Thursday, December 17, 2015

Is Your Association Stale? Hit Refresh

Recent TV n
ews reports highlight UPS using golf carts to deliver packages this holiday season.  UPS says the new delivery option saves time, permits deliveries later in the day and save fuel.

This modification of delivery offers associations an example of “tweaking” your services to enhance member value.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

What does a fired college football coach’s lawsuit mean for association executives?

If your association’s CEO (or any other staffer) showed up “slightly drunk” at a member meeting or a board meeting, how would your association react? What steps would the association board take?

Even if not a football fan, association professionals should be following the case of a football coach fired from the University of Southern California (USC) over his alleged public intoxication.

The coach – Steve Sarkisian – has now filed a $30 million lawsuit charging USC for contract breach saying USC discriminated against him based on his disability (alcoholism).

This ESPN story “Steve Sarkisian fired by USC” provides a bit more background on the firing. A key question is whether USC knew of the alcohol disability. Sarkisian reportedly did not disclose it.

When I owned an association management company, I faced a similar situation of undesireable performance as a result of what I learned was a disability.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Key Leadership Strategies for Association Leaders

I received an early Christmas gift: a signed copy of Urban Meyer’s (Ohio State football coach) new book:

Above The Line: Lessons in Leadership and Life from a Championship Season

This is a must read for association professionals and nonprofit executives.

Here are some quick excerpts:

Above the Line: Intentional. On Purpose. Skillful.


Below the Line: Impulsive. On Autopilot. Resistant.

No BCD: 
  • Blame (others). Complain (about circumstances). D (defend yourself).
The powerful leadership equation:


(Event + Response = Outcome)

The key is how you respond to an event determines the outcome.

Six elements of the R (response) factor:
R1 = Press pause.
R2 = Get your mind right.
R3 = Step up.
R4 = Adjust & adapt.
R5 = Make a difference.
R6 = Build skills.

Tim Knight (founder of a leadership development firm) shared with Meyer that leadership is the triggering factor in the Performance Pathway:

Above the Line thinking.
  • Leaders create culture.
  • Culture drives behavior.
  • Behavior produces results.
Above the Line is well worth your time and filled with ideas you can share with your board.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

5 Great Articles on Association Membership

Choice Vs. Dual Membership
via CreditUnion Times

CUNA torn regarding decision to require local groups to belong to the national organization. If you are with a national association that has chapters or affiliated associations, follow this story.

A Roadmap for Quintupling Membership
By Joe Rominiecki via Associations Now

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has set a lofty goal: 500,000 members. Such radical growth requires full-scale re-envisioning of how the organization conducts its membership operations. Here’s how AAAS plans to get there.

What If There Were 100 Million Millennials? (Because There Are)
By Jamie Notter via Jamie Notter blog

So your choice is simple: either create an organization that makes sense in this new "Millennial era," or start to quickly fall behind those who do. It's not because the Millennials are the smartest or best generation (there is no "best" generation). They are just huge, and they are at the right place at the right time. If you're not creating a culture that is aligned with these changes, then you should be preparing for decline.

Why the Changes to LinkedIn Groups are Better for Your Users – and You
By Elizabeth Bookhultz via Social Fish

Here’s my advice:

  • Understand how each social media platform is intended to be used, and use it that way. 
  • Be user-centric. 
  • Reassess if LinkedIn Groups can help you meet your goals. 

Member Engagement: It’s Not About You
By Anna Caraveli and Elizabeth Engel, CAE via Jamie Notter blog

The truth is that associations cannot create engagement for our members. Rather, the members choose to become engaged because they perceive and experience value they need to succeed. Engagement is not about you. It does not depend on your achievements, “engagement” strategies, communications, benefits, or powers of persuasion. It depends on your ability to discover what matters most to your members at any given time and to facilitate their success at the outcomes and goals they seek to achieve.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

I’m thankful for ....

  • you, my readers
  • association professionals and nonprofit staff who work in mission-based organizations.
  • our clients for both consulting and speaking.
  • companies and organizations involved in cause marketing.
  • my partners such as OrgStory LLC.
  • my family.
  • the opportunities we
    have to serve others.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

How Will Your Association Cope with $15 an Hour Wages?

A possible new $15 an hour minimum federal wage – or a huge increase in the minimum wage – presents major challenges for associations and nonprofits.

The Labor Movement has been aggressively promoting increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

No matter what happens, the minimum wage increase will impact associations and association finances.

Experience Anecdote

Early in my ownership of an association management company, our receptionist came to me during an earlier move to increase the state’s minimum wage by $1 an hour. I was paying her a few dollars an hour more than the existing wage. “Steve,” she said, “If the minimum wage passes, I want a $1 a hour increase in my salary.”

It was then I realized that increasing the minimum wage increases wages up and down the line. And, it was then I realized I needed to budget for general wage increases for everyone any time the minimum wage was increased.

The Challenge for Associations

Assuming this case is universal, the question for associations and nonprofits becomes:
  • How do we budget for across-the-board wage increases? 
  • Where do we get the funds to support such increases?
  • Will members accept the higher dues and increased fees needed to balance budgets?

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Why Is Strategic Planning Repelling Association Boards?

“To dream big or dream small takes the same amount of energy. So, why not stretch a little bit?” 
 – Carlos Brito, CEO of Anheuser-Busch InBev

A potential client called asking if I could facilitate a “deep dive session” on how to grow the association.

As we talked, I shared with him the “strategic intent process” I use with organizations seeking to envision their future and create steps to help them get there.

He said,“That’s it!”

Then, when reviewing my draft proposal, he said,“You need to remove ‘strategic’ from the proposal ... my board is not comfortable with strategic planning!”

This is NOT the first time I’ve heard skeptics of strategic planning. Over the last 10 years, 10-15 associations asking for proposals have asked me to use a phrase other than “strategic planning.”

Why is that?

Where have we failed association boards in sharing the importance of creating a strategic vision?

Do we need a new term? 

Or, a new process?

What say you?

Sunday, November 8, 2015

9 Tips to Enhance the Speech as a Powerful Association PR Tool

A carefully crafted, well delivered and strategically placed speech can serve as an important association PR and content marketing tool.

Early in my association public relations career, I was writing as many as 60 speeches a year. Most were delivered by our volunteer leaders or our CEO.

Crafting a Powerful Speech

1. Start with the end in mind
  • Know what you want your audience to Do, Not Do or Let You Know after hearing your talk.
  • Make sure your speech achieves those objectives.
2. Use the Rule of 3
  • Employ the old broadcast news axium: Tell’em what you’re going to tell them; tell’em; tell’em what you told’em.
  • Focus on three major points.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

3 Sports Cliches for Association Management

Ok, I admit it: I like sports and I recognize the lessons from sports can positively guide association executives.

Three cliches can guide association professionals:

1.  You rarely win when you are trying not to lose.
  • Some teams get a lead and then change how they play as a strategy not to lose. It rarely works. It sometimes leads teams to keep doing the same thing ... even though the other team has made adjustments.
  • Lesson for Association executives: Keep improving. Monitor what is happening and be willing to change if that is what it takes to win.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

5 articles for Association Executives

Generational Differences Are Real
By Jamie Notter via JamieNotter blog

In case you were wondering, there is actual historical theory that explains the generations. Before you write anything that declares generations to be a hoax, please read Generations, by William Strauss and Neil Howe. Okay, it's a huge book, so at least read their appendix devoted specifically to theory.

Why Are Some Words Better for Your Marketing?
By Andy Crestodina via Orbit Media Studios

Choose them carefully. The words we use matter. There are over 1,000,000 of them in the English language. Most of them are terrible for your marketing. Some work better. Much better. Some words are simple to understand. Others require a bit more work as they bounce around in the readers brain. They require more knowledge and education.

Why Associations Should Be Planning Their LinkedIn Exit Strategy
By Maggie McGary via Social Fish blog

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Strategic Intent Lessons from Cards-Cubs MLB Series

A week or so ago I was facilitating a strategic planning session for an association.

I use the Strategic Intent Model ... which begins with where you are (current condition) and then “jumps” to the future status (desired condition). (See image below.)

A couple of the board members were rabid Cubs fans (you know, the professional baseball team that always gets close but never wins the World Series). After spending 35 years in St. Louis, I can be considered a fan of the Cardinals (you know, the baseball team that holds the most World Series trophies in the National League).

At dinner, the Cubs fan shared the changes the Cubs had made to try to get their first World Series victory in 108 years.

New owner: The Chicago Tribune sold Cubs to the Ricketts family.
New general manager (experience; built team that won first World Series in Boston)
New manager (old pro)
New players: Cubs dumped big salary players, let go of star players and built from within
New culture

That night, I woke up thinking about the Cardinals:

Could this happen to you?

WZZM TV failed to learn the lesson from the Chicago Tribune’s headlines claiming that Dewey Beat Truman.

Breaking news ... Oops ... it ain’t over til its over! Local news station delivers entire report on Michigan winning

In case you missed in Saturday, the University of Michigan attempted a punt with 4 seconds remaining in the game. But, contrary to this reporter, the Michigan punter “muffed” the punt, a Michigan State defender caught the ball and ran it back for a touchdown giving Michigan State a win as the game ended.

Another lesson learned?

Monday, October 12, 2015

Does Your Association Blog? Consistently?

I was looking for local attorneys for my mother-in-law (who is moving here next month) and came across a firm that included a blog on its website.

I clicked on the blog tab and was surprised (even disappointed) when the last post was dated in mid-2014. The firm started its blog and was posting once a month ... but, then abruptly stopped. Why?

Does your association blog? Regularly? What is your strategy?

Check your association’s website. I’m often surprised at how few association websites keep current. Old blog posts. “News” sections where the last “news” item is more than six months old.

Someone within the organization needs to “own” the blog and website and be responsible for keeping it current.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Can you really motivate association staff?

Jamie Notter posted a great piece this week on culture headlined Why Successful Companies Are Okay with People Leaving.

  • But your employees are humans, not spare parts, and that fundamentally changes asaethe equation. The potential of a human-centered organization is dependent on the humans inside the organization reaching their own potential. When your people can be themselves at work, feel a deep connection between the work they’re doing and their own development, and consistently do what they’re best at, then performance goes through the roof. We intuitively know this (and call it “high employee engagement”), yet since we continue to manage with a machine mindset, we are rarely able to achieve it.
Yesterday’s paper carried two related stories:

Miami Dolphins fire head coach “for failure to motivate players.”
  • “But doubts only grew this season regarding Philbin's inability to motivate players with his bland demeanor.”
Washington Nationals fire manager for reasons including “poor communications”
  • In describing what he will look for in a manager to replace Matt Williams, Washington Nationals GM Mike Rizzo might have been pointing out exactly what he felt went wrong with the man he hired two years ago and fired Monday.
  • "Leadership qualities, knowledge of the game, X's and O's are all important. Communication in the clubhouse, communication within the coaching staff, is vital," Rizzo said during a telephone conference call.
The real question ... 

  • are professional staff “entities” that can be motivated? Or, are most staff self motivated?

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Do your board members have offices in your association’s headquarters?

If so, why?

I’ve always worked with national/international associations and we did not have offices for board members. Perhaps large local associations provide officers for board members?

I raise the issue because of the on-going saga here with the local school board and school superintendent.

The school board seems dysfunctional. They have been through 6 superintendents in 18 years. The most recent superintendent resigned less than three years after her appointment.

When she was hired as an interim/acting/temporary/permanent superintendent, I posted this blog in 2013 asking: Would you take this Nonprofit CEO position?

Monday, September 28, 2015

7 Oldies but Goodies for Associations Executives

The other night some couples were discussing their favorite “old” television programs. You know: Seinfield, Mork & Mindy, Laverne & Shirley, etc.

Associations can benefit from using some “oldies but goodies” ... especially with older members and/or with great content that could be refreshed.

With that spirit, here are some of my “old posts” that are worth revisiting:

Should associations use faux research to advocate a cause?
It continues to amaze me on how “gullible” the news media is to faux research reports produced by advocacy groups. I’ve posted other blogs about “research.” Today, I saw multiple news items about the newest poll on Republican presidential candidates “polling numbers.” The “reporters” talked about 1-3 point changes in a given candidates standings. What they didn’t mention is that the poll had an error range of 6.5 percent ... meaning the results were basically full of error.

Would you take this Nonprofit CEO position?
As I’ve followed this “case,” I’ve wondered whether the board itself is dysfunctional? Or, have they just failed to hire the right person to be superintendent. I posted this June 2013. Earlier this month, the superintendent resigned. Hum?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Traditions Can Boost Member Loyalty

I went back to Columbus to an Ohio State football game last week.

It happened to be Alumni Band Day and it incorporated alumni cheerleaders and recognition of former championship football and baseball teams.

Here is a selection of Ohio State’s Game Day traditions:
  • Skull Session: This is the band’s rehearsal and open to the public. It draws about 14,000 people for the hour.
  • Team Walk: The football team stays in an on-campus hotel and walks to the band’s Skull Session. After a “pep rally,” the team then walks (through hundreds of fans) from the Arena to the Stadium.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Branding (for associations) at a Glance

I stopped at a convenience story the other day to get gas and a newspaper. While in the store, I remembered we needed peanut butter. I wondered, “Will they have peanut butter?” “Should I go to the grocery store instead?”

Then, I spotted it. A jar of peanut butter that was “my brand.” 

An easy – and comfortable – decision ... that saved me a 20+ minute drive to/from the grocery.

We flew to Columbus over the weekend.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

6 Tips to Make a Good Team

The 2015 College football season has begun.

The Ohio State football team (yes, I’m biased) and its defense of its national championship offers lessons for association professionals.

I once served an association that became known as “the best in the profession.” As we grew – more members, more money, more prestige – the “grind” became keeping up and continuously improving. One of our “errors” was trying to do too much which defused our focus. In the end, we were not able to sustain our success.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer guided the 2014 OSU football team to a national championship in only his third year on the job. Now, he is attempting to repeat. Last year’s motto “the Chase” has given way to “the Grind.” 

Here are six leadership lessons from OSU football:

1. Leadership development
  • Meyer hired a leadership development person for himself, then for his assistant coaches and finally for his players. The program focuses on servant leadership and team first.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

6 Great Readings for Labor Day and College Football’s Opening Weekend

Why a speaker shouldn’t “speak from the heart” — and a professional shouldn’t focus on passion…
By Scott McKain via Create Distinction

This is a really great article for association professionals! 

  • A key point: “The audience deserves your SKILL…not whatever condition your heart may be in at that particular juncture. And, they deserve the most skillful presenter that you can become.” 
  • When speakers (or just about any other professional) fail, it is very seldom because they didn’t put enough “heart” into their presentation. 
  • It’s because they failed to develop the skill required to do their job in an extraordinary manner.
Communicate More Often to Renew More Donors
By Dennis Fischman via The Fundraising Coach

It’s a facial expression that’s become way too familiar. When I talk with nonprofit organizations about communicating with their donors, they give me a sheepish look.

“We know we should be in touch more often,” the Executive Director says. “But we have so little time, and there are so many ways people expect to hear from us. Newsletters, annual reports, website updates, email, social media...not to mention local newspapers and community TV. How do we keep coming up with new ideas for stories?”

You don’t need to wear that sheepish look in your organization. Yes, you should be in touch. And yes, there are so many channels for your communications today! But there’s a simple way to make sure you always have the stories to tell and the messages to share: repurpose.

Board Leadership
By Fred Wilson via AVC blog

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Association CEOs Saying Thanks

What is your most important job as an association CEO?

When I was an AMC owner and association CEO, one of my most important jobs was catching people doing good ... and giving frequent thank you notes. And, I was always gratified when I saw those notes posted on walls in staff offices!

Turns out I must have known what I was doing!

The Wall Street Journal reviewed research on appreciation in a recent story headlined, It Pays to Give Thanks at the Office.

  • “Being appreciated is one of the great motivators on the job, even better than money. Researchers at the London School of Economics analyzed more than 50 studies for a 2011 paper that looked at what gets people charged up at work. They concluded that we give our best effort if the work gets us interested and excited, if we feel that it’s providing meaning and purpose, and if others appreciate what we’re doing.”
  • “A sense of appreciation is the single most sustainable motivator at work,” said Adam Grant, a professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “Extrinsic motivators can stop having much meaning. Your raise in pay feels like your just due, your bonus gets spent, your new title doesn’t sound so important once you have it. But the sense that other people appreciate what you do sticks with you.”
So what is the best way to show gratitude at work?

The key is to be specific about what someone has done and to give honest and sincere appreciation.

When was the last time you sent a handwritten thank you note to one or more of your staff?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Associations & Statistics: Who Are We Kidding?

John Haydon posted the graphic above on Facebook: "Statistics Show That Teen Pregnancies Drop Drastically After The Age of 20."

I laughed.

It shows how ridiculous the media and Americans are when it comes to statistics.

It reminds me of the old saying: “Figures lie and liars figure.”

I’ve written before about the use of surveys and analysis of data and how they can lead associations astray.

The other day, USA Today ran a big “research” story about CEO Compensation with a screaming headline that 9 CEOs paid 800 times more than their workers

Monday, August 10, 2015

Rogue Association Challenges Existing Organization

A long-time colleague who is executive director of a statewide association called me the other day asking for advice:

  • “Two former board members and a current board member have joined forces to start a new association that competes with our organization. What do I do?”
His question stumped me.
In all my years as an association professional, I have not had to deal with this situation or anything similar. While I’ve watched it happen to some other organizations, I don’t have any real answers.

So, my friend said, “Why don’t you write a blog about it and see if anyone has an answer.”

What would you do?

  • Ignore them?
  • Hold a meeting with the “rogue group” to see if you can resolve issues? [What if they have no interest in meeting?]
  • Bring in an outside facilitator for a meeting?
  • Ramp up your member communications and benefits to be sure your current members don’t abandon your organization?


By the way: one piece of advice I offered my colleague (who has been in his role for about 20 years) – It is time for you to update your resume and spend some quality time thinking about what position you want next.
  • What do you think? Is this good advice?

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Rebranding. Renaming. Reimaging. What’s an Association To Do?

Another request from an association professional: “We’re looking for a company that helps organizations re-brand themselves and even guide them towards a new name.”

As a former AMC owner and association consultant, I’ve been through three association logo changes, three name changes and more.

3 Reasons to Consider Change:

  1. Because your market has changed and current name does not reflect your members/prospects
  2. Because your image is “old and stale”
  3. Because your name/design does not reflect your new products/benefits

Sunday, July 26, 2015

How Do You Replace an Association Legend?

That was the question facing The Ohio State University Alumni Association board during my last year as a director back in 2003.

At the time, our board was in the process of replacing a CEO who had been in the role for about 30 years.

How do you replace a legend ... or long term CEO?

Well, we started by hiring an executive search firm.

And, we concluded by replacing a legend with a legend.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

What Makes Your Association Stand Out?

A friend of ours spotted this gold fish bowl in Chicago's Burnham Hotel. Intrigued and impressed, he took a photo and posted it on Facebook. So did others.

A gold fish in a fish bowl?

Yes, a gold fish is spreading word of mouth about a hotel.

Makes me wonder what associations and nonprofits are doing to distinguish themselves from competitors?

I worked for a national association who had a reputation for outstanding conferences and meetings. I was standing in line at the national convention one year and asked a member (who said it was his first national meeting) why he decided to attend. He said, “Well, I went to one of your 2-day winter meetings. It was the best meeting I had ever attended. So, I thought I should see if your national convention was just as good.”

That is a distinct advantage.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

What Does Your Website Say to Your Association's Prospects & Members?

#1 (l) focuses on home; #2 (r) focuses on prospects

When you are searching for a product, service or other “thing,” you often end up on the organization’s website, right?

If you are like me, you quickly realize that not all websites are created equally! Some focus on telling prospects how wonderful they are. Others focus on answering prospects questions.

I thought of this the other day when I Googled retirement homes in a relative’s small home town. The search led me to explore websites of two centers.

Boy, were they different in terms of the “feel” they gave prospects.

  • The first website’s front page featured a photo and message from the facility’s executive director. 
  • The second one’s front page featured rotating photos and quotes from residents answering what I perceive as key questions a potential new resident would be asking.

Which is better?

Saturday, July 11, 2015

“A” or “The:" Precise Language Important for Association Communications

Back when I was covering Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon for The Associated Press, a number of reporters gathered to dissect Armstrong’s first words when he stepped on the moon. Although his voice was somewhat muffled, it appeared that Armstrong said:

  • “That’s one step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
A day or so later, NASA officials restated Armstrong’s quote to:
  • “That’s one step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”
I thought about this Saturday when the two newspapers I get had slightly – but distinctly different – headlines about the Friday ceremony in Columbia (SC) of removing a Confederate flag from the grounds of the Statehouse.
  • “A Conference Flag is Lowered for the Last Time” – The Wall Street Journal
  • “After 54 Years, The Flag is Down” – USA Today
Just like Armstrong’s quote, there is a big difference between “A” flag and “The” flag.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

End of an Era: What Does It Mean for Associations?

Various association professionals have been commenting and discussing on whether millennials and Generation Z will impact the future of associations.

One “side” talks about the huge possible impact from two totally different groups (Millennials & Gen Z),while the other “side” states that people – no matter what generation – need associations.

As a college junior, I participated in an “field trip” of Chicago that included stopping at the Chicago Board of Trade. As an executive of the American Soybean Association, I participated in several meetings at the Board and with leaders of the Chicago Board.

So, it was interesting when I read the USA Today article headlined, “End of An Era as Chicago Pit Trading Ceases.”

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Thursday, July 2, 2015

6 Great Reads for Association Professionals

Leading from the Outside-In
By Maddie Grant via

Perhaps you and your organization grapple with some of the questions that preoccupied the executives I interviewed for my book as they contemplated how to take their organizations to a next phase.
  • Should we create radically different membership and business models?
  • Should we go “global”?
  • Should we still have a print publication?
  • How can we increase attendance at our conference?
  • How can we increase engagement?
Can you Change When You Need to?
By Jamie Notter via

The table I was at was talking about Netflix and how they made the brilliant strategic move to start creating their own programming (most notably, House of Cards). This move helped create more loyalty among their customers. After all, we can ONLY get House of Cards by subscribing to Netflix. But what didn't get mentioned at the table was how Netflix had to make a significant change in who they were as a company in order to accomplish this feat. They essentially had to become a television/movie studio. That's not who they were, but they realized (once they started facing lots of competition to their video streaming business) that they had to change.

The Rise of the New Groupthink and the Power of Working Alone
By Susan Cain via LinkedIn

The credit (for Apple’s innovation) is not Steve Wozniak’s alone; it also belongs to Homebrew. Wozniak identifies that first meeting as the beginning of the computer revolution and one of the most important nights of his life. So if you wanted to replicate the conditions that made Woz so productive, you might point to Homebrew, with its collection of like-minded souls. You might decide that Wozniak’s achievement was a shining example of the collaborative approach to creativity. You might conclude that people who hope to be innovative should work in highly social workplaces. And you might be wrong. Consider what Wozniak did right after the meeting in Menlo Park. Did he huddle with fellow club members to work on computer design? No.

Monday, June 29, 2015

14 Tips from a PR Hall of Famer

Editor’s Note:
Last Wednesday, I was inducted into the Ag Public Relations Hall of Fame. What follows are the tips from my career that I shared during the induction ceremony. Providing background for each tip makes this post extra long ... but what the heck, how often do you get inducted into a Hall of Fame?!

I’m going to share a few stories that I hope provide useful tips for your professional career.

Among those tips are:
  1. Having the “luck” to be at the right place at the right time.
  2. Be willing to say “yes” even if it puts you out of your comfort zone.
  3. Associate with positive, proactive professionals.

My life in agricultural public relations began when I was growing up ... I just didn’t know it at the time!

I grew up on a bull farm. My dad was a pioneer in the AI business ... which then stood for artificial insemination. Part of Dad’s work in the 1940s and 50s was convincing dairy farmers that AI was better than the backyard bull.

Those early experiences included ...
  • The test tube calf trailer at county fairs to show farmers that a calf born from AI looked just like a calf born via “the old bull.”
  • Jersey bull Colonel Harry’s 10th birthday cake; the photo of which a journalism prof shared 15 years later as an example of press agentry! 
  • Bull of Your Choice, Bull O’Rama field days and Flying Bull.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Building and Protecting Your Association’s Brand Is Vital - Part 2

Yesterday I shared the case of the St. Louis Cardinals and protecting your brand.

I closed saying:
  • Who at your association “manages” its brand?
  • Who monitors activities to ensure your brand is not tarnished?
  • Who watches events and activities within your environment so your association’s brand benefits?
Having a great brand does not guarantee continued success. Just think of Kodak and Blackberry.

Watch for signals for change.

After posting the blog, I read a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article headlined Harley-Davidson’s Hurdle: Attracting Young Motorcycle Riders.

This represents a case study on how an iconic brand is working to be sure its brand is relevant to Millennials and the incoming Generation Z. [And, it is in direct contrast to the “old guys” of golf who are resisting golfing changes for younger players: bigger holes, teeing it forward, rounds of 12 rather than 18 holes.]

Here are highlights from the WSJ piece:

Monday, June 22, 2015

Building and Protecting Your Association’s Brand Is Vital

Brands – whether companies, products or associations – are difficult to create, hard to nurture and easy to destroy.

Recently, the St. Louis Cardinals brand – one of the icons of professional baseball – took a hit when the FBI announced it was investigating whether the Cardinals hacked into the computer system of the Houston Astros baseball club.

For background, read Brand Tarnished, Cardinals Likely to Avoid Economic Damage.

Early in my career, I joined the management team of a sleepy, 40-year-old trade association as part of an effort to dramatically enhance the association’s brand and effectiveness.

The experience offers a case study for other associations.

Industry leaders decided the association needed to grow and develop to better serve the industry. Several leaders earned seats on the national board. Then, they hired an outsider to become the organization’s CEO. During his first 12 months, the new CEO hired an executive management team with diverse experience in all phases of association management. I was lucky enough to be hired as the public relations director responsible for communications PR and the association magazine.

Here are some key points (as I remember them) in our rebranding and rebuilding process:

Monday, June 15, 2015

Kids Skate Free: Association-Managed Cause Marketing Campaign

I love the strategic thinking behind Kids Skate Free!

Kids Skate Free represents a great example of a locally-initiated, association-managed cause marketing campaign that benefits a struggling industry.

It demonstrates how associations can use cause marketing to enhance their members while benefitting a cause.

And, with another generation (“Gen Z”) emerging, what better way to introduce your member businesses to millions of potential new customers.

Here are the basics of Kids Skate Free:
  • Societal Issue: childhood obesity
  • Industry Issue: number of roller skating participants declining
  • Strategy: provide kids coupons for free roller skating ... normally on “slow times”
  • Cure: exercise from roller skating can help reduce obesity and free coupons brings new customers to skating rinks
If you want to read more about a local establishment’s implementation, see this article in the Fort Myers News-Press.

Many successful cause-marketing programs start at the local level:

Sunday, June 7, 2015

2 Examples of Breaking Through Communications Clutter

Jim Palmer, CEO of the National Association of Wheat Growers, once told me:

“Steve, make it short, sweet and easy to repeat.”

Here are two great illustrations of Jim’s advice:

Daniel Pink shared this via Twitter:

Thursday, May 28, 2015

What Associations Can Learn from the Dorton Experience

Local Chapters are Building Blocks for Association Engagement
I was going to write today about declining church memberships and closing colleges and suggest they could be a forerunner of trends impacting associations too.

But then, my son, brothers, cousins and nephew attended the Memorial Day services at Dorton United Methodist Church in Crossville, Tennessee. We were on a golfing weekend.

I may still write about church numbers and college closings but not today.

I’ve spent my entire association career at large, national associations. While I occasionally attended a local chapter meeting, I infrequently engaged with members as the local level. 

As a national staffer, I met and interacted with the few who became national board members or who attended national meetings. (Note, I did serve on the board of the St. Louis Institute for Association Leadership but my focus is and has been at the national level.)

Participating in Dorton’s Sunday’s worship service showed me a new perspective that could benefit national associations.

Engaging. Caring. Sharing.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Share What You Do With Association Board Members

Typical associations spend two-thirds of their annual budgets on personnel costs.

Over the years, I’ve watched some “budget funding battles” that demonstrated the boards didn’t really know what their association staff was doing on behalf of the organization.

During these debates, I discovered that it is hard to explain WHAT you do but even more difficult to share HOW you do it.

That’s because many association professionals focus on TELLING board members ... but, perhaps, it is more effective to SHOW them.

Here is a great example from Plum Hollow’s golf course superintendent Adam Garr SHOWING his members what happens to get a golf course ready for play after a long winter.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Associations: Getting Beyond Just Millennials

Sitting in a dentist’s chair the other day, I realized how much has changed since I was a kid suffering from the sound of a “belt-driven tooth drill.” Nearly everything in the dentist office has changed. Same goes for my physician’s office and his use of an iPad to update my files.
So many people limit the discussion of digital technology to that which millennials have adopted. And, as associations, we forget to recognize how much all members are using technology in their daily lives.

Over the last few years, several authors have published good books about associations and millennials.

I can think of
While it is extremely important for associations to focus on reaching and engaging millennials, they should not lose site of Boomers and other members and leaders.

Monday, May 11, 2015

British Election Polls Show Dangers of Relying on Surveys

Britain’s election shocked the country (and much of the world) not because Prime Minister David Cameron and his Conservative Party won but because of the size of their victory.

Last week’s election results once again demonstrates to associations the dangers of over-reliance of polls and surveys.

So what happened in Britain’s elections? And, what does it mean for associations?

Monday, May 4, 2015

Symphony, Football and Associations: Teamwork Wins the Day

The other night my wife and I joined another couple at the Southwest Florida Symphony’s performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in D Minor Ode to Joy.

I enjoyed the music but found myself studying the different musicians and sections. Beethoven scored the symphony for 11 units: piccolo, flutes, oboes, horns, strings, trumpets, trombones, kettledrum bass drum, cymbals and triangle.

It was fascinating to watch the conductor and musicians perform especially when individual units had times to play and times to wait. They worked as units (sections). Together, they performed a masterpiece that was written nearly 200 years ago.

As I studied the performance, I realized there were similarities between the symphony and the story behind Ohio State’s national champion football team.

During the season and even now, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer talks about building a culture of trust and leadership. And, he mentions the importance of all nine units working together to build a winning team.

In Urban Meyer Shares Secret to Winning National Championship, John Millen shares some key elements of Meyer’s culture:

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Great Search for Talent (association professionals)

The recovery means fewer people searching for jobs. Boomer retirements (some claim as many as 10,800 per day) suggests more openings for association professionals.

The two trends suggest associations are headed for major competition when hiring talented staff for their organizations.
So, when my wife shared a friend’s blog related to this topic, I asked if we could use her thoughts for SCDdaily.

So, here is a guest post from Dr. Mandi Sonnenberg, Professor and Educational Technologist, Rockhurst University, Kansas City, MO:

High Speed Sleuth: Quick To Judge or Just the Facts?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Can Disruptive Innovation Benefit Associations?

What do you do if participation is dropping? Not just once but often enough to be a trend.

It could be membership ... Or convention attendance ... Or readership.

Two entertainment industries – bowling and golf – illustrate the challenges of declining participation.

Rather than sitting around and talking about negative trends or "fussing" about Millennials, two businesses within these industrie shave refocused and created innovations designed to re/engage participants and recruit new ones.

They are TopGolf and HeadPinz. More on them in just a bit.

First, let’s talk a bit about disruptive innovation:

  • A disruptive innovation is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology.
Associations representing industries or professions should be scanning the environment to discover any disruptive innovations that might impact that industry or profession. This scanning should help guide your strategic planning as well as your plans on working with your members as they work through disruptive innovations.
  • If you represent the time piece industry, what does Apple watch mean to you and your watches?
  • If you represent the imaging industry, what did digital images (smart phones) do to the film-based businesses.
  • If you represent publishers/printers, how are you adjusting to digital technology?
Now, let’s look at Topgolf and HeadPinz and the innovations they have developed to change their operations and, they hope, to reverse the negative downward trends within their business segment.

Traditional golf has experienced negative trends over the last decade:
  • Number of members down. 
  • Number of rounds down. 
  • 1 golf course is closing every 48 hours. 

Topgolf – a rapidly growing, golf-centric, entertainment company – decided to change the game.

Here are a couple of key points on Topgolf from a recent news story:

  • A Topgolf "store" is typically a combination three-level driving range, upscale sports bar, pro shop and nightspot. They can exceed 70,000 square feet and sit on some seven acres. The driving-range tiers have dozens of tee-off bays opening onto a course with nine sunken, circular targets, each of them divided into pie-like sections, appearing a bit like a dart board.
  • The microchip-carrying Callaway balls play just like a regular ball. An electronic system keeps score and tracks distance and allows for a number of game formats. Players can compete with others in their group, try to beat their prior best scores and climb the "leader board" capturing everyone playing at the entire location.
  • "We take away a lot of the traditional barriers" that keep many people today from taking up golf, May argues: The game takes one or two hours instead of five, it's unnecessary to buy equipment, the "cart lady" is always nearby for a food or drink order, and there are heaters and misters for when the weather's too cold or hot.
  • So Topgolf is growing rapidly and bringing in huge numbers of participants.
  • Interestingly, Topgolf management views their centers as a means to help turn the corner of “regular golf.”
If you represent the golf industry (courses, superintendents, manufacturer), what do Topgolf centers mean to you. (One golf company – Callaway Golf – actually purchased 20% of Topgolf.)

Like golf, bowling participation, has declined since the start of the 21st century. It even led to Robert Putnam’s highly read book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.
  • Putnam warns that our stock of social capital – the very fabric of our connections with each other, has plummeted, impoverishing our lives and communities.
  • Putnam draws on evidence including nearly 500,000 interviews over the last quarter century to show that we sign fewer petitions, belong to fewer organizations that meet, know our neighbors less, meet with friends less frequently, and even socialize with our families less often. We’re even bowling alone. More Americans are bowling than ever before, but they are not bowling in leagues. Putnam shows how changes in work, family structure, age, suburban life, television, computers, women’s roles and other factors have contributed to this decline.

HeadPinz has taken on the challenge of bowling participation by expanding the definition of “bowling alley.”

Here are excerpts from a local story headlined Fort Myers entertainment complex to feature bowling, laser tag, ropes.

  • It's not your father's bowling alley and it may be unlike any bowling center you've ever seen.
  • HeadPinz Fort Myers, under construction on the west side of Treeline Avenue near the airport, is expected to open in mid-June.
  • The 50,000-square-foot center is much more of a multi-use entertainment attraction than what keglers at other Southwest Florida bowling locations have experienced.
  • That's because this location will feature a two-story laser tag arena, a suspended aerial ropes course and an area featuring more than 40 top arcade games.
  • "There's nothing like it in Florida," said Mike Cannington, director of operations for Bowland Centers. "You have to go to Atlanta or Dallas (or another major city) to find a building that has all these pieces."
  • Oh, and there's bowling too. The center will have 28 lanes — 16 in a traditional setting, eight in a boutique area with its own bar and four "old time" lanes with pin setting by hand and a vintage look.
I’m not sure these two stories reflect true disruptive innovation but they do reflect changing the “we’ve always done it this way” philosophy to a “what if we tried this” mentality.

Yes, HeadPinz and TopGolf are NOT associations.

They do, however, demonstrate the kind of thinking associations will engage in as we face challenges of retiring Boomers and engaging Millennials.

And, the experiences they offer their customers (many of whom are prospective association members) impact the expectations our future members will look for when deciding whether or not to join an organization.

Recognizing that changes in the industry impact the association representing that industry, are you able to use disruptive innovation to help you? Or, do you sit back and get run over.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Moore’s Law and Association Development

Back in 1965, a researcher by the name of Gordon E. Moore published an article titled Cramming more components onto integrated circuits in Electronics magazine.
  • The future of integrated electronics is the future of electronics itself. The advantages of integration will bring about a proliferation of electronics, pushing this science into many new areas.
  • Integrated circuits will lead to such wonders as home computers or at least terminals connected to a central computer, automatic controls for automobiles and personal portable communications equipment. The electronic wristwatch needs only a display to be feasible today.
His observations eventually came to be known as Moore’s Law.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Thoughts on Adopting a Digital Mindset

In their book When Millennials Take Over, Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant devote a chapter on the importance of organizations to have a digital mindset.

While presenting at the Reinders Green Industry Conference, I discovered that Reinders – a regional distributor to landscapers, irrigation companies and golf courses – is rolling out a new digital ordering platform that will help customers as well as the company. In adopting a digital mindset, the digital program represents the largest capital purchase of 2014. And, the company doubled the size of its technology/digital staff.

Going digital has become a crucial decision for businesses and is vital to the future of associations.

Going digital is not just a strategy to reach millennials, it is a strategy to connect with all age groups.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Engagement vs Junk Mail: Strategies for Association Marketing

I’m not sure why but the volume of junk email marketing arriving last week reached a tipping point.

Here’s a sample of what arrived in my email box one day last week:
  • Connecting up ... “Can we set up a call? What time works best next week?”
  • Followup ... “It’s Josh. I just wanted to followup and see if you received my earlier email?”
  • Top Issues in all 50 States ... “We recently asked reporters in all 50 states and Washington, DC.”
  • Dear owner of ... “We make digital floor plans using below software based on your Handsketch/PDF/JPEG files. We offer a wide range of drafting services and we have fulltime staffs working Inhouse at our office located in India.”
All had a couple of things in common:
  • All were unsolicited contact from companies I’ve never done business with.
  • All senders were obviously ignorant about my company and what I do.
  • All “signed” their emails with a “personal signature” as though we were friends.
As I was thinking about this, I saw the following request on an ASAE Collaborate section ...

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Rambling Thoughts About Association Management

I gave three presentations last week at a Green Industry Conference near Milwaukee. It involved a lot of airline and rental car travel which offered time to ponder.

First, I LOVE giving presentations on generational tendencies and social media! I love engaging with the audiences and watching them have “light bulb” moments about the topics.

I posted all  three presentations -- all topics valid for most association members -- on Slide Share.  Here are the links:
Second, some attendees (think your members) have great content for social media and don’t realize it.