  • if I looked at your association’s convention program for 2013 and 2003, would I see any differences other than dates and names of speakers?
  • if I looked at your website today and three years ago, would its look have changed? Would I find (under the news section) news releases from 2009?
  • if I looked at your board agenda from last month and last year, would I see the same issues and topics?
Confession: I get bored easily! So, I crave change.

As a result, I struggle when associations keep doing things the same old way.

At the bottom of a post about recruiting volunteers, Holly Duckworth, CAE, shared this awesome quote:

“Associations fear change when they should fear staying the same.”

Monday, September 16, 2013

Best of the Week: 8 Articles for Association Executives

6 things PR pros can learn from Vladimir Putin
By Dorothy Crenshaw via

It raised eyebrows when Russia seemed to seize the communications initiative on Syria, picking up on a stray comment by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to call for a diplomatic solution to the mess. But it’s downright shocking that Russian President Vladimir Putin made his case with a bylined column in The New York Times Wednesday (a piece placed by PR firm Ketchum). The U.S. response to the piece has been cynical, but from a communications perspective, the piece is very instructive. Putin and his PR handlers have done several things that can be very effective when making a case in public.

[NOTE: This is a great example of “newsjacking” as surfaced by David Meerman Scott. In this case, Crenshaw and quickly jumped on a “hot item” in the media. Great job!]

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Mobile, Agile & Hostile: Operational Strategies for Associations?

When I played hockey at Ohio State, my coach -- with his fine Canadian accent -- once told me, “Drake, you’d be a lot better hockey player if you were mobile, agile and hostile.”

Funny how you never forget such pointed advice!

A couple of stories in the news last week suggest that Mobile, Agile and Hostile might be great operational strategies for association management whether trade associations or professional societies. 

WHERE NOKIA WENT WRONG by James Surowiecki via The New Yorker.

Nokia’s agreement on last week to sell its handset business to Microsoft for $7.2 billion is something of a minor business coup for Nokia, since a year from now that business might well turn out to have been worth nothing. 

It also demonstrates just how far and fast Nokia has fallen in recent years. Not that long ago, it was the world’s dominant and pace-setting mobile-phone maker.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

9 reasons to fire your association board members

Over the years, I’ve spotted nine big actions for which board members should be taken to the wood shed and/or fired.

Some are worse than others. Here are my top nine in no specific order:

  1. Sexual misconduct and/or harassment.
  2. Consistently fails to show up for meetings.
  3. Rather than doing what’s best for the entire association, advocates his/her special interests.
  4. Goes behind CEO’s back to “instruct” staff.
  5. Conflict of interest.
  6. Criticizes board decisions in public.
  7. Purposely surfaces major issue not on agenda.
  8. Doesn’t prepare for meeting or read materials.
  9. Expects special benefits because he/she’s a board member.
What other actions of board members do you find offensive? Please share your comments on this blog post at

Stop Bad Behavior Now

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What Would Jeff Bezos Do If He Took Control of Your Associations?

Would Jeff Bezos keep your association's CEO as he did with the executive editor of the Washington Post
  • How would he change your membership and marketing departments? 
  • Would he discover “Amazon-style” ordering and customer service? Or, a clunky system that doesn’t remember you from one inquiry to the next?
  • Would he restructure your board and eliminate slow moving committees?

I thought of these (and other questions) as I read comments about Jeff Bezos and his first meeting with the staff of The Washington Post

He said the newspaper faced two business problems: the Rewrite Problem and the Debundling Problem.
  • In the former, the newspaper could spend weeks or months on a project that a Web site like the Huffington Post could rewrite “in 17 minutes.”
  • In the latter, whereas people once bought a paper and read it and passed sections of it around, the Web has debundled the paper so that people can read one story and move on to a different site.

Think about these two problems. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Get off Your Rear and Make a Difference for Your Association

Market research clearly shows that causes motivate millennials ... whether they work on your association staff or are potential association members.

Cause marketing represents a viable strategic option for associations in both staff and member recruitment.

So, what are you waiting for? An invitation?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Surveys, Flextime, Millennials & Causes: Association Reads of the Week

Order Matters: Don’t Let it Get In Your Way
By Liana E via Survey Monkey Blog
Well, the order of a list can be just as important as the actual content. The order itself changes how you think and respond. If you randomize or flip the options, any order effects will balance themselves out and your data quality will be protected!

Hot Topic: Flex-work
By Ruth Palombo Weiss via ASTD

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Decisive Road to Simple Why: Five books for association reading

Over the summer, I’ve read five outstanding books that should be on every reading list of association executives, association professionals and nonprofit organization staff.

They have many similarities ... at some point I hope to have time to share them.

The Outliers 

by Malcolm Gladwell

Through a series of inspiring stories, Gladwell showcases the worlds of successful people. He reveals what they have in common. He surfaces the “10,000-hour” rule that is behind many highly successful people.

For example, as a former hockey player, I was surprised to learn that most all-star professional hockey players are born in the winter (January or February).

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Hard Wired for Giving and Touchscreen Toddlers: Great Info for Association Executives

Both illustrations courtesy of The Wall Street Journal
Two Wall Street Journal articles last Saturday are important readings for association executives and other nonprofit professionals.

Hard-wired for Giving shares recent research studies showing that the human brain is hard-wired for giving, altruism and helping others. 

  • The latest science shows that, in fact, we are also hard-wired to be generous. Social scientists have often wondered if humans by nature are altruistic. Continuing studies show that, indeed, we are.
  • Using tools like fMRI, scientists are identifying the precise circuits within the brain that control these nurturing social impulses. Where once there was only speculation about the origins of the human desire to help others, a body of data is starting to fill the gap, revealing key workings of the biological hardware that makes altruism possible. 
  • On balance, Dr. Harbaugh's work suggests that giving completely for its own sake—with absolutely zero expectation of pleasure or other reward in return—is rare. We are forever making complex calculations about whether or not to give in different situations, but whether or not our gift will help someone is far from the only factor we consider. The better we feel when we give, in general, the more often we do it. And as the Georgetown philosopher Judith Lichtenberg points out, even when we think we're giving with absolutely no expectation of reward, we can't be sure; our motivations (feeling good? looking good? gaining social leverage?) may be unconscious, inaccessible even to ourselves.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Customer Service with a Touch of Class

Seasons 52 Provides Exceptional Customer Service
Barb and I decided to celebrate our 47th anniversary with a dinner at Seasons 52 in Naples.

Well, we discovered customer service above expectations. Something that associations can consider when hosting members at conferences or events.

I used their online reservation service (which is via OpenTable). I made the reservation and added a note that we were celebrating our 47th anniversary.

So, here’s what happened:

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Leadership tips for association executives from General Motors CEO

GM CEO Dan Akerson

A few weeks ago, USA Today’s James R. Healey wrote a great piece about leadership ideas from GM’s CEO Dan Akerson.  You can watch a video.  

Given recent association discussions as to whether association boards should hire someone from the industry/profession or an association professional, it is interesting to note that Akerson was NOT a car guy when he became GM’s CEO! 

But, under Akerson’s leadership, GM has come out of bankruptcy and racked up $25 Billion in profits (before taxes and interest.)
  • “ Fundamentally, no kidding, it’s all about leadership,” Akerson told USA Today. “I don’t think you have to be a subject-matter expert. Complex organizations have many common challenges.”
This may provide a valuable example that helps answer the age old question as to whether association CEOs should come from within the industry or from an association professional.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Leaders, Managers, Content & Other Association Readings

Three Differences Between Managers and Leaders
By Vineet Nayar via HBR Blog Network
Three tests that will help you decide if you've made the shift from managing people to leading them. 
  1. Counting value vs Creating value.
  2. Circles of influence vs Circles of power. 
  3. Leading people vs Managing work. 
8 Things a Nonprofit Leader Really Needs to Know About Social Media Marketing

It’s not uncommon for nonprofit executives to be hesitant about using technology, especially since technology is constantly changing. Technology has changed the very basic notion of communication entirely. Learning to view social media as a “game changer”, not just an addition to the way your nonprofit communicates, is crucial. But for nonprofit leaders specifically, who may be overworked or focused on maintaining a small budget, investing in something new–even if it might be a necessity–is risky. However, most great nonprofit leaders already have skills that can help them manage technology. Implementing social media marketing into your nonprofit doesn’t have to be overwhelming if you harness the skills you already have!