Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Asking the right questions key association success


Earlier this year an association executive called to ask for my help in developing a member discovery project to help the association develop strategies for impending generational changes in its membership.

While I frequently speak on generational differences and/or refer association executives to the work of Sarah Sladek, this question suggests the association needs to focus on what it is asking and who it is asking.
  • The first step: Ask the right questions
  • The second step: Talk with a representative sample of the different generations
  • The third step: Probe beyond the obvious ... keep asking “what else?” If you stop asking too soon, you’ll only get predictable answers.
Through it all, try to avoid skewing the results with your own biases.

I began my career as a journalist with The Associated Press. In those days, being objective keyed our journalist efforts. In fact, the AP policy then was to use only “said” when quoting someone. Using phrases such as “exclaimed” or “shouted” or “questioned” tainted the response for our readers.

Yet, in doing my reporting and writing, I realized that reporters made subjective decisions for every story including:
  1. which story to report
  2. which “experts” to interview
  3. what questions to ask
  4. which answers to place in the story
  5. which elements to use in the lead (opening paragraph)
  6. and more
I also recognized that my personal background and bias influenced how I developed a news story for the AP.

As association executives, we need to consider these same questions when we conduct member or donor research. And, we need to ensure that we eliminate our personal biases when we ask the questions.

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