ASPHO Benefits Members with Successful Mentorship Program

By Carly Mangus, Content Marketing Associate

The mentorship program for members of the American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology (ASPHO) began in early 2013 as an effort by the society’s professional development committee to engage members and provide a resource to early-career members on a variety of issues. Because of the complexity of the pediatric hematology/oncology profession, the committee created a mentoring system to customize the experience and serve member needs.

2016 aspho mentors discussMembers can apply to be mentors or mentees, and while applying they enter information specific to their professional history, goals, and areas of expertise. Mentor profiles are posted on a members-only portion of the ASPHO website, and prospective mentees can browse their options and find a mentor to suit their needs.

After 2 years of the program, the committee evaluated its success by sending surveys to existing mentors and mentees. The survey had a 76% return rate, and the reports indicate that both mentors and mentees feel a clear professional benefit from the program, have regular meetings, and plan to continue the relationship. Most reported their goals for mentorship involved career development and support with a research plan, though other goals such as job finding, exam prep, and networking were listed as well. Additionally, fellows who participated in this program reported having better luck in the job search following their fellowship programs.

At ASPHO’s Annual Meeting, the mentorship program is expanded in the format of speed dating. Prior to the event, mentees sign up and include information about their goals and interests, and are matched up with three mentors for around 10 minutes each based on that information. During the event, mentees are able to receive guidance on the fly and get a taste of the mentorship program in a more informal setting. This event is hugely popular every year that it’s held, and has sold out each time. Additionally, mentees who sign up for this event tend to have increased involvement in other activities, boosting their involvement with ASPHO. 

2016 aspho mentoring2As a clear benefit to participants across diverse personal and professional states, the mentorship program has enticed members to renew their membership to continue to benefit from participation. Testimonial evidence from participants shows that both mentors and mentees derive great value from the program both personally and professionally, and intend to continue their relationships beyond meeting their initial goals. This customized mentorship program drives member involvement with ASPHO, and provides a resource and enticing benefit to membership.

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Unlocking the Mystery of Meaningful Metrics

By June Pinyo, MA, Content Strategist, AMC Creative Media Services

One of the biggest challenges in the association space can be that, as staff, our business goals and daily tasks mirror those of the corporate world, only without the corporate-sized budgets and resource pools to help us get them accomplished.

Marketing is an area where this challenge is particularly observable. Recently, the Chicago chapter of the American Marketing Association (CAMA) hosted an event for its Nonprofit Shared Interest Group, Nonprofit Round Tables: Your Marketing Challenges and Triumphs, where four roundtable discussion groups focused on different aspects of this unique challenge. I had the privilege of facilitating the “Metrics That Matter” group, where we talked about the difficulties we each faced in making meaningful and constructive sense of marketing data—website analytics, in particular.

The Rabbit Hole of Marketing

A shared frustration among many was inferring meaning from data and translating the data into actionable tasks when it comes to analytics. The Big Data Revolution has given marketers the ability to track and measure their efforts more than ever, but tying numbers to decisions in a meaningful way is a skill that continues to elude even the most experienced. Website data is among the hardest to analyze, because there is rarely one clear way to interpret the numbers and what’s “good” depends largely on what your own organizational goals are and it doesn’t always just mean “up and to the right.”

Each participant shared examples that connected website visitor behavior to some other marketing effort, whether a traditional direct marketing piece or a social media campaign. These stories confirmed what we all knew and reinforced for one another: Websites should not be operating on their own. Each effort and its results could and should inform others, moving us toward an approach that integrates traditional and digital marketing, an especially important shift for associations, which still do a lot of direct mail, for example.

Integrating what we learn from our website with lessons we’ve learned from all other tactics enables us to create a cohesive and more effective experience for the end user. After all, we’re not looking at the numbers to learn about the website, we’re learning about our customers—what works for them and what doesn’t. Marketing data should perpetuate motion, tell us what to change or try next, instead of simply evaluating how we did.

Story By Numbers

Another primary concern for participants in this group was figuring out how to effectively report on website performance to executives and “non-numbers” people. This comes as no surprise, considering the numbers are confusing to even those who are “numbers people.” (I live somewhere in the middle.) What we came up with is that we should be using the numbers to tell a story about what we’re doing and what our customers are telling us.

Effectively communicating the numbers behind our tactics requires exposition that includes context, with a heavy reliance on experiential and individualized knowledge on what your audience values and worries about. The setting includes organizational and individual histories. The characters are our volunteers and customers. Each tactic is like its own plot line. Placing the metrics within a storyline makes the reporting much more accessible.

To Each His Own

onesizefitsall label
   Source: www.paleofx.com

A layer of complexity in the world of analytics is a universal one, not unique to nonprofits. I mentioned earlier that there is rarely one way to interpret data. Participants discussed how this is true not only for a website’s metrics as a whole, but even for different points during the marketing cycle and for different tactics. Each of our organizations operates on a different annual meeting and product launch cycle, and each of our customers’ industries had their own cycles as well. Because we’re talking about numbers, you’d think there was some way to land on a hard and fast rule, but the truth is data is subjective—for marketers, at least.

This is why organizational goals and benchmarks are especially useful, to provide a reasonable expectation for performance and background on the personality of your audience. It’s always beneficial to be aware of average metrics for comparable sites, if anything, to set a goal. However, I’ve found that comparing data for comparable periods within your organization’s marketing cycles (for example, the 3 months prior to your annual meeting in previous years) often tells me more about how we’re doing and what’s working. When it comes to metrics, it’s especially important to ensure we’re comparing apples to apples.

This conversation about the subjective nature of data led to an affirmation to one another to keep trying and testing new things. Today’s world of marketing is one that requires a posture of continuous learning, and we agreed that a culture of testing where experimentation and adaptability are valued over tactics and one-size-fits-all approaches was key to maintaining that posture. We talked about the never-ending process of analyzing customer journeys, considering and optimizing the path for a prospective customer or donor, removing any friction points while also giving them something in return for performing the act we had set for them to do. Several people shared experiences that helped them to learn what worked and resonated with their target audiences and sticking to those things. What worked for one organization didn’t necessarily work with others, but consistency and strategy could be seen in each effort.

Community Is the Key

Each time I participate in an event hosted by the AMA, I’m reminded that these are my people and that the real key to success isn’t found in best practice or some magical tool or tactic. The key to success is connection to the community of other marketing professionals, sharing lessons learned and even those yet-to-be-learned.

Each of the other 3 groups focused on its own marketing challenge. The “Benchmark Reports: How Using Information from Benchmark Reports Improves Marketing Efficiency” group, facilitated by Dan Kaplan, marketing manager at the American Library Association (ALA), discussed how the annual Association Benchmark Survey by Informz, their digital marketing service, provided guidance as well as a standard against which to measure their own efforts. Through this process, he noted that staff had to quickly learn about e-mail marketing, and benchmarks were one way to acquire knowledge that they otherwise wouldn’t have, such as typical open and click rates, best days and times to send e-mails, effect of frequency on response, best length of subject lines, and the optimal number of links in an e-mail.  Industry benchmarks show collective results, which can inform your own practices, especially when partnered with contextual data.

“How Automation Helps Do More with Le$$,” facilitated by Jake Cashman of the Commission on Rehab Counselor Certifications, discussed how automation could be especially useful for organizations smaller staff size and budgets. Association staff are used to living at the intersection of limited resources and small budgets, so we are always on the lookout for ways to increase efficiency and effectiveness, and this is why marketing automation has gained buzzword status. Participants in this group discussed how they determined categories of prospects and rules for triggering e-mails (simple versus complex), all part of the initial set-up of the campaign. This step was where people felt the greatest need for input and guidance, but once the flows are established, the standardization of campaigns would result in reduced costs, saved time, and optimized ROI.

Karen Schrimmer of the National Association for Healthcare Quality (NAHQ) facilitated the last group, which discussed “Presenting an Edgy Idea to Your Board,” where participants discussed how data can be especially useful when proposing a new idea.  She noted that this group had a lively, animated conversation about how to effectively present a concept that might be outside your board’s comfort zone and increase your chance of acceptance.

Mo’ Numbers, Mo’ Problems?

While the Big Data Revolution has made us all more accountable and, therefore, better at our jobs, the sheer abundance of data also creates this faux sense that the gap between what we’re doing and what we should be doing is massive. I say “faux” because I don’t think effective use of data is directly proportionate to the amount of data you’re using, where the more data you consume means you’re doing a better a job. It’s not about how much data, it’s about the right data. What are you trying to learn? What are you trying to achieve? Is your goal realistic and measurable? By tying very specific goals and questions to specific pieces of data, you are better able to determine your success and, therefore, your next steps.

Andy Crestodina, cofounder of Orbit Media Studios and top-rated speaker and expert on all things web, makes a clear distinction between analytics reporting and analysis. “Website Analytics is a decision support tool, not just a reporting tool. Ask questions and find answers. Form a hypothesis, test it, and analyze the data.” If we’re hoping to use data to finalize or confirm anything, we’re doing it all wrong. Though you will definitely find some answers hidden in that sea of numbers, we should really be aiming to ask more questions, test more theories, and, therefore, ultimately have even more numbers to look at.

June Pinyo is the content strategist in AMC’s Creative Media Services department and co-lead for the AMC Content Managers User Group, Marketing Special Interest Group, and Informz Process Owners Special Interest Group. For more tips and conversation on content marketing, follow June on Twitter.

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Event Planning: Why You Should Say Yes to that Last-Minute Addition

By Brendan Sugrue, NANN Marketing and Membership Coordinator

Picture this: There are 3 weeks until you leave for your annual meeting. Your schedule is finalized, the keynotes and speakers are accounted for, your marketing campaigns are starting to wrap up, and your staff is now shifting into the “hosting” phase of conference. But then you receive a phone call from a game-changing potential speaker.

You and your staff tried for weeks to find a way to incorporate this person into your meeting, but to no avail and ultimately ended up moving on. She then tells you that she is able to speak at the event after all! Everyone is ecstatic…until you remember the meeting is right around the corner. What do you do? If you’re like most associations, your first reaction would be “It’s too late!”

The National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN) faced a similar scenario last fall, and with some quick thinking and teamwork, the staff took on the formidable challenge of adding a keynote just 18 days before conference, and succeeded with flying colors.

Kelley French, a Pulitzer-nominated and critically-acclaimed author burst onto the neonatal scene in 2016 with her book Juniper: The Girl Who Was Born Too Soon. The story documents French’s preemie daughter Juniper, and her fight for her life in the NICU. The novel gained instant popularity and after NANN’s now president attended a presentation led by French in the summer of 2016, the association knew they wanted her to be part of NANN’s Annual Conference.

For NANN, the desire to have French speak at the conference in the fall was clear, but with the short timeline, there was much to consider. NANN had not budgeted for an additional speaker, the right sponsor would need to be secured for funding, the schedule had been set for months, travel and meeting logistics needed to be considered, and collateral was minutes from hitting the printer. In the past, the thought of adding French may have turned into a pipe dream. But when the call came through confirming sponsorship, the entire staff dug in and made it happen within hours. Here’s how it came together:

  • Marketing and Education team members partnered to connect with the potential speaker and learn about her interest and availability.
  • NANN’s Professional Relations department worked quickly to successfully obtain sponsorship for the new session, covering the majority of related expenses.
  • The Education team finalized the agreement, and officially added French to the lineup.
  • Operations team members confirmed flight, hotel, and other logistics.
  • Marketing professionals compiled last minute program book changes, signage, and social promotions, and sent late-breaking communications to both attendees and members.
  • Meetings department representatives worked with NANN staff to ensure space requirements and other onsite logistics.

Normally, departments spend months working out details for major speakers. Once funding was secured, NANN cleared typical planning hurdles by the end of one business day.

nann meeting attendeesThe result was a resounding success. The team added Kelley French as a “late-breaking sunrise session”, starting at 7 a.m. and 400 of the 850 attendees opted to attend. The presentation itself struck an emotional chord with everyone, and following the presentation, French participated in a book signing in the exhibit hall. Hundreds of neonatal nurses waited in a line that extended out the door for a chance to meet with French. Without question, this session was a highlight of NANN’s 2016 conference.

It’s easy to say “no” when opportunities like this surface at the last minute. Why disrupt your plan and add an offering with only days to spare? But when your entire team comes together, great things happen and it showed with NANN’s 2016 Sunrise Session.

The next time you’re planning an event for your association and an opportunity worth pursuing comes out of nowhere with little time to spare, take a good look at your team. They’re the ones who will make any opportunity possible, and prove there’s no such thing as too late.

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6 Signs Your Association May Need Consulting Expertise

By Susan Farrell Stock, Executive Director, AMC Consulting Services

Regardless of the size or focus of your association, you’ve likely experienced a situation in which you didn’t have the expertise required to tackle a goal in the most effective way. Eventually, most of us encounter situations that could benefit from professional consulting expertise. But how do you know when your association has reached that point? Here are six signs to look for that indicate bringing in external consulting expertise might be right for you:

  1. Your association is losing relevance in the marketplace. Is your association experiencing increased competition? Does a once-heralded value proposition no longer appeal to your audience? Are strategic plans failing to make it to execution? If your answer to any of these questions is yes, your relevance in the marketplace may be at risk. An experienced consulting professional can help analyze the marketplace, determine your association’s place in it, and most importantly, create a plan for increasing relevance and minimizing risk and further decline.
  2. You need unique expertise. It’s a fact, no matter how hard we try, we just can’t be experts at everything. Even the most seasoned team members occasionally face new challenges or endeavors for which they’re unprepared. Maybe you’re launching a new product or have a need for detailed market research. Outside consultants, who specialize in these offerings, bring subject matter expertise and often offer solutions that far exceed their cost. 
  3. A tricky problem requires objective insight. Sometimes even the most effective volunteer-staff teams get stuck. Partner practitioners who bring an external strategic perspective can unpack and dissect a problem in new ways to help bring a group to consensus. Exposure to different association world projects and experiences allows consultants to see a challenge in a different way from the core team and make effective, actionable recommendations that drive decision making and change.
  4. Revenue diversification is a priority. If dues-based revenue is your organization’s primary source of revenue, it’s time to explore additional revenue streams that boost both fiscal health and customer value. Developing a business plan anchored with measurable metrics increases opportunities for success.  An external consultant can work with your staff to fully understand all possible revenue opportunities and create the business plan needed to allow your association to reap the financial benefits.
  5. You’re dealing with a micromanaging or dysfunctional board.  Even the most experienced leaders have room for improvement or the need to occasionally hone their skills. External leadership development can elevate a board’s effectiveness, encourage the right governance conversations, and result in the most actionable and mission-based strategic agenda for your association.
  6. It’s time for a reality check. As a wise man or woman once said, what has worked in the past is not necessarily the best predictor of future success. An occasional outside perspective provides a refreshing injection of reality. All teams, both corporate and nonprofit, run the risk of complacency or dependency on “what we’ve always done”. But depending on the past as your success predictor can be dangerous territory. Don’t trade innovation for comfort, consult the experts to stay at the top of your field.

AMC Consulting Services provides the services that elevate associations to the next level. Learn more.

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Infographic: Defining Transparency in Association Governance

By Kelly Kellermann, Managing Editor, Creative Media Services

How should association leaders respond to member requests for more openness, communication, and accountability from their board of directors? This is the question AMC governance and strategy consultant Anne Cordes and AMC principal Mark Engle, along with Jed R. Mandel, Esq, discussed in their 2016 article on the role of transparency in association governance. While there are several benefits from the policies and practices called for in the name of transparency, it can also do harm when applied without regard for board privacy.

Association Governance Transparency infographicEducation on transparency and its proper role in governance is vital for associations, and boards can function most effectively by balancing transparency and privacy. Members should expect the board to be transparent in the tools and resources they use to gather information as well as in the timely communications of important board decisions.

On the other hand, research shows that groups function more effectively in environments in which they feel safe to be open with each other about what they know and don’t know, and to change their minds, and the visibility created by transparency can foster a climate of self-consciousness and inhibition. Board members are advised to be open and intentional (transparent) in seeking all available information about members’ needs and interests, but board deliberations, board member voting records, and other aspects of board deliberations should remain private to allow the board to consider diverse points of view and have the difficult conversations that are so essential to organizational performance.

Read and download The Role of Transparency in Governance by Mark Engle, DM FASAE CAE, Anne Cordes, CAE and Jed R. Mandel, Esq.

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#Success with Social Media

By Danielle Desjardins, Associate Managing Editor

It’s no secret that social media has taken over the lives of millions—and our many association members are no exception! That’s why AMC clients use this low-cost, high-impact advertising and engagement tool to its fullest with innovative initiatives that truly are worth Tweeting about.

The Association of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses (APHON) hashtag challenge, launched at the association’s 40th Annual Conference and Exhibit in September 2016, is a perfect example of how a simple phrase can create a conversation with effects that last long after the event is over.

APHON social media“We thought this would be a fun, simple way to get attendees involved,” said Stephanie Sayen, marketing manager for APHON, about the initiative. “We hoped that these posts coming from actual attendees, rather than APHON itself, would present a different angle for promoting both APHON as an organization and its annual conference—as well as promoting what non-attendees were missing!”

Using a mix of silly and serious hashtags—including #APHONRibbonWars, #APHONGetsSilly, #APHONExhibitorsRock, #AHPONEducates, #APHONTurns40, and #APHONCelebrates—APHON encouraged members to document their experience at conference via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. And members responded with enthusiasm! The association reported a 12% increase in Facebook “Likes” and a more than 28% increase in Twitter traffic during the 3-day conference.

Like the challenge itself, marketing the initiative was simple and straightforward. APHON advertised the hashtag challenge to attendees via email in advance of the conference, and reiterated the messaging onsite with a flyer in each attendee tote bag and signage at the convention center.

APHON social mediaTo further incentivize attendees to participate, APHON offered a host of small prizes to the social media mavens who best represented the hashtags on their personal profiles. However, despite the giveaways, Sayen was quick to note how cost-effective the program was compared with the outstanding results—and to emphasize APHON’s intention to create all-new hashtags to celebrate and promote their 2017 Annual Conference and Exhibit in Palm Springs, CA.

“This campaign wouldn’t have been nearly as powerful without help from the entire APHON team in coming up with the most engaging hashtags,” said Sayen. “Thanks to them, the whole challenge was a success and we look forward to doing it again next year!”

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5 Reasons for Associations to be Optimistic about the New Administration

By Jordan Wildermuth, MSW, Health Policy & Advocacy Manager

As the season of holiday gatherings winds down, I am sure that on more than one occasion a dinner was interrupted by unsolicited political banter. Around the association table, I would like to offer my gift of five reasons to be optimistic for the 115th Congress and the new presidential administration.

  1. Opportunity to make new friends.

    The make-up of the 115th Congress will be comprised of a number of new faces (7 in the Senate and 52 in the House). Additionally, there will be numerous presidential appointments for federal agencies that have a direct effect on policy decisions. For association staff and leaders, this is an opportunity to build lasting relationships and to become the go-to person on your particular issue. This is also an opportunity to engage your membership in advocacy activities. Make your first priority of the 115th Congress meeting with incoming legislators and agency staff to introduce the association. Don’t use this outreach to blast your policy priorities, but to begin a casual conversation about your association’s mission.

  2. Time to regroup and reprioritize.

    It’s easy to get tunnel vision when your association has set the policy agenda for the year. We relish the ability to be nimble in our responses to policy issues but often have to shift strategy from proactive to reactive when things suddenly “pop up.” Use the time between now and the first 100 days of the new administration to look at your policy agenda differently. Is there another way to get the desired results? Is your issue relevant? Do you need to expend resources on the “pop up” issues? Your policy agenda may not change, but the association will have a renewed sense of purpose for their advocacy efforts.

  3. Everyone is starting at the same point.

    congress sessionUnlike a second-term president or a president-elect that has served in Congress, we do not have a record to look back on to predict behavior on policy issues. This has created a sense of uncertainty among associations because the greatest fear is the fear of the unknown. The opportunity for associations is to begin writing your story before it is written for you.

  4. The checks and balances system still applies.

    No matter what party wins or loses in an election, there is still a process in place to ensure power is not concentrated in the hands of individuals or groups. If you don’t buy into that, let’s look at the ideological variances that exist even between the Republican majority party. There were many Republican members of Congress who did not support President-elect Trump during the election and there still remains the House Freedom Caucus who have just enough members to cause an issue to go awry. Democrat, Republican, or Independent, the fate of an issue still rests on the ability to compromise.

  5. You are still the expert.

    The one constant in politics is that nobody knows your issues quite like you. Policymakers rely on and respect those who provide them with thorough and factual information.

Here’s to 2017 and as always, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu!

Time to Make our Association New Year’s Resolutions

By Bruce Hammond, CAE

It’s that time of year again – time to light the menorah, decorate the tree, and celebrate the end of what was hopefully a fantastic year! It’s also the time when many people make resolutions for the coming year and plan how they’re going to do things differently to make it even better than the one before.

This got me thinking – if wearing our association professional hats, we were to make some New Year’s resolutions for our associations, what might those include?  Here are a few to consider from my perspective:

  1. shoes on streetResolve to walk in your members’ shoes more often. One of the most important things we can do is know our members and the work they do, and I mean REALLY know the work they do. While we won’t ever be experts in their business or field like they are, we should resolve to know as much as we can and be able to speak their language.

    To make this resolution happen means not relying only on the Annual Meeting to see your members face-to-face. Encourage your staff to make member visits, to regularly connect with members by phone and email, and to be active in monitoring what is happening in the industry to be as up to speed as possible.

    My organization, the American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology has our staff utilize time when traveling to other industry conferences to see our members. Staff recently traveled to Atlanta for one industry meeting and to San Diego for another, connecting with a member in those cities on each trip. They came back and shared what they learned with the remainder of the staff, which helped us better understand the field and our members’ day-to-day jobs, needs, and challenges.

  2. Resolve to systematically look at your processes and tweak if needed. Piggybacking on the importance of walking in your members’ shoes, oftentimes we do the same thing from year to year, assuming the old way is the best way to do things. I’d actually encourage association professionals to, regularly experience your association like a member would, to see if your processes or interfaces need updating.

    So what does that mean?

    Perhaps at monthly staff meetings, an organization’s staff could go through one process a member might go through – the join/renewal process, the registration for your annual meeting, the nomination process, the awards submission process, etc.

    Ask yourselves questions like, what was the user experience like? Was there a part that was difficult to maneuver that we could make easier? In what way can we streamline the process to simplify it? Is there language we’re using that could trip up a member? Does X, Y or Z need to be a required field for this specific process? The list of possible improvements is endless.

    Just think about how committing to this could benefit your members…

  3. Resolve to consider alternative revenue streams and alternative ways of getting work done. All associations, whether they’re in excellent financial shape or not, should be looking at streams of revenue and how to bring in more of it. As a wise person once said, “Just because we’re not-for-profit doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make money.” By bringing in revenue, we have increased ability to meet our mission on behalf of our members. So think of ways in which you can create additional revenue. Ways such as:
  • Repurposing content from your annual meeting and package it for people who don’t attend.
  • Developing a sponsored webinar series that delivers both member benefit and association revenue.
  • Creating an Industry Relations Council like many clients at Association Management Center have done to build revenue and develop relationships with industry.

There are many ways to benefit from trying something new.

Also, (and I SWEAR I am not writing this because I work at an AMC that provides outsourcing opportunities) I’d recommend you think about how you’re getting your work done in 2017. Do you have the capacity on staff to effectively fundraise or get corporate support, or should you consider outsourcing? Could you use an external partner to help with your governance/board performance? Would it be helpful to have assistance in redesigning your website or your collateral materials? There are experts within our industry who can help with these things, and who might be valuable to consult or work with to enhance your efforts. Consider using them!

So as the holidays approach and you think about your personal resolutions, I hope you’ll also put on your association professional hat (that I hope is insulated in some way) and think about how you can enhance your organizations next year. Good luck and season’s greetings!

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback about what resolutions you’re making for 2017! Share them on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/connect2amc.

Walking to a New Beat: Don’t Let Historical Conference Offerings Hold You Back

By Brendan Sugrue, NANN Marketing and Membership Coordinator

We all fall into the same trap. “This is what we’ve always done,” we say. These are dangerous words for associations. They lead us to complacency and we risk losing our ability to feel fresh to attendees. The National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN) recently ran into the same issue – and decided to approach it head on.

While preparing for our 32nd Annual Conference, NANN made initial plans for programs and features based on the previous year’s conference as many associations do. With a fairly new staff in place, we weren’t married to any feature or program and decided to completely revamp several. We took a hard look at one in particular: the March of Dimes Silent Auction.

The Challenge

NANN’s Silent Auction fundraiser was stale. Initial success had faded, participation was waning, and excitement was at an all-time low. In addition, local chapters tasked with creating gift baskets for auction seemed to have lost interest as well. Lower interest meant fewer donations for March of Dimes. Did it make sense to keep an old program running? It would have been simple to ditch it all together, but it was critical to NANN to continue their support of March of Dimes. The solution? A simple program and teamwork at its best.

The Idea

The Walk for Babies Fundraiser was born from several cross-functional teams working with a core idea: to encourage attendees to incorporate fitness into their conference experience, have a healthy competition, and donate to the March of Dimes. With Millennial team members driving much of the creative process, the “Walk for Babies” was created. But, questions arose quickly, such as:

  • How will we track steps onsite during an already busy schedule?
  • What can we offer as an incentive?
  • Can prizes be sponsored?
  • How will we manage the raffle?
  • Will people even participate?
  • What are our chances of success?

The Plan

Staff quickly came together to answer these question and implement the fundraiser with no reference points, budget, and only limited time. Despite these challenges, the plan started to take effect with March of Dimes in full support.

  • Steps wouldn’t be tracked, but pledged on the honor system.
  • Participants would wear colorful buttons proudly announcing the number of steps pledged. (This was also a friendly technique to encourage a healthy competition among attendees!)
  • Prizes were chosen to reflect the healthy initiatives set by this fundraiser, like Whole Foods and DICK’S Sporting Goods gift cards. Although there wasn’t time to find sponsors in 2016, we will in 2017.
  • March of Dimes learned take donations a new way via SQUARE, something they can do at future conferences.
  • To encourage participation, scripting was incorporated into Registration staff training.

The Results

NANN marchofdimeswalkv2The fundraiser was an overwhelming success. The March of Dimes raised $5,000, twice as much as the most successful silent auction. One hundred thirty attendees participated, gladly donned their buttons all week, and winners were genuinely overjoyed with their prizes. The feedback was outstanding from participants. Throughout the conference, attendees shared their love for the new format. The best part? March of Dimes was thrilled and just might take this fundraiser to other events. It was a win across the board.

Change can be difficult. It’s a hard task to scrap a comfortable program and not only implement something new, but something successful. With the right team in place, one idea out of the blue can blossom into a successful campaign. Taking a necessary risk like this keeps your association fresh and inviting. Attendees have plenty of options on what conferences to attend. While the educational content is valuable, memories of new, fun and “feel good” features will set your meeting apart.

How to Build and Communicate Charismatic Branding

By June Pinyo, Content Strategist, AMC Creative Media Services

Jennifer GoodSmith wasn’t always a “tree person,” but over the course of a branding campaign for the Morton Aboretum in Lisle, IL, she’s come to know more about trees—especially the arboretum’s trademark oaks—than she ever thought she would.

In early October, AMC was honored to host GoodSmith, the Morton Arboretum’s VP of Marketing and Communications, to reprise her session from an American Marketing Association (AMA) session for the Chicago chapter on “Building a Charismatic Brand.”

She shared how to align customer experience (the organization’s programs) with its overall brand (organizational beliefs), connecting the dots from strategic brand to brand strategy to identity and, ultimately, to day-to-day communications.

A Firm, Confident Sense of Self

A charismatic brand, according to GoodSmith, is aspirational but also grounded in actual experience. It requires a clear idea of what an organization’s identity is. She said that brand architecture was key to building the arboretum’s brand as the Champion of Trees, the community’s connection to a global effort in the study and advocacy of trees. This architecture includes three key elements: positioning, promise, and personality.

Positioning refers to who you are and what you aspire to be. GoodSmith described the Morton Arboretum as “strong and quiet” and, in every piece of branded collateral she shared, its 96-year history and enduring values were clear.

Promise points to the single thing that you do better than anyone else. The concept of a “living laboratory” is the distinguishing promise of the Morton Arboretum, where trees are planted and protected, studied, and observed.

Personality is about the voice used to communicate the promise. GoodSmith described their personality as “disciplined, confident, and wildly passionate about trees.” In the brand story video she played, the message is made compelling by impressive footage of the grounds and a clear and powerful voice: “Spring causes a stir. Autumn causes a riot.”

Start From the Inside Out

According to GoodSmith, a key to the success of the Morton Arboretum’s branding was that it started on the inside, within the organization. “Staff are at the heart of your brand,” GoodSmith said. This inside-out approach facilitates a positive, caring, brand-driven culture. Getting buy-in from staff and volunteers—brand ambassadors—leads to a more authentic and natural process of then communicating it outward.

By seeing individuals as Champions for Trees, not just the organization as a whole, GoodSmith was able to bring in fun elements that encourage a connection to this brand, including swag (a green cape!), games, and free passes.

Building a Charismatic Brand Jennifer GoodSmith The arboretum’s identity also wasn’t merely communicated to staff and volunteers, it was embodied through and through in every aspect of their experience. GoodSmith and her team felt their story was so compelling, that they eventually created a printed booklet that expressed this story in pictures and words that would only be distributed to internal staff and volunteers. But the story wasn’t only on the pages, it was literally in the pages as well. The booklet was printed on post-consumer fiber, infusing every detail of even an internal document with its beliefs.

Focused but Inclusive

When taking the brand outside the organization, GoodSmith described the arboretum’s approach as “mission and masses,” where it targeted its primary audience—active nature-lovers who would most engage with the mission—but also reached out to the masses to drive people to the gates.

It remains important to keep the visitors coming to see the arboretum, but they are committed first and foremost to their mission “to collect and study trees, shrubs, and other plants from around the world.” GoodSmith encouraged us to remain true to and focused on our own missions, emphasizing that an effective, charismatic brand is one that connects an organization’s core beliefs to its identity and then to others’ experience of that brand.

By doing this, the Morton Arboretum has enjoyed the side effects of increased revenue and customer engagement. Noting a 31% increase in attendance over 3 years (as of 2015) as well as a 194% increase in earned media in just 1 year, GoodSmith certainly showed that a consistent and strong brand identity speaks loudly to customers and industry while also bringing benefits back to the organization.

Tell It Again, Tell it Anew

The question being asked everywhere by the Morton Arboretum is “Can You Imagine a World Without Trees?” This question creates a picture in our minds, contextualized by our own memories and stories, making it personal from the get-go. It draws me in, giving me my own way to connect with the brand. It speaks to the human element of the organization and its mission, to how I benefit from what they’re doing.

We can each ask ourselves questions that can help us find ways to find our own brand story. How does our target audience benefit from our work? How can they connect to what our organizations are doing? How can we make it about them?

Once we know and are confident in our stories, GoodSmith says to tell our stories again and again and to consider how we could tell it in a new way.

June Pinyo is a content strategist in AMC’s Creative Media Services department and co-lead for the AMC Content Managers User Group. For more tips and conversation on content marketing, follow June on Twitter.

 Ask the Management Team: What books have made a difference in your career?

By AMC

600,000 to 1,000,000.

That’s how many business books are published each year in the U.S. alone, according to a recent Forbes article. How in the world do you know which ones are worth your time?

Queue AMC’s Management Team members, who took the time to share their favorite leadership and business books and articles. If you’re looking for career-impacting reads, you’re in the right place! AMC asked:

Which leadership book has made the biggest impact on you as a professional?

David Bergeson, PhD CAE, Executive Director of the Association of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses (APHON) and also Professional Records and Information Services Management International (PRISM)

I refer to Governance as Leadership by Barbara E. Taylor, Richard P. Chait, and William P. Ryan a lot.

I often thought one reason why boards of directors do not perform well is that the board isn’t clear about their role in the governance of the associations they serve. As a result, associations often repeatedly review and revise the job description for the board. The job description becomes long, and embedded in a potentially dreadful, well-worn conversation about roles and responsibilities. The issue is not one of lack of clarity. The issue is that the board cannot see how their work relates to the organization's mission. This makes it difficult for them to become engaged in and enjoy their work. In a word, they are bored.

Taylor, Chait, and Ryan argue very persuasively that the work of the board should be divided into three areas:

  • Type I is the "fiduciary mode." In this mode, the board’s central purpose is the stewardship of tangible assets, and its principal role is to act as a sentinel. It oversees operations and ensures efficient and appropriate use of resources, legal compliance, and fiscal accountability.
  • Type II is the "strategic mode." Here, the board’s central purpose is to ensure a winning strategy for the organization, and its principal role is to be a strategic partner to senior management. Its core work includes setting priorities, reviewing and modifying strategic plans, and monitoring performance against plans.
  • Type III is the "generative mode." Generative thinking is a cognitive process for deciding what to pay attention to, what it means, and what to do about it. In the generative mode, the board’s central purpose is to be a source of leadership for the organization, and its principal role is as a "sense maker."

I find it really useful to view the work of the Board as consisting of these three components. I also find it important to make sure that time for each of these components is included on the Board agenda, particularly the generative mode, which is often neglected. If all we’re doing is presenting minutes, budgets and financial statements to our Board, and we don’t take a step back to look at the world around us and how we as an association fit into this world, then we need to be prepared for members of our Boards of Directors becoming detached, disengaged, and yes…bored.

Anne Cordes, MBA CAE

I’ve always been a huge fan of Peter Drucker, specifically Managing the Non-Profit Organization. He was one of the early gurus in the field of organizational management that emerged after World War II. And he was the first to point out that non-profit organizations were businesses, and needed to be run like businesses. Not only that, but he drew attention to what for-profit companies could learn from nonprofits. He raised the profile and the importance of our industry, and continues to be a source of inspiration for me as an association executive.

My favorite Drucker quote is, “Starting with the mission and its requirements may be the first lesson business can learn from successful nonprofits. … It alone can prevent the most common degenerative disease of organizations, especially large ones: splintering their always limited resources on things that are ‘interesting’ or look ‘profitable’ rather than concentrating them on a very small number of productive efforts."

Vish Kalambur, AMC’s Chief Information Officer

The book Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler has changed the way I approach conversations in general and “difficult” ones in particular. With great revealing insight about human psychology, the book talks about the stories we tell ourselves based on past experiences. Choosing extremes of silence and violence we somehow seem to have lost the art of conversation. The book charts a path for striking a balance, being honest and truthful yet respectful in conversations. This book offers hope in a world consumed by conflict to have a dialogue for meaningful resolution. Great book for leaders, managers and just about anybody to help them have important conversations in their professional and personal lives.

Sue Farrell Stock, MPS, AMC’s Director of Catalyst Consulting

Start with Why by Simon Sinek is about how great leaders inspire everyone to take action by focusing on why the organization exists first, then considering the “what we do” or “how we do it”.  For many websites, there is detailed description about events and content, which is important. There is information about joining, registering, certifying.  There is often information about strategy, mission, vision and beliefs. The language used to describe mission and vision should directly address
“‘why”.  Does yours?

The Daily Drucker by Peter F. Drucker is also a favorite of mine. Peter Drucker was a writer, professor, management consultant and social economist.  His groundbreaking work transformed modern management into a discipline taught at most business schools and practiced at for profit and not-for-profit organizations worldwide. The Daily Drucker is a compilation of his insights.  Drucker described the importance of organizing dissent into decision-making processes by inviting people with different points of view into the discussion.  Raising the level of dialogue about a problem or opportunity is key to defining and executing it.  While this can be viewed as a conflict approach to decision-making, the overall quality of the decision and subsequent actions can improve the effectiveness of an organization in achieving its mission.

Catherine Underwood, MBA CAE, Executive Director of the American Pain Society

There are actually two books that have made a profound impact in my professional life (and to a lesser but important extent, my personal life).
The first one is First, Break all the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. It examines research done to determine how great leaders lead and focuses on how the best managers select an employee for talent rather than skills or experience. They build on each person’s unique strengths rather than trying to fix weaknesses. 

I first read this book about 15 years ago when it was recommended to me by a peer at AMC – touted as a common sense approach to finding the right people for the job and our company. This led me to all the rest of the books by this author and ultimately to Strengthsfinder which my team is working with right now.  Powerful stuff!

The second one is The Four Disciplines of Execution  by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling.  I actually took my team to this session at the Franklin Covey learning center in Chicago before actually reading the book and it was exciting and energizing. I still use the principles of the importance of focus and putting the most important task first.  It also has helped me to understand how to realistically measure goals and achieve outcomes by being selective when it comes to a variety of choices to make.

To learn more about the AMC Management Team, please visit the Our Experts section of our website. 

How Do I Get Started in Video Marketing?

By Carly Bartman, Content Marketing Associate

Quick Tips for Video Production, Part 1

So you’ve planned out your video, and everything seems to be in place, but now you need to make it happen.

Theoretically, you just point a camera at your subject, hit record, and all will go according to plan, right? Not necessarily. Here are a few tips that can help you produce your video and keep everything as on track as possible. It starts with the resources you established in your plan.

When Using an External Videographer

If you’ve chosen to use an external vendor to handle your video production, most of the headaches that come with video production are not yours to bear. Equipment set-up and troubleshooting fall to the hired vendor, and your main concern may be interviewing subjects, or just acting as a liaison for the videographers as they run alternative shots by you or need to ask questions. That being said, you’re not off the hook.

You are the project owner. 
You should be prepared with all the knowledge the videographer will need to do the job. You’ll have provided them your plan, complete with storyboards, scheduling, and anything else you have created for the project, but you’re still the one they’ll direct questions to as they arise.

You have all the details.
As the person who scheduled all the subjects, locations, and shots, you are the person who has to make sure everyone and everything is where it needs to be so the videographer can work. Even though you’re not working with the video equipment, any props, people, or location cleanup that needs to happen is all in your hands. Making sure all of the props and locations are ready days ahead of the videography will help streamline the shoot.

They are the experts.
Even though you’re the one paying for and planning the project, you must remember that you hired a vendor to produce your video. Go into the shoot prepared with what you need, and what they need from you, but keep an open mind. Your videographer may have ideas that can improve your video or solve issues in the shoot that you weren’t able to account for in planning. It’s as important to be open to new solutions or ideas during the shoot as it is to have a plan and storyboard ahead of time.

When Subjects are Filming Themselves

The video blog, or “vlog”, format is very popular, and can be done on a budget. The format is a bit loose in that cinematic or commercial quality is not expected or needed, which can make this a very appealing and informal medium. It also makes it easier to find subjects for your videos, as they don’t need to be in the same room with you to shoot their footage.

Because of this, it does take the footage quality out of your hands. To prepare your subjects to take footage of the highest quality possible, touch base with them topics before clearing them to shoot.

  • Have they ever used their computer or phone to shoot a video of themselves?
  • Do they know what file type you need to finish the project?
  • Is their background good and their lighting correct?
  • Do they have an appropriate outfit chosen?

Have them take a test shot as though they are shooting the real thing and send it to you. This can help you answer those questions, and guide your subject to the right tricks and techniques.

Use these resources to set up your own vlog shoot or send to a volunteer who is shooting for you.

Above all you should be ready to work with the subject and be flexible and patient. Working on projects like this remotely is difficult and it’s hard to guarantee a great outcome, but keeping a positive attitude and very open and consistent communication with the subject of your shoot is a great way to ensure a better product.

If you’re shooting the video on your own, there are a ton of considerations you must make when it comes to the day you shoot. Stay tuned to the AMC blog to learn more about in house production.

Previous AMC video series topics:
Why Video Content is Important for Your Association

How Do I Get Started in Video Production

How Do I Get Started in Video Production Part 2


Carly Bartman is a Content Marketing Associate in AMC’s Creative Media Services department, and the resident video editor. You can connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn for more information and conversation about video marketing.

SEO, Marketing and Mohawks: 5 Takeaways from MozCon

By June Pinyo, MA, Content Strategist, AMC Creative Media Services

I’ll be honest. Conferences cause me great anxiety. Working for an association management company has provided me with an “out” in that I’m typically working at the there is a collection of coworkers, familiar faces with whom I’ve some sort of established relationship.

But when I’m at a conference as an attendee, I’m typically without this comforting familiarity—and it turns me into a tangle of nerves. Rather than stand around looking for someone to ask an unoriginal ice breaker question to, I would much rather walk speedily and purposefully toward my quiet hotel room.

Digital Marketing takeaways from MozConDespite this, since embarking on a new career path in the digital marketing space, I’ve found myself attending quite a few events with frightening words in their descriptions like “networking.” Recently, I had the great privilege (I really mean that) of attending MozCon, a leading conference on SEO, digital marketing, content marketing, social media, etc. In addition to their marketing expertise, Moz is known for their delightful ways of connecting with customers (see Moz’s mascot Roger as a plush doll at right, acquired from an arcade-style claw machine), I knew this was going to be an experience that filled my professional and personal tanks, despite my aversion to socializing.

Here are some of my key takeaways from those three days at MozCon.

Quality Is a Sitewide Metric.

MozCon Rand Fishkin on Website MetricsThe “mohawks” part of my title comes from the opening keynote speaker, Rand Fishkin, founder and former Moz CEO, affectionately known as the Wizard of Moz. His handlebar mustache and mohawk make frequent appearances on my Twitter feed, and they also played supporting roles in setting the tone for the rest of the conference. This was not your average stuffy conference.

Fishkin focused on SEO and the ways it has changed and grown in importance for the digital marketer. When talking about different aspects of SEO and how they affect search rankings, he made one thing very clear: our roles as marketers have expanded and changed in immeasurable ways as a result of search engines.

He summarized it all when he said, “Quality is a site-wide metric.” We cannot boil down SEO to merely keywords or organic traffic or metadata. Page by page, SEO is a discipline that requires continuous agility and attentiveness. With the creation of every webpage and the turning of every calendar page, optimization can look different. Fishkin demonstrated just how far down that rabbit hole can go, but it was clear that opportunities to nudge and keep our rankings high are found throughout our websites.

Follow the Data, Not Your Feelings.

Cara Harshman from Optimizely emphasized the importance of testing assumptions based on fact rather than feelings. “Great hypotheses are born out of reason and data, not whiteboard sessions,” she said.

Working in the nonprofit world, a tremendous feeling of indebtedness to our volunteers for their expertise and dedication sometimes can make us forget or even suppress our roles in the success of our organizations. Harshman reminded me that we bear the responsibility of accurately contextualizing our collaborators’ (both internal and external) assumptions.

It is to our mutual benefit to confirm or adjust our beliefs about what our audience wants and how they want to interact with us. The only way to get the true answers is to look into the data we have and then to perform tests.

Meaningful Experiences Require a Deeper Understanding.

Conversion optimization expert Talia Wolf of Banana Splash spoke on conversion rate optimization (CRO) and turning mobile visitors into customers based on A/B tests of their emotions, decision-making process, and behaviors. She stressed the importance of understanding people better through testing and research to create better experiences for our audiences (translation: higher conversions).

Though Wolf was focused primarily on the mobile context, her assertions ring true for all types of marketing. She cited a RightNow Customer Impact Report commissioned by Oracle that revealed 86% of consumers are willing to pay 25% more for better customer experience. Our customers want more than just the lowest price.

This lack of insight has led to a lack of substance—forgettable marketing. “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention,” says Wolf. We must direct our energies into creating meaningful interactions with our customers, including those seemingly uninspiring webpages.

Be Memorable.

The inspiration to improve customer experience continued with Joanna Wiebe, a leading expert in copywriting and founder of Copy Hackers. Wiebe couched the battle of effective copywriting in a war for conversions, not mere influence.

She noted that though “…we’re bombarded with 5,000 ad messages a day, we recognize 50 and remember 4.” But rather than being overwhelmed by a competition against 5,000, she says we are really competing with those four messages.

She tasked us with creating specific and personal messaging that would immediate take us out of the noise and place us in direct competition with only the four voices speaking clearly and directly at our target audiences.

By writing copy that is specifically about our target audience, doing the work to explicitly connect the dots (don’t be vague), and using words that trigger images in people’s minds, we can capture the coveted attention of our customers.

Actually Tell the Story. Don’t Just Hint at One.

Kindra Hall talk about storytelling at MozConKindra Hall was the perfect choice for kicking off the final day of what was a jam-packed conference. An expert in storytelling, Hall illustrated the importance of a good story by citing research from Paul Zak that showed character-driven stories consistently cause oxytocin synthesis, motivating collaborative behavior. Stories affect brain chemistry.

Despite this, Hall says marketers often commit this huge mistake. “We allude to story, but we don’t actually tell it.”

We use taglines, slogans, and mission statements; bulleted lists of features and benefits; and catchy copy or trendy infographics to talk about the story. These things do not have characters to care about, emotions, and something at stake.

Hall encouraged us to find our stories by collecting our organizations’ differentiators and our customers’ transformation stories. From there, we are to craft our stories by walking our audiences through what was, what happened when the product or service came into play, and how that created a new normal.

By telling stories about individual people in specific moments with vivid details and emotions, we can tell a really great story about the value of what our organizations do and who we are.

Bonus: You Can Find “Your” People Anywhere

The great tidbits I got from the MozCon speakers came with a happy side effect of common ground upon which to strike up conversation with other attendees. A great tactic I’ve noticed used by a conference organizers is to create a Facebook group dedicated to that conference. Members of the group can be attendees from any year of the event, and conversations can begin in the unthreatening social media space long before the conference event takes place.

The evening before MozCon started, I connected with another Chicago Cubs fan (GO CUBS!) on the MozCon Facebook page who was also looking for a place to watch the game. The next day, while waiting in line for the elevator, we met a Brazilian who was soon relocating to Chicago. The three of us then later connected with someone she had met who was from Israel. The four of us stuck together through the conference, eating meals together and saving seats for one another.

I realized that I could find a crew of my own wherever I went if I was open it. Professional and personal tanks full, I’m even thinking of looking for opportunities to present at conferences in the near future. This openness might be the most valuable takeaway for me.

June Pinyo is a managing editor in AMC’s Creative Media Services department and co-lead for the AMC Content Managers User Group. For more tips and conversation on content marketing, follow June on Twitter.

Benefits of Giving Back as a Team

By AMC

A group of staff from the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM) recently participated in Association Forum’s Centennial Day of Service at The Fred Matthews Senior Housing Center, a 60-unit affordable housing unit for seniors. They had a great afternoon visiting and playing bingo with residents, while spending time with other members of the association community.

This event got us thinking, why is team participation in events like this important? What are the benefits of giving back as a team? Special thanks to AAHPM team members Steve Smith, CEO and Executive Director; Emily Muse, Manager, Communities and Programs; and Allison Lundberg, Manager, Marketing and Membership, for their insightful answers.

AMC: Is giving back as a team a strategic part of the AAHPM culture? If so, why do you feel it’s important? Do you consider it a critical component of team building?

Smith: AAHPM’s team culture closely mirrors that of our association’s culture, I believe. We are team-oriented, supportive and believe in “giving back” through service to the hospice, palliative and communities supported by our own professional associations. Several of our team members volunteer and support hospices, for example, outside of their work at AMC and AAHPM. And others are active in Association Forum, ASAE, AAMSE and other organizations that help us develop new skills and connect with other professionals.

Muse & Lundberg: Absolutely. Working for an association where our members give back to the community every day inspires us to be involved in our community as well. We are humbled by our members’ giving culture and we want to continue to spread comfort and happiness to those around us.

AMC: What are the various ways in which the team benefits from attending events like this?

Smith: When I saw the opportunity to participate in this community service project through Forum I knew I wanted to do it. It occurred to me that there might be others on my team who would like to go too and that would make the experience even better. The activity provided a great opportunity for the three of us to have a shared experience, connect with others, talk about non-work related “stuff” on the trip to and from the city and of course, celebrate Association Forum’s centennial through service. Personally, I love interacting with seniors. During college I worked in a retirement community so this was also an opportunity to reconnect with older adults in their environment and to “be in the moment” vs. running from one meeting to another – at least for a few hours.

aahpm team volunteers at fred matthews senior housing centerMuse & Lundberg: We take pride in having a tight knit team who enjoys working together, so being able to give back as a team continues to strengthen our not only our working relationships, but also our personal relationships. It is beneficial for our team to have experiences outside of the office and view things from a different perspective, even if it is only for a few hours. Service events are rejuvenating and humbling and help us focus on the big picture once we return to the office.

AMC: If applicable, how does the association benefit from the team taking part in these types of events?

Smith: Getting out of the office and into environments where services are being provided is important for our team. We do not directly deliver care in our work but our members do. Opportunities like this can be both educational and fulfilling. Each member of our team usually spends a day with an AAHPM member as well at some point during the year.

Muse & Lundberg: The service event was held by Association Forum and it was great to connect and make connections with other Forum members around the Chicagoland area. These events enhance AMC’s presence and define a culture that we take pride in here at AMC.

AMC: What’s your best advice for inspiring and initiating philanthropic participation as a team?
Smith: Find something people might enjoy doing together. Don’t make the activity a required event. Not everyone wants or is able to do community service and that’s ok. It is not, however, a reason for others not to do something together.

Muse & Lundberg: AMC employees are extremely hardworking and we often get caught up in the busyness of our day to day tasks that we forget to come up for air once in a while. AMC is part of a large industry and it’s good to inspire colleagues to look at the bigger picture, take half a day, and volunteer at a service event. Spend time outside of the office with your colleagues and get to know each other on a deeper level to increase your working relationship. It’s extremely rewarding and helps make the world feel a bit more connected.

Four Reasons Your Association Should Embrace Social

By Molly Anderson, NANN Senior Manager, Marketing and Membership

All good content marketers – corporate and nonprofit alike—dream of elusive viral posts and skyrocketing social growth. But how do you get there? How do you find and engage your audience and better yet, elicit likes, shares, and retweets beyond your wildest dreams?

Like many associations, the National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN) had a minimalistic presence on social media just over a year ago. With no real strategy at play, the association used Facebook to share a very occasional promotional post. Even with limited effort, a following of close to 10K grew, highlighting a potential opportunity for the association. A little over a year later, NANN thrives in the social space, demonstrating steady growth and impressive engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. More involvement is planned to better understand and connect with the association’s audience, like introducing a conference geofilter on Snapchat and rolling out robust social campaigns in the coming months.

Debating whether or not to create a social strategy for your association? Here’s why it’s worth your time:

nann socialmedia babyolivia resizedShow your human side. Social media offers a new way to share content you care about and speaks to who you are as an association. NANN achieves this through inspirational images and quotes, curated career development articles, nursing humor, and pieces on trending clinical topics. Our 17K+ Facebook followers get to know us through our content choices and more importantly, know weunderstand their needs because we share content they find meaningful.

Learn from your audience. Viral posts are achieved by NANN regularly, sometimes reaching a quarter of a million of people with hundreds of shares, likes, and comments. So what’s the secret sauce? To start with, NANN works hard to hit the mark in terms of the content we share. We tally the likes and shares, we read every comment, and respond promptly to private messages. We learn, research, and deliver topics that spark healthy neonatal conversation. It feels great to serve our audience in a way they appreciate and we consider it an honor to delve deeper into what matters most to them.

Connect in a new way. We all have websites and email nurture campaigns, but taking the social world by storm may not be what your members expect. If you know your members frequent social media, why aren’t you there, too? Maybe it’s time to shake things up.

Take an assessment of various social networks to determine where your members are and how engaged they seem to be, and focus your attentions there. For NANN’s audience, Facebook is currently the network of choice, but for your association, it may be Twitter or Instagram. Once you find the right network, play around with content type, voice, post times, and frequency to determine audience preferences.

Relate to younger generations. If your association is like NANN, “Millennials” is a bigtime buzzword. As association member populations age, it’s never been more critical to find ways to relate to a younger audience. And if you happen to be close to anyone from the Millennial or Z generations, you know one thing for sure: they’re on social and connected all the time. If you want to be top of mind with them, you must create a presence on social.

While every association is different, our need to communicate and feel connected to our professional peers and the good work we can collectively achieve is universal. So give that social connection a try. And once you’re out there, remember the real trick is turning that connection into meaningful, deep, lifelong member relationships. Good luck and stay tuned for more on NANN’s evolving social strategy.

Molly Anderson serves as the Senior Manager of Marketing and Membership for the National Association of Neonatal Nurses. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ..

5 Steps to Special Interest Groups Revitalization

By Taylor Thomas and Amanda Duski, AMC Meetings Assistants

The association world is constantly changing and it’s key to make sure each segment of your association continues to expand and adjust with the current market climate. Special Interest Groups (SIGs) are an important part of any association, and it is essential to revitalize SIG meetings that have become stale over time. The Administrator/Coordinator SIG at Association Management Center recently went through this process and, by using the steps below, had amazing results. The SIG boosted attendance by 30 percent, had increased member engagement, received tons of positive feedback, and had much happier members overall. Consider the following to revamp your SIG today:

Know Where You Can Improve

First, take a look at the group as a whole and find the areas that need enhancement. Then, establish two or three goals to improve these areas, making sure they can be completed within a short amount of time. Setting goals forces the SIG to focus on specific items and can be used as a tool for measuring progress.

Case Example: At the beginning of the year, the Administrator/Coordinator SIG Co-Chairs reviewed the SIG’s agendas, minutes, and end-of-year survey from the previous year. It was clear that attendance was low and meeting topics were being repeated year after year.

Develop Beneficial Topics for Every Member

Members of SIGs often have diverse job titles, experiences, and backgrounds. It is crucial to make sure everyone who comes to the SIG meeting benefits from the topic discussed. No one enjoys listening to presentations that don’t apply to their current role, or hearing about the same topics that have been discussed time and time again! Each SIG member in attendance should walk away with more knowledge than they had walking in.

Case Example: The Administrator/Coordinator SIG Co-Chairs distributed a survey at the first SIG meeting of the year regarding meeting topics. The survey listed 20 potential topics and SIG members were asked to rank each topic according to their own interests. The highest ranking topics were selected as the year’s focus.

Support Member Attendance

After topics have been finalized for the SIG meetings, shift the focus to getting the members to attend! Be sure to select an appropriate meeting frequency, as well as the best date and time for all members’ schedules. Send calendar appointments well in advance, so members can be aware of the meeting early-on. In addition, always verify listservs are up-to-date and email addresses are current, so no one is left out who could benefit from the SIG!

Case Example: The Administrator/Coordinator SIG Co-Chairs found their members had extremely busy schedules and it made more sense to meet bi-monthly instead of monthly. They also made a point to review the listserv each month, which ensured notifications were being sent to all the correct people.

Build Well-Rounded Agendas

co-workersAfter you get SIG members to the meeting, you want to make sure their time is spent productively and all members are engaged in the topic. Vary your delivery methods at every meeting; this keeps members on their toes and promotes interactivity. Integrate relevant and relatable media in order to increase information retention.

Case Example: When building the agendas for each Administrator/Coordinator SIG meeting, the Co-Chairs incorporated current event and pop culture references, a group activity, and either a panel or group discussion. These different agenda components created maximum potential for participation and productivity.

Girls (and Boys) Just Want to Have FUN!

Everyone is more inclined to participate in an activity they know will be fun. Create an environment members want to be in, while maintaining the professionalism of the SIG. By creating a fun atmosphere, members feel more open to sharing their thoughts and concerns. Remember, ultimately, the SIG members will choose to attend the meeting or not. There’s a higher likelihood of attendance if an element of fun is expected.

Case Example: The Administrator/Coordinator SIG Co-Chairs planned a theme around each meeting of the year. In July, a “Red, White, and Blue” theme gave way to firecracker popsicles, strawberries, blueberries, and cream cheese fruit dip. This establishes a more laid-back atmosphere where conversation is comfortable and members can connect with each other.

Do This, Not That: Website Edition (Part 2)

By Monica Moore, Senior Web Manager

More Solutions for Common Web Problems

As mentioned in the first article in this series, there are a variety of ways to complete a task on the Web, but some solutions are better than others. Below is a continuation of the list of common Web problems you may encounter in your website updates and some more-optimal ways to solve them.

Problem: I Want to Increase Conversions

Poor solution: Hope for the best.

Better solution: Identify the goal and simplify it down to a measurable, actionable outcome (ex. I want 100 people to see this and have five people register).
You should always consider why you are doing something and how you will measure its success. Depending on what you’re trying to measure, there may be a best way to do so.  It can be as simple as page views or clicks, but it can also be campaign codes to watch the flow of a user, discount codes, or vanity URLs.

When measuring, make sure you’re also keeping in mind conversions—it’s great when people see what you sent them and even visit your website, but did they do what you wanted them to? Did they register or make a purchase? Can you say specifically that people took action because of your blast e-mail versus a postcard versus stumbling across your site?

This is especially important when we’re all so focused on budgets—can you prove that your marketing funds are working? Can you prove that you should stop sending the same postcard because no one takes action? Having data to provide to other staff or a board of directors is helpful in making a case for or against something.

Problem: I Need to Collect Information

Poor solution: Post a PDF or a fillable PDF.

Better solution: An online form, possibly integrated with your database.
Online forms are commonplace and basic ones can be pretty easy to set up. Admittedly, they do get a bit more complicated if you need to collect money or want to integrate the form with your database. However, depending on how you use the form, integrating with your database can provide a HUGE return allowing you to pull reports and track information. Integrated forms usually work better for high-traffic, data-heavy forms.

If you’re unsure whether an integrated form is worth the efforts, consider this: once a user has completed a basic form (whether PDF or online), what happens with this data? Does someone need to manually enter it into the database or a spreadsheet? How often? Do you then need to share this information in different ways? Staff time can really add up working with such a form. Staff time may not be as visible as an invoice or item in the budget, but think of all of the time you are spending and what you could be doing if you weren’t pulling form information.

Problem: I Need to Add Copy to the Website

Poor solution: Throw text up on the website, never look at it again.

Better solution: Build an editorial calendar, audit the site for out-of-date copy, make notes, and create reminders to update information.

The more pages you have on your site, the more content there is to keep track of.  When multiple people edit the site, it can be easy to miss pages that still have old dates, old contact information, and outdated text. Conference webpages are a great example. There is usually a mad scramble to get the information up before registration, and with the chaos of the meeting, we’re too busy to execute a “post-event” Web plan to make sure content is now adjusted to reflect that the event occurred, what non-attendees missed, and to save the date for next year.

When you post content for users, the instructions you provide are vital. Follow all instructions you give. If they are complex, provide screen shots and direct links. Make sure these instructions are accurate!

Problem: I Have an Issue to Fix

Poor solution: Implement a solution without knowing what the issue really is.

Better solution: Look at the problem you are trying to solve.

Rather than starting with a tool in mind, determine the friction point or issue you are trying to address, what the requirements are, and how you can measure success. Then determine a budget and consider options. As noted, there are many possible solutions to resolving or creating something for your website. It’s wise to first think through the issue in order to determine the best solution possible.

Do You Agree?

Want to learn more about these or other solutions? Is there a Web topic you’d like to read more about? Let us know on the AMC Facebook page and, if you haven’t already, read part 1 of our “Do This Not That: Web Edition”  series.

Monica Moore is the Senior Web Manager in AMC’s Creative Media Services department. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or through the AMC Facebook page.

Do This, Not That: Website Edition

By Monica Moore, Senior Web Manager

Better Solutions for Common Web Problems

There are a variety of ways to complete a task on the Web, but some solutions are better than others. While looking at items that are part of a typical Web update routine, I listed below some common web problems, possible solutions, and then much better solutions. Because there are so many ways to address items on a website, these certainly aren’t all the possible solutions, nor are all of the “poor solutions” always incorrect. The goal for any website is to keep things clean, consistent, and engaging. The “better solutions” listed below are recommendations with this intent in mind.

Problem: Text Styles Need to Be Different

Poor solution: Make in-line style edits.

Better solution: Update the cascading style sheet (CSS) for global changes.

We see in-line styling on sites all the time for a number of reasons: this is because either the person editing the page isn’t familiar with styles (h1, h2, h3), they want something different from what they have (h2 is too big, so I’ll just make it a smaller font), or they want the page to have a specific format (these paragraphs show up on the screen and these are “below the fold”).

You really shouldn’t change the appearance of text without doing so on a global level. If your subheads are too big, don’t shrink them. And skipping headers (from h1 to h3) is bad for search engine optimization (SEO) because the Web crawlers understand order of importance based on these tags. A better way to do this is to change the CSS. This typically needs to be done by a front-end developer, but this will keep styles consistent across all pages.

Also keep in mind, if you’re changing the format of the page to look a certain way, you are only doing so in that area. This will create inconsistency, particularly if a global change is made. In addition, you may be forcing the text to look a certain way—which could look good on desktop but may look very wonky on mobile.

Problem: Adding Large Images to the Website

Poor solution: Resize the photo in your content management system (CMS) or through HTML

Better solution: Crop the image ahead of time

If you load a large image to your website and resize it via the CMS or HTML, it actually means that for every person who views the page, the photo first loads to its full size, then has to shrink down. With many images and, heaven forbid, a slow internet connection, these photos might not even load. Instead, crop the image to the appropriate size for your website ahead of loading it.

Problem: Placing Ads

Poor solution: Place a .jpg in the content area of your site.

Better solution: Ensure the way your ad will be represented is to its best advantage.

By placing an ad as a .jpg, you are potentially missing out on tracking ability and mobile-view legibility. Consider how you’d like the ads to render across devices, how many should show, and what data you’d like to obtain for both yourself and the advertiser (clicks, impressions, etc.). With this information, a tool can be identified or code can be developed to meet your needs.

Problem: Tabular Data

Poor solution: Use a table and set its width.

Better solution: Rethink the format of the data—can this be represented in a clearer way?

Tables aren’t responsive, so on a responsive website, particularly mobile, the information may jut out of the frame, become illegible, or require you to scroll. Consider how to break down the text into header and paragraph styles or perhaps how to incorporate trays to assist with the formatting.

Problem: I Need to Give Members More Info in Print

Poor solution: In the print piece, direct users to the website where they can download the print piece. Users end up stuck in a loop.

Better solution: Edit your print text for web consumption, then load it to a web page as HTML when possible. If it isn’t worthy of a page, why is it on your website? If the information is already on the website, why are we adding the print piece? What is different or is something missing? If you still want a downloadable piece, consider whether it is printer friendly.

Note: If you are using links in your print pieces, make sure to give users a specific page to visit, rather than just your homepage where they’ll need to search for the relevant information. If your links are too long, consider creating short links or vanity URLs.

Do You Agree?

Are these problems familiar to you? Are there ones we’ve missed? Visit the AMC Facebook page and let us know what website problems plague you, and keep an eye out for Part 2 of our series.

Monica Moore is the Senior Web Manager in AMC’s Creative Media Services department. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or through the AMC Facebook page.

Who Is Us?

By Bruce Hammond

When reading Seth Godin’s blog post from back in January, Who Is Us?, I got excited. In only four sentences, he spoke volumes about numerous issues associations have had for what seems like forever without ever mentioning our industry.

As simple as it is (it’s only forty-eight words total!), Seth’s post hits on membership recruitment, branding, marketing, and being customer-centric. All of these are incredibly important for associations to be successful today.

Membership Recruitment

Godin says, “…you need to be really clear who 'us' is. Not just who am I joining, but what does it mean to be one of you?”

In other words, WHY should I join YOU (and not the other group who offers similar benefits?) Why do you exist and why are you the best place for me to spend my money/time? Simon Sinek is a big proponent of starting with why, and it’s hugely important in recruiting members.

Branding/Marketing

Is it clear to those outside of your walls what “being one of us” is? Simplifying it even more, is it clear who “us” is to those outside of your organization’s staff and Board? If not, you’ve got a branding and messaging problem.

Looking internally, if you talked to members of your own staff or Board, would all of you answer similarly what it means to be a member of your association? Would all of you be able to clearly articulate why someone should “be one of us”?

If you want to, you should be able to, as Godin says, “build a tribe or a movement.”

Being Customer-Centric

group shot of peopleAgain, in not so many words, Godin speaks to the importance of thinking about the customer/potential member when doing your work. Articulate who you are, why they should join you, and what that commitment means for them. It should be all about them when you’re recruiting and marketing. It should NOT be about what’s in it for you.

In just four sentences, Seth Godin makes a powerful point. While he wasn’t speaking to associations specifically, his forty-eight word post was a powerful reminder for our industry about the need to be very clear about “who is us” and why someone should care.

Bruce Hammond, CAE, serves as a Senior Operations Manager at Association Management Center. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Other Posts by Bruce Hammond

5 Content Marketing Tips from and Industry Rockstar

Is Failure Absolute?

Three Ideas for Effectively Thanking Members and Volunteers

The Impact of Mobile

How Do I Get Started in Video Marketing?

By Carly Mangus

Quick Tips for Video Preproduction Part 2

Now that you’ve figured out what you have to make videos and what you want to do with it, it’s time to start planning. Using your established purpose, goals, message, and resources, now you can begin writing a script, setting a timeline, and creating a distribution plan.

Writing a Script
A script can be a specific or vague as you need it to be. If you’re making interview videos, a script can be as simple as a list of questions and some possible follow-ups. If you’re making a promotional video, you may want to write exactly what you want the volunteers or actors in the video to say. In associations, most of our footage will feature volunteer members, so it’s important to assess who is comfortable on camera and whether they can deliver scripted lines naturally. Usually it’s best to choose people who you know can talk about a topic and prompt them to speak on their own. This will make it easier for them and will help them forget about the camera, in turn making your video more natural. When working with volunteers instead of paid actors, it is important to plan on being as flexible as possible, and factor in that they may not be as charismatic on camera as they are in person.

Setting a Timeline
Setting a timeline is tricky but incredibly important. Determine what is realistic based on your people resources. When will it be easiest to schedule volunteer involvement? How long should filming take them? If you’re hiring professional videographers, when are they available? Are you filming at an event or asking the volunteers to film themselves in their free time? All of these factors will affect your schedule. Here are a few tips to help make scheduling easier:

  • Base your deadline on the purpose of your video, as that should drive your ideal launch date. If your purpose revolves around the launch of product or attendance to an event, those will be dates that have to factor in to your scheduling.
  • Talk to your volunteers, what is their normal day like? Will they have time to do multiple takes? Do they need assistance or coaching when it comes to how to use their equipment or set up a shot? The answers to all of these questions will help you determine how long each person will likely take.
  • Allow time for many takes. For most people, the more times they are recorded, the more comfortable and confident they will be when speaking. If your volunteers are filming themselves, make sure to encourage sending multiple takes of the same video.
  • Does your plan feature a lot of postproduction work (work done by a video editor after the footage has been captured)? If so, make sure to leave enough time for several drafts. Videos are the same as any other publication in that regard: they always require review and tweaking.
  • If your organization has an annual conference or meeting, that is a great way to get people involved with your video marketing efforts. Asking volunteers to let you film them at conference helps streamline the production part of your schedule, as well as the equipment used to capture each volunteer. Consider using the meeting to gather multiple volunteers while they are already in one place.

Creating a Distribution Plan
Finally, creating a distribution plan sooner, rather than later, will help you manage measureable goals and get the most out of your video efforts. When creating the distribution plan, you must consider all of your communication platforms: e-mail, website, and social media all play a role in how you distribute your video. Of course, where you put it and how you drive traffic to it all comes back to the video’s measureable goal.

If your goal is to drive traffic to specific products or services, be prepared with a friendly or shortened URL, mass e-mails, and social media posts. In this case, it may even make sense to embed the video in the product page on your website so you can drive e-blast links directly to that page instead of a video hosting platform. You can measure the success of your campaign by comparing traffic and sales before and after the video’s release.

If your goal is to grow your social media presence, then a social media–focused distribution will be your best bet. You can measure the success of your campaign by the number of likes, shares, and new followers.

If your goal is to educate membership, you may focus solely on e-mail marketing to drive traffic to your website to see the video. However, if you are trying to educate the general public, you might use social media and gauge your success by number of shares.

Additionally, when making the distribution plan it pays to choose a few future dates to use the video again. If the content of your video applies to multiple events or awareness campaigns, you can share the same video again to drive your goals and maximize your video’s return on investment.

What happens when I’m finished with preproduction?
Now that you have a script, plan, and schedule, you can move into the production phase of video-making. Keep an eye out for information on this phase in the AMC blog next month.

Previous AMC video series topics:
Why Video Content is Important for Your Association

How Do I Get Started in Video Production


Carly Mangus is an Assistant Editor in AMC’s Creative Media Services department, and the resident video editor. You can connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn for more information and conversation about video marketing.

How Do I Get Started in Video Marketing?

By Carly Mangus

Quick Tips for Video Preproduction Part 1

You’ve made the decision to start making videos, and now comes the scary part: where do you start?

Right now, the world looks like your oyster. You could go so many ways and do so many things in your new medium. The sheer number of possibilities can make beginning this process seem very daunting. Done properly, video marketing can add personality to your marketing strategy and grow a valuable connection to your audience, as you read in our previous post on video marketing. Before you begin, it’s necessary to narrow your focus by answering a few questions.

What is the purpose of your video?
Are you using video to persuade? Educate? Entertain? The purpose of the video is the most important step in preproduction, because it sets you up to make all of the plans. If you’re using a video to promote a new product, the tone and script of that video is going to differ wildly from an educational or entertaining video. If you’re trying to persuade your audience to buy a product or donate to a foundation or fund, your tone may appeal to your viewer’s emotions or sense of duty. If you’re creating an educational piece about a topic of interest to your members, you may have to establish credibility and take a more formal tone. However, an educational video for the general public may have a lighter tone in an effort to connect to viewers outside of your membership. If your video is meant to entertain and connect to an audience, it will likely have an informal tone and light subject matter. When you decide on the purpose, you can move on to the next step.

What is the goal of your video?
While this seems similar to the previous step, the goal of the video tends to be a little more specific and measureable. If your purpose is to inform, your goal might be to drive traffic to a specific page on your website, or to increase sales for a specific product. If your purpose is to entertain, your goal might be to drum up more follows or subscriptions and more content shares. The goal is the measureable outcome you would like your video to facilitate.

What do you want to say?
The information you’re trying to share with your audience is the linchpin of your whole operation. Every part of the video should serve your message. Think of a single-sentence point that you want to get across and fashion a script around that point. If your point is “come to conference,” then every part of your video should be directly relevant to that purpose.

What are your resources?
Once you’ve figured out the purpose, goal, and message of your video, you have to determine what resources you have before you can start scripting its content. This factor will have the most impact on what you can do. Resources that affect video production are as follows:

  • Availability of personnel with video knowledge
    • Videographer
    • Director
    • Video editor
    • An outside videography vendor
  • Available video equipment
    • Camera
    • Lights
    • Microphones
  • Money, to pay current employees and vendors, or buy missing equipment
  • Time (yours, the volunteers’, your employees’, and any external vendors’)
  • Actors or interviewees
  • Stock footage or music

Once you determine which of the aforementioned resources you have or can get, you can determine how elaborate your video will be. You don’t need all of what is listed above to make a good video, but the more you do have the easier it will be to make a high-quality production. Videos can be made easily on a small budget with an iPhone or good webcam, member volunteers, and someone who can edit video.

Your purpose, goals, message, and resources are only half of the puzzle. Once you have all that figured out, it’s time to move into scripting, setting a timeline, and creating a distribution plan. Stay tuned to the AMC blog later this month for more on preproduction planning.

Previous AMC video series topics:
Why Video Content is Important for Your Association


Carly Mangus is an Assistant Editor in AMC’s Creative Media Services department, and the resident video editor. You can connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn for more information and conversation about video marketing.

Association Management Center’s Ask The Management Team Question of the Quarter

By AMC

It’s time for the next installment of Associational Management Center’s Ask the Management Team question series. This quarter, we reached out with a question about something everyone can relate to: BUDGET! But instead of focusing on the challenges related to limited budget, we wondered what our executives would do if they had more money to spend. We asked AMC leaders to answer the following question:

If your budget increased by $200,000 for the year, with the expectation all of it must be spent in 2016, where would you invest to make the biggest impact? Why?

Here are a few of their responses:

Susan Farrell Stock, Director of Catalyst Consulting
I’d invest 200K in training and development of the team. Increasing capacity as leaders requires self-awareness. Learning about new models for product development or market research brings fresh inspiration for ways to enrich our clients and deliver on mission. As we often look outside of the association or not-for-profit industry to find new ideas that could impact business performance, I would envision that training to develop communication skills, strategy, or technology would enhance our business processes – while demonstrating commitment and investment in staff.

Stephanie Mercado, Executive Director, National Association for Healthcare Quality
If my budget increased for a single year, I would use the resources to invest in something that would directly or indirectly sustain or grow that revenue boost for years to come. For example, I would invest in a campaign to attract more prospects who could be grown over time into customers or members. Or, I would invest in a technology that would improve members’ expertise and engagement, thereby improving sales or membership retention. Deploying a long term strategy to address a short term opportunity pays dividends.

Dianne Michael, Senior Manager, Member Services
I would invest the $200,000 in software development (primarily Personify and interfaces with outside vendors) to gain operational efficiencies and decrease manual labor and work arounds, providing an improved customer experience.

Phil Saigh, Executive Director, American Academy of Pain Medicine
The topic of a recent “generative session” for the AAPM Executive Committee was as follows: If you had the front page of the New York Times to disseminate anything you wanted about Pain Medicine, what would you say? To the question at hand, I would consider using the $200,000 to engage the AAPM Board more actively in developing key organizational messages and then use the remaining funds to begin dissemination of those messages . . . whether to the New York Times or other publics.

Previous Ask the Management Team Questions:

What is the issue that will affect the association industry the most (either positively or negatively) over the next decade?

What would you tell a young professional who asks you “what are the one or two most important skills I should master to be successful working with volunteers?”

To learn more about the AMC Management Team, please visit the Our Experts section of our website.

Why Video Content is Important for Your Association

By Carly Mangus, Assistant Editor and Resident Video Editor, Creative Media Services

 

It’s easy to feel lost when it comes to video marketing, especially when what first comes to mind is big-budget commercials produced by large companies. At first glance it looks daunting, but video is more accessible than ever and can be done on a budget.

Connect with members and nonmembers alike

Video is the most effective way to reach your audience, as it establishes trust, communicates your brand, and delivers information more effectively than any other medium. It shows the personality of your organization and makes the audience feel more connected, not only to the cause or mission, but to the people making it all happen.
In a study about internet use, the U.S. National Library of Medicine found that while people have, on average, an attention span of 8.25 seconds, the average amount of time they will spend watching an internet video is 2.7 minutes. In the same study, data revealed that the average amount of words people will read on a standard web page (around 593 words on average) is 28% of them. Visual content is more likely to be engaged with for longer periods of time and shared on social media, and video content is more likely to rank your organization on the first page of a Google Search than standard text. According to ConversionXL, using a video as your call to action can increase conversions up to 30%, and according to BrainShark, including the word “video” in an e-mail subject line “boosts open rates by 19%, click-through rates by 65%, and reduces unsubscribers by 26%.” Users expect to see video, and using that video will draw them to your site, and build trust in your brand.

Where should an association start with video content?

An easy place to start is posting videos from partner organizations or members. Growing a social media presence that is more visual will help grow engagement in your online marketing efforts, and you’ll be able to test what kinds of video content your users engage with the most.
Beginning to produce your own videos can be as easy as someone with personality and passion talking about your product or mission. According to a study by Ascend2 and Vidyard, 52% of marketers agree that testimonials are the most effective method of video marketing. While marketers reported these videos the most difficult to make in commercial businesses, associations are uniquely positioned to produce these videos more easily because of the nature of their membership. Active members who are passionate about the organization’s mission, programs, and events are great resources for effective video marketing. Members will respond well to seeing someone like them talking about the benefits of conference, or all the good that is coming from funding your organization provides.
The Ascend2/Vidyard study also shows explainer or how-to videos are another effective way to engage a lot of users. Because this format forces clarity and simplification, users find more value in the information given in videos like these, and are more likely to share them with colleagues or even in their company or organization’s social media outlets. Providing value in your videos compels users to come back and look for more, and establishes a strong relationship.

What is the process for making video content?

video camera resized2When starting your own video content production, it’s important to understand your resources. Do you have someone on staff who has video expertise? Do you have video equipment? Do you have engaged and interesting members willing to participate? When you know what you have, you can move on to creating a production plan, and eventually producing videos and pushing them on social media and in e-mail marketing.

There are three major parts to video production, all aptly named for their place in the process: preproduction, production, and postproduction.

Preproduction is all of the planning that goes into the shoot. This is where you decide who will be in the video, what you need to make the video, when you will film it, whether you’ll be hiring a videographer or using someone in-house, and which, if any, members will be involved. The budgeting, scheduling, and resource management happens at this stage. The more work you do here, the less time the next two stages will take.

Production is the actual shoot. This is where you execute the plan laid out in preproduction. This can mean the member takes over and sends you their recordings, or that someone on staff or your videographer shoots footage.

Postproduction is where you take the material you got from the production stage and create a polished video, ready for marketing. You edit mistakes and add text, images, or additional footage together. Music and any animated text or images are added at this stage as well.

The final piece of the video marketing puzzle is measurement. This is where you track how well your video did: how many people watched it, where did people stop watching it, and which parts had the most effect? Measurement is crucial as you test your video strategy and make improvements to future video content.

Don’t let video production intimidate you. With the right planning and measuring processes, your organization can produce videos on any budget that will reach your target audience and help grow engagement with your users. Keep an eye out for more blog posts on each of the steps of the video production process, and ways your organization can start producing video content.


Carly Mangus is an Assistant Editor in AMC’s Creative Media Services department, and the resident video editor. You can connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn for more information and conversation about video marketing.

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Five Considerations When Rebranding Your Association

By Louise Ristau and Liz Giannini, Awards and Personalization Association

Rebranding has been a hot topic in the association community for years, and 2015 is no exception. Associations regularly have been seeking to better understand tips and tricks for effectively rebranding their organizations. Here at AMC, our client, the Awards and Personalization Association recently went through the process and we thought we’d share our experiences with you.

How the Decision Was Made

When the Awards and Personalization Association (formerly Awards and Recognition Association) board of directors met in December 2013 they continued a long standing discussion on how prospective members saw the association. What had historically been an industry devoted to the creation of awards and recognition products (think trophies, plaques, and medals) had migrated into an industry that used personalization techniques to decorate not only awards but also gifts, signage, apparel, and even housewares. But those prospective members who didn’t “do awards” also didn’t see the association as their home; a missed opportunity for both the association and the prospects.

A decision to embark on a much needed website redesign quickly became a decision to rebrand the association and that included examining the association’s name.

Here are a few things we learned in our rebranding experience that we think everyone should consider should they go down a similar road.

1. Don’t go it alone
You need two support channels – your rebranding firm and your rebranding committee. The firm will help you maneuver through the process; the committee will help maneuver through the politics.

Should your committee be comprised of all supporters – you know the volunteers who will be agreeable to all recommendations from you and the rebranding firm? We didn’t think so. So, we formed a committee that had a couple of volunteers who would question ideas and push back. While challenging, they brought a different perspective that would have been missed had the committee been made up of all cheerleaders.

Of course you want a firm with experience and solid references. But, working with a firm that will be your partner rather than your consultant is key. Make sure that you can have open and honest communications with them. While they have the expertise, they will never know the ins and outs of your association like you do!

2. Communicate early and often with volunteers
Keeping your staff team and volunteer leadership informed will help them become strong advocates for the new brand.

Updates at staff meetings and in between when significant decisions were made helped us keep the team informed and on board. Board members received regular updates from the rebranding committee chair. Look for opportunities to get input and feedback from your stakeholders.

3. External Communication
With the change of an association name and identity, if you’re not communicating frequently with your members and non-members, you’re missing the boat. However, take care to do so strategically and with key messaging in mind. We segmented our messaging by members and non-members and kept the message simple so as not to confuse the audiences. When we received feedback, either a staff member or volunteer responded quickly and tactfully to ensure both members and nonmembers understood our goals and reasons for our actions.

In the run-up to the actual launch, we implemented a “teaser” campaign. This included images and short messaging displayed through social media, our existing website, email signatures, print ads and our member community posts. These teaser components captured a message of “Exciting Changes Coming Soon” for phase one and “New Website, New Name” for phase two. We wanted to create a buzz and tease the new brand colors and style. The announcement of the new website two months before launch increased the anticipation even further.

4. Check your Inventory
Every member of your team is a key stakeholder in this process. It can be easy to take for granted how frequently your association name and logo appear on branded materials and documents. Engage your team in an inventory exercise to review and document each and every item that they touch on a regular basis and also those that have been collecting dust for some time…

Through this process, you identify areas for a refresh – does a flyer or application need a revision beyond replacing the logo, to showcase your new brand personality? This is an opportunity for a clean, fresh start – try to have fun with it!

5. Ready, Set, Launch
So you have a new name, a brand promise, a new logo, a new website, and brand guidelines – what do you do with them? Make a plan.

Your brand is much more than the exciting new colors and logo. It’s also the tone of the organization. We developed a list of choice words to use to express the vibrant, dynamic, and creative organization that is the Awards and Personalization Association.

Starting with the pre-launch, moving into launch, and extending for one year-one post launch, identify who you want to communicate to, what message you want to send, and how you will deliver it. Whether it’s email, social media, print collateral, or electronic make sure your brand guidelines and messaging are consistent. We developed a “critical activities” list that included the tactic as well as details such as the audience we were communicating to and the proper logo to be used.

Moving forward consider how you will integrate your new brand into existing programming such as your educational offerings, products, and communications (newsletters and magazines). This is an opportunity to engage your team and volunteers and build support for the exciting changes and prospects that rebranding brings.

Do you have an opinion or thoughts you’d like to share on this post? We’d love to hear it. Please feel free to share it on our Facebook page.

Louise Ristau, CAE serves as the executive director, and Liz Giannini serves as the Senior Operations Manager, of the Awards and Personalization Association. To connect with them, you can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Looking Forward – Q & A with Association Laboratory’s Dean West, FASAE

By AMC

Earlier this year, three AMC staff members took part in an educational session at the Association Forum led by Dean West, FASAE and President of Association Laboratory in Chicago. Dean’s session focused on Association Laboratory’s latest whitepaper, an environmental scan of the association industry entitled Looking Forward 2016.

AMC: In the session, you talked about how three out of four association CEOs are concerned about member time and money. How does that manifest itself in the results of the survey and how associations need to move forward?

Dean West: Time and money are the building blocks of engagement. If members are unwilling to devote time and financial resources to the association, successfully achieving sustainable growth in support of the mission becomes much more difficult.

AMC: You also discussed how strategic differentiation is the most substantial challenge facing associations. How so?

DW: Competition for the limited member resources of time and money, combined with direct competition, leaves associations struggling to differentiate themselves. With key revenue streams being threatened, associations will have to work harder to ensure growth and market attractiveness in the future.

AMC: Would you share more about the three essential priorities associations must commit to: future-focused information, making better decisions, and having a market orientation/creating customized engagement models?

DW: Future-focused knowledge is critical. The less you know about the future, the more difficult it becomes to adapt to the future. Associations need to improve their processes for identifying and providing information about the future environment. Only by understanding the environment within which association members will operate can association leaders design strategies to help their members succeed.

Associations need to improve the ability of volunteer leaders and executive staff to make sound decisions. Associations waste too much time managing the governing process and producing tactical or even misguided decisions. A leadership team that works effectively to make objective decisions and is held accountable is necessary to prosper in a dynamic business environment characterized by increasing competition.

Finally, to be successful in the marketplace, associations need to employ customized engagement models: identify their primary target audience, prioritize the most essential benefits, and then customize how they configure and price these benefits. Only by providing customized engagement models can associations differentiate themselves in a highly competitive marketplace.

AMC: What are the biggest takeaways for association leaders in this latest whitepaper?

DW: Although the environment facing association members and the resulting implications on association strategy is challenging, there are solutions that help leaders face these challenges. Many associations are successfully addressing them and creating innovative solutions to the needs of their members.

Through their efforts, these association leaders are truly transforming their organizations and creating the next generation of association business models. With the right solutions in place, the future looks great!

Thanks to Dean for sharing his time and expertise with AMC!

5 Tips for Operationalizing Your Strategic Plan

By Amanda Pairitz-Campo, MPS, Senior Operations Manager

So you just finished a board meeting and amidst all the generative conversation and decision making, chances are, you have a few action items before the next meeting. It is hopeful that these action items correspond to the strategic plan and will fit nicely into a work plan that already exists. However, this is not always the case and you are now not only tasked with completing the action item, but creating a work plan that links it with the strategic plan to track your work and ensure you reach the board’s requested goal.

If you are like most you will roll up your sleeves and proceed with a method that is most familiar to you or that has worked consistently in the past. While this can continue to work for you, I have found that basic project management principles have helped me streamline the planning process and ensure I have the proper checks and balances in place prior to starting. There is nothing worse than planning a project only to find out you forgot to loop in a key stakeholder or cost center and have to re-plan to factor in these additions.

Below are five project management process groups I follow (in order) to complete new projects assigned from the board: 

1. Initiate

Develop a project charter. By creating a project charter you are clearly defining at a high level the scope of work to be done in order to meet the board’s request. Basic project charter items include:

  • the business case for the action item (e.g., linking it to the strategic plan)
  • the goal statement and scope of the requested project
  • setting the start and end date of the project
  • identifying key stakeholders such as the project sponsor (board or committee requesting the project)
  • the project manager (staff liaison) and the process owner or project team (committee or task force this project aligns with, in addition to other staff members)
  • budget allowance
  • all internal and external resources that are needed to complete the project

Additionally, the charter is also a great way to provide board updates throughout the life cycle of the project if you include a “progress to date” section as it includes the background and current work/status of the project between board meetings.

2. Plan

Based on the project charter, develop a work plan that includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • project delivery deadline and key milestones
  • objectives and tasks to be completed that support each milestone
  • detailed budget
  • human resources (who is responsible for what)
  • communications plan
  • a risk management plan (how you plan to manage change and/or issues that may arise during the project’s life cycle)

It is also important to remember to always check with your team to verify whether or not this project correlates with another existing project as you will want to be sure to take into account their work plan or visa versa.

3. Execute

Once the plan is in place, it is now time to direct and manage the project according to the work plan.

4. Monitor & Control

Now that the plan is in motion it is important to monitor the work plan weekly and have monthly check-in’s with the project team to validate and control the project scope, schedule, costs, quality, communications plan and risk management – address any issues that may have arisen since your last meeting (if it can wait that long).

5. Close

Deliver project deliverable or complete action item, close the project plan, and setup a debriefing meeting to document and discuss the project – what lessons did you learn or ideas does your team have for improvement.

Lastly, don’t forget to celebrate! Whether it is treating yourself to a special lunch or a happy hour with the project team, planning and completing a project is a lot of work and will most often roll into another project because you nailed it – so be sure to take a brief moment and celebrate your success before the next request comes in – you deserve it.


Amanda Pairitz-Campo, MPS, serves as the senior operations manager for four AMC clients - the Metal Construction Association, the National Frame Building Association, the International Staple, Nail & Tools Association and the Synthetic Roof Underlayment Institute. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tips on Driving Organizational Performance (video)

By AMC

AMC principal Mark Engle, DM FASAE, regularly consults on Board development and governance topics, so when we asked him to sit down and talk about one of these topics in front of the camera, he jumped at the opportunity.

In this video, Mark discusses a few tips on how to drive organizational performance. 

Mark Engle

 

 


To learn more about AMC’s strategic consulting capabilities in all areas, including governance, please visit http://connect2amc.com/about-us/services/consulting.

 

 

6 Ways to Leverage Your Career Center for Brand Building

By Allison Whitley, Operations Coordinator, AMC Professional Relations & Development team

In 2015, more than 142,000 users visited the career centers of AMC’s client organizations. Of those 142,000 impressions, how many could potentially have been new visitors to the career center, thus providing an opportunity to build your brand during a professional’s first exposure to your organization?

Follow the below tips to make sure your organization’s brand is fully leveraged in this first impression.

1. Post a banner ad for your membership/conference.

Banner ads are prime advertising spots in the middle of the job feed, available to employers as an upsell to their job posting. But you too can take advantage of them. Put your organization’s branding directly into the job feed itself by posting a web banner to gather visibility from career center visitors.

2. Add your organization’s certification as a credential under the Candidate profile builder for job seekers.

Candidates fill out a thorough profile when completing their account on the Career Center, and your organization’s certification should be a part of the checklist when updating that information. Not only will this allow you to gather some insight on your certification’s market impact, but if that candidate does not have the certification, they could be prompted to ask themselves ‘Should this be something I need to have?’ On the flip side, employers posting jobs on your career center are also filling out requirements for their open position, so be sure your organization’s certification is listed as a check mark for potential candidates.

3. Use candidates as lead generation, or cross promote your organization’s products.

Use the data at your fingertips. Candidates sending resumes from your organization’s career center save their contact information in the job seeker portal. From email to education level, all of this data is captured and accessed through your career center’s admin portal. This information can be membership lead generation gold. Since candidates visiting your career center are already somehow vested into your niche industry, a simple prospect marketing message targeted to these candidates could be all it takes to convert that random career center visitor into a member if they are in your target demographic.

4. Promote your career center as a tool for professional development.

The career center can serve as an introduction to your organization to those new to the industry. You can open the door to potential new members by promoting your organization as a key to the industry for students and job searching platforms. How did this candidate find or come across your career center? Can you become more visible at these ‘introduction’ points or find other potential points?

5. Consolidate your career development services or career profiles on the career center landing page.

The landing page is the map to access all the career center pages, and is often devoid of any other content beyond those links. If your association offers career services or any kind of professional recognition, make it easy for a candidate visiting the career center to see that your organization can offer them more opportunities to grow within their profession.

6. Include employers on occasional promotions.

Facilities searching for candidates may not be aware that your organization supports the people they want to hire. Target your marketing message to this group of employers to educate them about your offerings, and encourage them to engage with your organization through exhibiting, advertising opportunities, or by hiring candidates with the certification your organization offers.

By using these six simple tips, your organization will be better positioned for success in engaging both those new to your career center, as well as those regular users who regularly come back.


Allison Whitley serves as an operations coordinator in AMC’s Professional Relations & Development department. In her role, she manages the relationships between AMC’s client organizations and career center vendor, providing value and expertise. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Creating Fear in Your Event's Non-Attendees - the Good Kind!

By Liz Giannini, Senior Manager, Operations, Awards and Personalization Association

Remember that year you didn’t attend the Annual Conference? The food looked perfect on Instagram. The hashtag blew up Twitter. Your favorite conference buddy was tagged endlessly on Facebook during the new learning labs which were located OUTSIDE in Palm Springs. And…you’ve always wanted to go to Palm Springs…And, the sky was perfectly blue. Nobody was wearing a coat. Everyone was smiling; and earning millions of CE credits while smiling. This feeling that’s welling up inside you? This, my friend, is the fear that you’re missing out or, more commonly referred to as FOMO.

An overwhelming digital age phenomenon where we’re inundated with images and messages that enhance an experience, FOMO is almost inescapable. As conference and tradeshow marketers, how do we create a sense of FOMO tied to our events so that they’re seen as “not to miss”?

While each association and its members have a unique personality, culture and trigger points, here are a few tips that may help lead the way to creating that sweet spot of FOMO:

Be Visual & Fun 

The majority of FOMO will occur through social media. Photos are king! Is your location warm? Include the photos with the palm trees. Has a Board member recently done a site visit? Have them take selfies at the event property. Showcase the personality of the association and its members. Show the members who are active and excited.

Example: The American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine held their 2016 Annual Assembly in Chicago. In addition to their event hashtag, they created a #100inChicago hashtag that highlighted 100 recommendations for Chicago – restaurants, venues, things to do. The posts on Facebook and Twitter included a link to the recommendation and a photo when available. Who doesn’t love food? Who doesn’t want to eat while in a great city like Chicago?!? Exactly. Build the excitement and equip attendees with ideas upon ideas.

Be Unique

What is unique about your event location? What will make people want to travel to your event (outside of the stellar educational programming you’re offering)? Are you in a “non-traditional” conventionGreetingsFromToledosmall town or city?

Example: The Awards and Personalization Association held a Regional Expo in Toledo, OH. Did you know that Toledo has a public art ordinance mandating a percentage of public art? Public art is everywhere downtown. Photo and selfie ops galore! Or did you know that its minor league baseball team, the Mud Hens, has a cult-like following and its stadium is a 5 minute walk from the convention center? The actress Katie Holmes is from Toledo and she recently told a talk show host that her Mom thinks everyone should eat at the famous Tony Packo’s restaurant (also a 5 minute walk from the convention center). Don’t make your attendees do all the research, help educate them and reveal what’s unique about a new city! Push this out through social channels and email.

Track Activity

Members and potential attendees opening your emails want to be able to scan their options on their smartphone or between the flurry of email they’re receiving throughout the day. Bullet your messages, create Top 5 or Top 10 Reasons to attend. Make it easy to read and share.

Example: The Awards and Personalization Association tracked email delivery leading up to the International Expo and the features that created the most clicks. Guess what everyone wanted to know about (after registering)? The updated exhibitor list and the After-Hours Party! Guess what the association gave them more of? Take the temperature and raise the heat! FOMO will draw them in…

Engage Exhibitors and Supplier Members

Many will have dedicated marketing staff or work with agencies. They want to promote their presence and will welcome your help! Create a marketing toolkit with a list of suggested posts. If they’re starting to be on Instagram, make sure you’re there too. Follow them, retweet or repost with the event hashtag and they will return the favor. Exhibitors experience FOMO too!

Example: The National Restaurant Association positions their NRA Show as a carefully curated experience that attendees are encouraged to come hungry for…and they’re not just talking about the delicious food that will be sampled (although that certainly helps). It’s a true experience. Exhibitors are essentially given a treasure trove of marketing resources to guide them. Traveling from England? They have a digital “British English” brochure (in addition to nine other multi-language brochures) for you to take and share with current and potential customers. It knows you’re an international attendee so it showcases show features designed directly for international travelers. Need to know more about the fun you can have in Chicago? Maybe it’s your first visit or your 100th – there’s information to guide you there too. For more: https://show.restaurant.org/Exhibit/Marketing-Resources.

If you’re reading this and feel unsure of how to start, test the ideas with your committees – what are their trigger points for FOMO? If they’ve had to miss a conference, what was it that made them come back again the next year? Shine the light on the features that make your association unique and create a sense of fear in your attendees - a fear of missing the amazing experience your event regularly provides.


Liz Giannini serves as the Senior Manager of Operations for the Awards & Personalization Association. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .  

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Wrong Way

By Jordan Wildermuth, MSW, Manager, Health Policy and Advocacy

Sometimes associations take the wrong path, whether it’s in their membership strategy, their marketing strategy, or their advocacy efforts. Whether it happens with leaders fully understanding the situation or by mistake, going down the wrong path obviously isn’t ideal.

This reminds me of the classic cult comedy, Dumb and Dumber, where Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne set out on a cross-country trip to Aspen, Colorado to return a briefcase full of money to its owner, only to be pursued by a group of criminals who are after the briefcase. At one point during their trip, Harry awakens from a nap only to find out that Lloyd has driven quite a ways in the wrong direction. Their exchange goes like this:

Lloyd Christmas: I'm only human, Harry! Come on! Stop being a baby. So we backtracked a tad.

Harry Dunne: A tad? A tad, Lloyd? You drove almost a sixth of the way across the country in the wrong direction! Now we don't have enough money to get to Aspen, we don't have enough money to get home, we don't have enough money to eat, we don't have enough money to sleep!

Lloyd Christmas: Well, it's not gonna do us any good sitting here whining about it. We're in a hole. We're just going to have to dig ourselves out.

Like Lloyd and Harry, associations can set out with a very distinct idea of what they’re looking to accomplish. In advocacy, those distinct ideas may surround the types of legislative and regulatory issues they want to address. But along the way, our organizations sometimes allow someone else to drive (i.e. board of directors, president, committee members). This has the potential to lead the association in the wrong direction and if the association travels too far, it is more difficult to get back on track toward those initial ideas and goals. Every association needs to ensure that they are operating from the same map and empower volunteers to not fall asleep at the wheel.

So here are four simple ideas to make sure you have enough money to get to your association’s version of Aspen:

  • Develop a concise advocacy agenda for your committee. Being broad and vague is a breeding ground for pet projects. Come up with 3 distinct priorities where you will focus your resources for the year. Revisit the priorities each year to ensure they are still relevant.
  • Develop a strategy document which is the map for how you will carry out your advocacy agenda. Once you set your priorities it is important to be able to measure what steps have been taken to advance the priorities. It also paints a clear picture for the board and the committee to understand how public policy can be impacted. Your strategies should also be revisited to ensure you are accomplishing what you initially set out to do.
  • Map your advocacy agenda to the association’s strategic plan. An advocacy agenda is only a continuation of the strategic plan. If your strategic plan states that you will advocate on behalf of apples, your advocacy agenda should not state that you will influence legislation impacting fruit. Influencing legislation impacting fruit could be a strategy for getting apples a seat at the table, but your resources should not be spent on fruit in general.
  • Get buy-in. Conversations with board and committee members prior to developing an advocacy agenda can help avoid any disagreements all together. The success of an advocacy agenda relies on the collective voice of the association and members feeling as though they have skin in the game.

Accomplishing advocacy goals is an important part of any association’s activities, so taking at least these four ideas into consideration will help ensure you don’t end up like Lloyd and Harry – well off track from where you were trying to go.



Additional Posts by Jordan Wildermuth

Running the Race for Advocacy


Photo Credit: Wrong Way by Elaine with Grey Cats is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

 

 

Dealing with Disruption and Competition to the Association Industry – A Q&A With Stephanie Mercado, CAE

By Bruce Hammond, CAE, Senior Manager, Corporate Marketing & Communications

On a monthly basis, AMC’s Management Team holds a meeting that includes a generative discussion on a topic of importance to association leaders. This month, the topic focused on competition to the association industry, and the discussion jumped from innovation to risk to Board composition to the speed at which associations make decisions.

Following that discussion, we asked Stephanie Mercado, CAE, who serves as executive director of our client the National Association for Healthcare Quality (NAHQ), to answer a few questions on some of the topics that were discussed. 

20160114 Stephanie M 389AMC: In the discussion, you mentioned that we need to be engaging with people who are on the leading edge to help us get ahead of the competition. Can you talk more about that concept?

Stephanie Mercado: Associations are known for convening people who have shared experiences or interests; there is a natural tendency for people to ‘associate’ with people like themselves though an association. The limitation of bringing like-minded people together is that experiences and perspectives are often similar(ish). Associations are wise to do market research to find out the needs of their constituents, but if we only ask the people who we know about what we know, we can limit our organizational perspective and potential. Exposure to outsiders who can offer market intelligence, in advance of market research, is a thoughtful business practice that helps round out insider thinking. Look for experts in your industry, but outside of your association, to offer fresh insights and perspectives to leverage your organization.

AMC: We all realize that Boards are often restricted by size, meaning that some of the people on the leading edge aren’t able to serve. How can associations build a Board culture that embraces the thoughts and opinions of those who are on the leading edge but not currently serving on the Board?

SM: For-profit boards are very strategic about board composition. They enlist board members based on specific criteria, not just for board service, but to ensure the purpose of the seat is achieved. For example, there may be seats designated for CFO-level talent if the organization is in need of savvy insights related to finance or acquisition. Or, there could be a seat designated for someone who serves as an industry influencer. Often in non-profits, board members are selected based on their commitment to service or to the profession. When this happens, the board is not always strategically balanced to support desired organizational outcomes. If your board is experiencing this, one way to expand thinking is to engage thought leaders. These thought leaders can support the board with one-off insights or could be integrated into the board through a director at-large position. The integration and touchpoints depend on what the board needs and with what frequency.

AMC: What are some of the strategies you are using to be sure you’re getting the insights from thought leaders on a regular basis?

SM: NAHQ leaders and I attend industry events monthly. We attend conferences, seminars and meet with organizational peers to keep our finger on the pulse of the changing healthcare quality environment. When the pace of changes outside of your organization is faster than the pace of change inside your organization, there is a risk of irrelevance. Physically attending events and building relationships with industry leaders keeps NAHQ leadership apprised of industry changes and helps our organization prepare to respond to them. My leaders include me in these meetings because they view me as the tie that binds the ideas and relationships together and because as Executive Director, part of my role is to lead innovation and growth.

AMC: One of the concepts that was mentioned in the discussion was that for-profit competitors aren’t bogged down with the bureaucracy of associations and can bring things to market faster than we can. How can associations counter that?

SM: Associations by nature, and generally by design, move slower than their corporate for-profit counterparts. And, as a result, their growth is slower and impact is potentially lessened. This is particularly threatening when for-profit groups begin competing in space traditionally occupied by non-profits: annual conferences, online learning, content development and curation. A key to gaining a competitive advantage is decreasing time to market on products. Associations that are nimble are working differently and the results are impressive. Here are a few suggestions to decrease time to market:

  • Consider making product decisions on a rolling basis so that you are not bound by board meeting dates and annual budget cycles.
  • Develop a standardized product/idea evaluation cycle so that when ideas do come in ‘off cycle’ your organization has a predictable process to develop business plans and assess them with limited variability.
  • Use standing committees sparingly. Instead, opt for ad hoc work groups to develop products.
  • Hire a subject matter expert (SME) from your industry as staff who can help fill in the gaps between staff and volunteers between meetings.
  • Implement 90- or 120-day product development cycles.

AMC: Another concept that was mentioned in the discussion is that associations, by their nature, are risk averse. Boards want to make decisions only after seeing all the facts. How can association executives work to create a culture of calculated risk-taking on their Boards, and why is that important?

SM: When things feel uncomfortable, it’s likely that growth and progress are occurring. And, yet, most associations get into an annual rhythm that is predictable, reliable, and safe. Those same associations are often frustrated with the value the organization is offering to members, and may be experiencing declines in membership. Associations (aka association boards) will take on risk when they have confidence that their decision is informed, when the benefits outweigh risks and when they are sure that they have the human resources needed to complete the task and monitor progress into the future. Tools for informed decisions are product/service development processes, business plans and competency assessments. When it comes to taking on risk, the process is more important than the product. Association leaders need to provide a framework for innovation that advances new initiatives, while respecting the need to make innovation predictable, reliable, and safe.

AMC: When thinking about competition for the association industry, are there any other strategies that you use that help you look further ahead than the issues you’re dealing with now (without consulting your crystal ball)?

SM: Association leaders and executive directors have the challenging role of monitoring today and planning for tomorrow. The larger and/or more sophisticated the organization is, the more likely it is that the leadership can focus on tomorrow – middle management will handle the work of today. There are strategies to monitor trends in the industry. These may include keeping up with reading in your trade/profession, connecting frequently with thought leaders, and keeping up with innovations. The two characteristics that are most important for staying at or ahead of industry innovations are discipline and dot-connecting. Discipline is required to keep an eye on the future. It’s much easier to monitor what you manage, but this does not move an organization forward. Also, dot-connecting is key as it is a tool to help leaders identify trends and relationships between concepts. Dot-connecting helps leaders anticipate the future and to plan for it.

AMC: How often are you looking at the disruption and competition for the association industry versus the competition your own association faces? Can/should it happen more often?

SM: Good association leaders focus on managing the association. Great association leaders focus on understanding and leading their trade/profession and apply that to the association to build a better association value proposition.



Stephanie Mercado, CAE, serves as the executive director of the National Association for Healthcare Quality. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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Photo Credit: Speed by snapp3r is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

 

Ask the Young Professionals - Question of the Quarter

By AMC

Just as it is important for association leaders to hear from established leaders on topics of importance to our industry, we feel that it is also important to hear from up-and-coming professionals on topics important to them. Thus, we've created our Ask the Young Professionals series here on the blog. Here’s our second question, as well as answers from 10 of AMC's young professionals.

If an association was looking to engage millennials/young members, what kinds of volunteer opportunities and experiences should ideally be made available to do so?


Stephanie Wimmerstedt, Education Coordinator, American Society of Pediatric Hematology Oncology and National Association of Neonatal Nurses

It is essential for the evolution of an association to involve young professionals in volunteer opportunities or to serve on committees, as they can offer fresh perspectives. Offering the opportunity to be paired with a mentor would appeal to a young professional, as well. We want to find a mentor (or a few) to help us navigate through the journey to find ourselves and the best career path. The key to engage young professionals is making them feel qualified to be a part of a project or committee and allowing them to really make a contribution. Ultimately, involving volunteers in all different career stages allows for innovation for everyone.


Val Good-Turney, Account Administrator, National Frame Building Association and Metal Construction Association

Millennials want to connect with people, see how they’re making a difference, and have fun while doing it!

1. Allow and encourage them to work with a group of people (co-workers, friends, etc.). People are more likely to sign up for something if they know other people who will be there. It also helps keep them accountable since individuals they specifically know will be counting on them.

2. Show how they will make an impact. Millennials want to know how their work is making a difference, even if indirectly. Provide case studies, statistics, infographics, etc. and make them shareable via social media. If they are involved and invested, they will want to show off exactly what they are working towards and why.

3. Have an element of fun to them. Whether there is a game, a competition, or a fun series of videos, it’s important to have something that piques Millennials' interest and shows them this is not just an ordinary volunteer experience but something that will be worth their time!


Tim Scheel, Operations and Education Coordinator, American Pain Society

For millennials and young members, something of utmost importance is the ability to network with members who are more established in their careers. One of the most popular activities at the APS Annual Scientific Meeting is the Early Career Forum, in which early career members are paired with volunteer mentors who are more established in their careers. In a sometimes volatile job market, having the ability to gather knowledge from people who are advanced in their careers can help give younger members unparalleled guidance.

To further engage younger members, it is important to give them a seat at the table. Giving younger members a place on committees and task forces ensures that this vital part of membership is heard and represented. Having the ability to be in leadership positions within an association helps to ensure future success, and mobilizes younger membership from the start.


Remy Bohn, Member Services Representative

Anything that gives direct exposure to the cause of the association.

When you give the younger crowd the back of the room jobs, or the data entry spots to volunteer, you run the risk of numbing them to your cause. Sure, the volunteer gets a nice resume filler and the organization saves some money, but after that transaction ends the cycle continues. We learn that volunteering is a means to an end. A personal end.

I think my generation wants to help in ways that make a difference, and when you allow us to see the change your association is making, you give way for volunteers to be ignited by the passion of the association. Lightning never struck a volunteer filling out his/her 500th page of paperwork. It will never happen handing out flyers to people who don’t really care, but it can for someone who sees the value an association brings to a table. 


Cara Pawlowski, Program and Product Coordinator, National Association for Healthcare Quality

I think the opportunity to meet others—either through online communities or in person—is a great way to get young people involved. Starting off in a career, we are often looking for a mentor, or simply some perspective on where the field is going and how we can make a difference.

Our younger members want to see our association bring a sense of inclusiveness and community to our conference. We are working to achieve that through networking events and group activities, as well as replacing symbols of hierarchy, like a long string of ribbons on a badge, with invitations for conversation, like a button that says, ‘Ask me about data analytics!’.


Lawrence Hammer, Marketing Coordinator, National Association for Healthcare Quality

I really value things that can give back to the community and do some good for the environment as well, so something like a natural landmark/park cleanup or day of service is something I’d imagine a lot of people around my age could get behind. That or something as simple as volunteering at a soup kitchen because it’s something that everyone is able to help out with equally and provides immediate aid.


Taylor Thomas, Meetings Coordinator

I believe a key factor in driving millennials and young members to engage in volunteer opportunities for an association is making sure they have multiple ways and multiple platforms to get involved. If volunteer opportunities are easily visible through social media platforms, emails, websites, etc. it allows an accessible and quick way to connect, and it allows millennials to share experiences and network with other young members to further support the cause.


Olivia Schmit, Education Coordinator, American Association of Neuroscience Nurses and International Transplant Nurses Society

For millennials, I think a shared viewpoint is transparency. We like to see how our careers can progress if we put in hard work. For this, I believe that associations can engage young members by providing mentorship opportunities. We are also a generation who seeks continued feedback, so an opportunity to work with leaders in the industry will excite us.

Millennials are also full of innovation and their ideas could move educational conferences into the future. Opportunities to work on a planning committee could not only benefit the association as a whole but allow young members to engage in a project that they can see from start to finish.


Amanda Duski, Meetings Coordinator

I personally enjoy when there are opportunities to do community service projects or other non-profit volunteer work. It provides a way to network with colleagues while also giving back. This past year I attended a networking/volunteer event where we made baby blankets for orphans and it was a great way to get to know others in the industry with no pressure.


Christopher Hall, Operations Administrator, AMC Professional Relations & Development department

Associations that are attempting to engage millennials may want to consider the following strategies:

1). Use a notable speaker to bring awareness to a conference. Just like a university recruits a commencement ceremony speaker, associations should consider hiring an unbiased notable public figure to speak at one of their events. I think it’s refreshing to see a different side of a celebrity/athlete/public figure raising awareness to a topic that doesn’t necessarily apply to them. 

2). Utilize social media to the max! Millennials spend hours (hours!) looking through Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. for not just their friends, but for current events and news clippings. Utilizing all forms of social media will catch the eye of millennials.

3). Promote events that force millennials to be active. Events such as 5k runs, Dance Marathons and Hunger Cleanups thrive with large attendance and will shift the emphasis away from the classroom while at a conference to being on your feet.

4). Create action plans that span several years. Millennials like to see their progress over 3-5 years of commitment, and creating a way that will show how their efforts have a lasting effect is rewarding.


Previous Young Professionals Question of the Quarter

If one of your friends was considering joining the association industry, what would you tell them is the best thing about working for associations?

 

15 Reflections from the Process of Earning the CAE

By Bruce Hammond, CAE, Senior Manager, Corporate Marketing & Communications

In December, I sat for the Certified Association Executive exam. Thankfully, I lived to tell about it, and as I write the About the Author part at the end of this piece, I get to put CAE next to my name, meaning it was a success. As I reflect on the process, the exam, and the post-exam timeframe, here are 15 anecdotes/recommendations/ideas I want to share with anyone considering taking the exam.

Earning the Credits

1. Identify a goal to take the exam and meticulously track your credits/education. If you are thinking about taking the CAE exam, identify when you’d like to sit, and begin thinking about how you’ll achieve the 100 education credits you need to compile. It seems daunting, but honestly, earning the credits is the easiest (and most fun) part of the process. It’s also important to TRACK your education diligently in a spreadsheet. It’s up to you to know what you’ve done – you can’t count on the organizations where you’ve earned your credits to help you remember what you’ve done.

2. Don’t lose credits! So in my preparation, I had set a goal of taking the CAE exam back in 2010, thus I gathered a lot of credits in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Well, stuff happened and I didn’t end up sitting until FIVE years later, making all of my 40 or so credits from 2008 and 2009 obsolete. Luckily, I stayed involved and gathered more, but I’m still kicking myself a bit for losing credits I had earned.

3. Find easy places to earn them. Your study preparation classes provide credits you can use. Webinars are easy places to earn credits. If you’re taking classes for a master’s degree, many of those count. Think about all of the education you’ve done and submit it. If it’s not usable, they’ll tell you.

Studying

1. Develop a study routine and be diligent. I’ll be the first to admit that I am not the most voracious reader. For me to be able to read all of the content, setting up a routine and a week by week goal was extremely important to my success. And having a supportive family is helpful as well. My wife and kids knew what I was trying to do, and they supported me going to the library in the evenings or on weekends to get my readings in.

2. Find someone to share your experience with. I was lucky to have someone at the office who was interested in taking the exam as well, so we formed a study buddy relationship where we would get together once per week and review. While she ultimately decided to wait to take the exam, it was invaluable to me for accountability and assistance.

3. Just the studying is really valuable. The amount of information I gained in areas where I don’t spend my time every day is really valuable. I am a more well-rounded association professional because of the studying I did for the CAE.

Pre-Exam

1. Stop studying about three-four days before the exam and try to relax. So I downloaded the cram chats from ASAE’s Collaborate and took a look at those, but I literally stopped studying around three days before the exam. I was not going to retain anything else, and frankly, I was a little burnt out from the previous 10 weeks of studying. It was time to relax and let what I learned sink in. This was the best piece of advice I received from people who had taken the test before me.

2. Briefly look over notes the day before. I did take one final look at my notes the night before the exam, but only to get things back fresh in my head before the next morning. It was not a cram session, but a light look at the material I needed a little refresher on.

3. Stay in a hotel the night before to eliminate as many distractions as possible. I live around 30 miles west of the test site, so I decided to get a hotel room in the city to avoid any potential traffic or transportation issues the morning of the exam. It was an investment that I could not recommend more highly if you live in an area that has the potential for traffic/transportation issues.

The Exam

1. Have the right mindset. I went into the exam with the mindset of “I’m confident, but this is not the one and only chance I have to pass this test.” It’s important not to get psyched out about it, and to be confident that you know the material. Ultimately, you can take the exam as many times as you need to, so stressing isn’t a valuable use of your energy.

2. The exam is different than any I’ve ever taken. Most of the questions are experience-based “If X happens, what would you do?”-type questions. You need to be able to apply the concepts rather than just be able to pass through rote memorization. I had never taken a test like this before, and it was difficult, but trust your studies and experiences.

3. Some of the tips/shortcuts that helped me the most were: SPIE (Scan, Plan Implement, Evaluate), LERP (Legal, Ethical, Reasonable, Practical), the option to spend money is typically not correct, asking legal counsel is usually a good response, polling the members is always a good idea, and volunteers should talk to volunteers and staff should talk to staff when issues arise. Antitrust is a big part of it as well, so know about it and the laws that govern it.

Post-Exam

1. Immediately post-exam, celebrate! I walked out of the room not having any idea how I did. In my mind, there was a chance I passed and a chance I failed miserably. My Dad happened to be in town the weekend I was taking the exam, so after getting my luggage at the hotel and driving home, the first thing we did was go to a local brewery so I could celebrate/decompress. After 10 weeks of studying that culminated in 3.5 hours of intense thinking, I thought I deserved a beer. You will too. Do it.

2. Share your experience with others. When I got back to the office, the few people who knew I was taking the exam immediately asked me what it was like. I talked through it probably five times the following Monday, and it was helpful to reaffirm concepts I thought I knew, and to find out what people thought about ones I thought I missed.

3. Be prepared to wait for your results. So yeah – the waiting for the results stinks. ASAE tells you it will take between 6-8 weeks for you to receive your results. For me, it took 7 weeks and 6 days. The last week was excruciating, but luckily I was prepared. I encourage you to be prepared as well.

Ultimately, studying for and taking the CAE exam was an incredible experience, and I encourage all association professionals to at least go through the process of studying. It will make you a better professional for your association and your members. If I can provide any thoughts or ideas, please feel free to reach out at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


Bruce Hammond, CAE, serves as Senior Manager of Corporate Marketing & Communications at Association Management Center. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Have any comments on this post? We'd love it if you share them on our Linkedin Company page.

Other Posts by Bruce Hammond

5 Content Marketing Tips from an Industry Rockstar

Is Failure Absolute?

Three Ideas for Effectively Thanking Members and Volunteers 

A Delicate Balance: Board Relations, Decision Quality & Change (Video)

By AMC

Healthy board relations are a critical component of successful board performance and require cultivation and nurturing. AMC principal, Mark Engle, DM FASAE, regularly consults on board development and governance topics, so when we asked him to sit down and discuss these topics in front of the camera, he jumped at the opportunity.

Join Mark as he discusses the importance of board relations, how to develop effective decision-quality, and how change affects each.

 

boardchange 1InternalImage

 


Looking for more information on improving board performance? Stay tuned for details on the third event in AMC’s three-part governance series, Board Performance: Practice Meets Culture, coming soon.

To learn more about AMC’s strategic consulting capabilities in all areas, including governance, please visit http://connect2amc.com/about-us/services/consulting

 

Ask the Management Team - Question of the Quarter

By Bruce Hammond, CAE, Senior Manager, Corporate Marketing & Communications

On a quarterly basis, we ask our executive level leaders (our Management Team) to provide their insights on a pressing question for the association industry. Here's the next question and answers from a subset of our leadership.

What would you tell a young professional who asks you “what are the one or two most important skills I should master to be successful working with volunteers?”

Jeff Engle, AMC Principal

I think one of the best things a young professional can do to be successful working with volunteers is to gain a better understanding of what it is like to be a volunteer in a professional organization. My advice is to serve as a volunteer. It’s important to serve in an organization that is run by professional staff rather than one that is completely reliant on volunteers. The goal is to have a “volunteers experience”, to learn what you, as a volunteer, can expect and appreciate about good staff support and leadership. As a volunteer, you are needed for your content knowledge, perspective, and experience. You rely on the staff for administrative support, project management, and to do everything possible so the volunteers can be successful in their assignment. Building a strong volunteer/staff relationship hinges on having a great understanding of the roles for each.

Marilyn Jansen, Director, Marketing & Business Development

You only get one chance to make a first impression so make sure your first encounter with the volunteer is positive, be friendly and dress professionally. If there is any question, err on the side of being dressed up rather than being too casual; it lets them know you care and volunteers love that! Also, listen very carefully to fully understand their needs/goals. Volunteers come and go but you are the constant, however they may not remember that. You may have heard it all before, wanting to jump in with a response to solve the problem, but be patient and hear them out before you answer. When they feel heard it enhances their volunteer experience and allows you to deliver ultimate value.

Karen Nason, CAE, Executive Director, Association of Rehabilitation Nurses

Two important skills young professionals should work on to be successful working with volunteers are project management and clear communication. For project management, it’s important to have an understanding of the outcomes you need to achieve and the timeframe required. Then you can draft a detailed plan, identifying who will do what and when. Reviewing existing processes or plans with the outcomes and deadlines in mind to determine if anything has changed since its previous implementation, if there were suggestions for improvement by the last committee or staff liaison, or if the ultimate goal has changed, are also important.

With this complete project plan in hand, your chances for clear communication have already increased. Clear communication should start with the chair of the committee or workgroup to ensure you and she/he have agreed upon expectations. If possible, a call with the chair or volunteer lead is important to establish a strong relationship. The telephone is also an excellent tool if there seems to be a miscommunication brewing since there’s nothing like the immediacy of real-time feedback to clear up misunderstandings. Plus, picking up the phone creates a more human connection. 

Phil Saigh, MA, Executive Director, American Academy of Pain Medicine

Two very important skills that will help staff in working with volunteers are the following:

Trust: Work to develop trust by establishing realistic expectations and then meeting or surpassing them. In the rare case that you see yourself poised to fall short of an expectation, be sure to advise the volunteer leader while there is still time to do something about it. The volunteer will learn to count on you if you’re true to this.

Honor their relationships: Remember that volunteers are likely to have some relationships with one another outside of the association relationships that are apparent to staff. It is important to honor those relationships as those relationships will usually influence decisions that volunteers make. If we recognize this, we are in a better position to account for these.

Stacy Sochacki, MS, Executive Director, Certification of Disability Management Specialists Commission and American Academy of Healthcare Interior Designers

It is very important to for the young professional to understand that volunteers have a “day job” and their volunteer experience is usually not their first priority. It would help if staff could visit a volunteer in their workplace to understand what they do in their day job. Meeting volunteers where they are is a valuable experience that can enhance future interactions. This perspective will heighten the staff’s sensitivity to a volunteer’s time commitments on the job and definitely help the staff member when working with volunteers on specific projects. The other tip is determining what specifically the staff member can do to make the volunteer successful and enhance their volunteer experience. Being able to adapt to various styles of the volunteers is extremely important and will set the staff member up for success as well.

Chris Welber, MBA, Executive Director, North American Neuromodulation Society

I would say one of the skills someone should consider mastering is diplomacy. When working with your board(s), you’ll encounter a myriad of opinions and ideas on different matters and it will be important to make sure that everything is considered with appropriate perspective. I find this useful when trying to lead or weigh in on discussions where some opinions tend to be louder or more forceful than others.


Previous Ask the Management Team Questions:

What is the issue that will affect the association industry the most (either positively or negatively) over the next decade? 

To learn more about the AMC Management Team, please visit the Our Experts section of our website. 

Healthy Associations Are Healthy Businesses

By Rob Oakes, Business Analyst, AMC Consulting

You can’t fulfill your mission if your business is failing. Your business cannot succeed unless you have a growing base of satisfied customers. In my experience, these two statements are often underappreciated by associations. In fact, as I’ll share, they are sometimes just ignored.

“Business” Is Not a Four-Letter Word

Before joining Association Management Center, I interviewed with a healthcare association executive, who asked me, “How do you like to begin a project,” and, thinking I was providing a textbook answer, I responded:

“I like to begin by inviting the stakeholders to identify the business requirements.”
“Hmm…,” he said, “The Doctors don’t like that word.”
“Which one -- ‘Stakeholders?’”
Business… They’re uncomfortable with it.”

I can’t speak for the “Doctors,” but suspect that what he meant by “Doctors” were the board members to whom he reported, and to whom he felt ultimately accountable.

“I like to refer to them as ‘activities’,” he continued.
“Activities?”
“Yes. Activities… with business objectives. As opposed to activities which are aligned with the mission.”
“Hmm… So there are activities, which are critical to the business, and other, different activities, which are critical to the mission?”
“Yes. But we don’t describe it that way.”

Maybe you can relate to this conversation, and the feeling that making money and fulfilling the mission of the organization are irreconcilable. But are they? And, if so, why?

A Webinar to Nowhere

I was assisting in the production of a series of webinars to which only a few people were registering and attending. The plan was to produce more. The webinars were free of charge because they were “critical to the mission of the organization,” yet it was almost impossible to sell a sponsorship to a webinar that didn’t have an audience. So, why were we doing it? Because it was part of a strategic goal of the organization to produce them. The webinars were the goal, not the attendance, and not the revenue.

I’ve seen scenarios like this with meetings, online learning, print publications and other products, which failed to reach their audience and were created simply because there was a strategic goal demanding their existence. And, it made me stop and ask these two questions:

  • How can an activity be critical to the mission if it’s not important to the business?
  • How are we fulfilling the mission if nobody is buying what we’re selling?

Non-Profit Is Not a Business Strategy

I didn’t come up this phrase. I wish I had. (I understand it’s a variation of “Hope is not a strategy,” which is also applicable.) I heard it during a conference session, from an experienced strategist who had grown weary of repeating it. “Non-profit” is obviously a tax status, and is certainly not a strategy. For some associations, however, where there should be a business strategy, there’s often a strategic goal, which is aligned with the mission, along with various tactics to help achieve it, but the tactics are actually a list of product deliverables:

  • Engage new audience to expand organization’s influence
    • Launch regional meeting for that audience
    • Create online programming for that audience
    • Publish online and print content for that audience

It’s hard to miss the circuitous logic here. There are fundamental questions left unanswered -- Why are we engaging this new audience? What’s the opportunity? What are we trying to achieve? What are the steps to achieving it? What does it mean to “expand the organization’s influence?” How do we know when we have succeeded? What are the key performance indicators? And, crucially, who’s accountable for achieving them?

Let’s suppose the following business requirement:

  • Increase member revenue by x%
    • Increase member retention
    • Acquire new members

And, for the purposes of this example, let’s focus in on acquiring new members:

  • Increase member revenue by x%
    • Acquire new members
      • Identify fast-growing, but under-served member segment
      • Identify products and/or services, which deliver the most value to those members
      • Measure cost of acquiring those members

So, how does this business requirement fit in with our strategic goal?

  • Engage new audience to expand organization’s influence
    • Increase member revenue by x%
      • Acquire new members
        • Identify segment
          • Create products and/or services, which create value for the members in that segment

Now, in case the “Doctors don’t like that word,” we can see how the deliverables are still tied to a mission-aligned strategic goal, but they are tightened by a clear business requirement. The products can’t be mistaken for tactics. They are the output of tactics, and they have a clear performance indicator: member revenue.

The Customer Comes Eighth

This facetious phrase is from Art Kleiner’s, Who Really Matters. The first chapter opens with an anecdote about a young executive toasting various division heads and sardonically concluding, “The customer comes eighth,” after them, of course! Maybe you can relate to the feeling that you are a servant of multiple masters: difficult boards, needy executives, unwieldy technology, Byzantine processes, etc.

In Race for Relevance, the authors challenge what it means for an association to be more “businesslike,” but they emphasize the following distinction:

“Unlike a business, associations don’t have to focus as heavily on the bottom line. Instead, they are challenged with clearly identifying how to help members be more successful and determining how to deliver this value in a way that’s both convenient and accessible. More than ever, the way associations become more successful is to help their members do the same.”

Who does your organization serve? And, where does your customer come in line? -- Third? Sixth? Eighth?

With this in mind, and since I’m in a ‘quotey’ mood, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite business-related quotes:

“Somebody once told me, ‘Manage the top line, and the bottom line will follow.’ What's the top line? It's things like, why are we doing this in the first place? What's our strategy? What are customers saying? How responsive are we? Do we have the best products and the best people? Those are the kind of questions you have to focus on.” Who said this?


Learn more about Association Management Center’s strategic consulting services, and contact us so we can share our experience with you.

Rob Oakes, MFA, is a business analyst in AMC's Catalyst Consulting department. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . And if you have any comments on the article, we invite you to take a look and comment on our Linkedin Company Page

5 Content Marketing Tips from an Industry Rockstar

By Bruce Hammond, CAE, Senior Operations Manager

She may not have the name recognition of Beyonce or Dave Grohl, but in the content marketing world, Amanda Todorovich is a real rockstar. She is a regular presenter at Content Marketing World and other large industry conferences, and was named a Direct Marketing News 40 Under 40 recipient in 2015. And that’s in addition to her day job – leading the content marketing efforts for the Cleveland Clinic, one of the world’s leading health systems.

Last December, I had the pleasure of sharing the stage at the Association Forum Holiday Showcase with Amanda (who also happens to be a college classmate of mine) where we talked about Cleveland Clinic’s content marketing efforts, and how associations can turn some of her strategies and tactics into content marketing success.

In prepping for the session and then facilitating the conversation with her, I was able to whittle down how they have been so successful into five tips for associations in creating an effective content marketing program.

1. Articulate a content strategy.

Cleveland Clinic’s content strategy is very simple: Engage users in daily conversation using health, wellness and clinical content that is unique to Cleveland Clinic. They’ve boiled down their content strategy to one sentence. Amanda mentioned that is valuable for a few reasons – it is a roadmap for the type of content that they should (and shouldn’t) be posting, and having it in writing is an opportunity to share it regularly and consistently with people who participate in writing for their blog. As a resource, take a look at this post from Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, about creating a content marketing mission statement.

2. Have your customer/member/reader top of mind all the time.

Amanda and her team have created Judy – a fictional 60-year old grandmother who is an avid Facebook user and who makes the majority of the medical decisions for her family. They go into much more detail into this “person’s” psychographics (even going so far as to creating a Pinterest board for things that Judy might like). This is the person who is top of mind in every piece of content they produce, and is who they create every piece of content for. By spending the time to create this “person” and ensure they understand her, they ensure they are crafting content that will be read and gain traction. So what does your main persona look like? Who are you trying to reach?

3. Your blog is just where your content goes. The “marketing” piece of content marketing is more important.

Your blog is essentially just a container. It’s where you put the content you create. The real success of your strategy comes from getting eyeballs on that content. Doing so means utilizing a variety of strategies to get it in front of your target audience and knowing where and how they like to consume the kind of content you are producing (more in #4 below). Amanda and Cleveland Clinic got the vast majority of their traffic early on using Facebook as the place to post. They knew Judy was on Facebook looking at her kids and grandkids’ photos, connecting with friends, etc. So they invested in building their following there and they saw tremendous success. Today, their #1 traffic source is from Search Engine Optimization, which is an important tool to ensure you’re being found in search engines.

4. Fish where the fish are.

A question was asked near the end of the presentation from an audience member regarding whether his organization should be on social media platforms where he wasn’t sure if his members were interacting. Amanda’s response, which after she said it seemed a little obvious, was that you don’t want to be the first somewhere hoping that you can convince others to come join you. Why be on Twitter if your target audience isn’t there? You’ll be wasting a lot of time marketing your content with little potential for success in reaching your goals. Do your research to find out where your customers/readers are now, and invest time and resources in helping them find your content there.

5. Constantly use data to inform and enhance your efforts.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway I got from my interactions with Amanda was the incredible importance they place on data and using analytics. And for a 20-person content department with a large budget, interestingly they only use Google Analytics and the free insights programs provided by the social platforms they are on. They invest very little money, but a great deal of time in learning about what works/doesn’t (through A/B Testing), as well as finding out when is the best time of day for their specific audiences to engage with their content.

By following these five tips, you’ll be well on your way to launching a new hit content strategy, and perhaps one day you’ll be seen as the Beyonce or Dave Grohl of association content marketing. 


Bruce Hammond, CAE, serves as a Senior Operations Manager at Association Management Center. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Have any comments on this post? We'd love it if you share them on our LinkedIn Company page.


Other Posts by Bruce Hammond

Is Failure Absolute?

Three Ideas for Effectively Thanking Members and Volunteers

The Impact of Mobile

 

 

Running the Race for Advocacy

By Jordan Wildermuth, MSW, Manager, Health Policy and Advocacy

Kenyans and Ethiopians have dominated the sport of distance running for many years. What sets them apart from the rest of the field is their technique of pack running. They run in a large group (or pack) and use each other to set the pace, fend off the wind, and conserve energy. Even though they are working together, and the goal of each individual is to try and win the race, they realize that in order to do so they need the help of their teammates.

So what happens when associations utilize the pack running technique in advocacy? Just like in running, they give themselves a better chance of being competitive.

Many times, it’s easy to brush off advocacy to a larger organization with similar interests, but is that other organization truly representing your membership and your strategic plan? You are running in the same pack but at any point in the race the pace could change and you could find yourself behind, breathing heavily, or dropping out.

So how does a small to mid-sized association accomplish their advocacy goals while being cognizant of available resources? It’s not necessarily about doing more with less, but rather clearing the clutter and uncovering hidden talent and resources.

Here are a few ideas to ensure you’re giving yourself the best chance to win the race for advocacy.

Join a Team

By participating in a coalition you are contributing your association’s expertise and voice. Here are a couple ways to maximize your coalition participation:

  • Identify a member to serve as the key representative who participates in meetings and activities and then have that individual report back to the Board with any action items.
  • Align each policy priority with a coalition that is currently working on the same or similar issues as a way to carry out your agenda.

These two items can lead to the dilemma of having signed onto many different letters to Congress or Federal agencies, but not having done anything to highlight your association’s niche. Most coalitions operate on modified consensus so the issues are usually discussed in more general terms that are applicable to all coalition members. This provides the opportunity to sign on to the coalition letter, then also submit your own letter that integrates the coalition’s perspective AND highlights your niche or specialty. This also opens up the opportunity for further collaboration.

Find New Training Partners

Another opportunity that is increasing is nominating members for committees or work groups within Federal Agencies. Through the nomination process you are not only putting forth an individual but raising the profile of your association by nominating them on your behalf. Nomination opportunities routinely require specialized skill sets which lend themselves to the work of smaller specialty associations.

Be Competitive

Internal lobbying is an important aspect of advocacy as well. Members are being inundated with blast emails about conference, educational opportunities, membership benefits, and advocacy tends to be buried because it is not a revenue generator. Work across departments to integrate some advocacy component in your marketing and education.

There’s no doubt that advocacy can be a viable function of your association. No matter the size of your membership or your budget, by doing these things and using the pack technique, you can be a competitor in the advocacy race.


Jordan Wildermuth, MSW, is a health policy and advocacy manager for three AMC client organizations. He also knows racing, as he was a 2014 Boston Marathon participant. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

If you have a comment on this post, we'd love it if you shared it on our Linkedin Company page today!

 

5 Steps to Your Very Own Style Guide

By June Pinyo, MA, Managing Editor, AMC Creative Media Services

We hear often about organizations working to “eliminate silos” and encourage collaboration and shared ownership. When it comes to content strategy, this process also can mean increased opportunities for inconsistency, disjointedness, and maybe even conflict.

In days past, a single person or a small team was responsible for a handful of direct marketing pieces and e-mails, and brand management was a much easier and simpler task for associations. Today, our brands extend far beyond a printed brochure to social media, websites, blogs, and more, including accounts and feeds that we do not own or control. Content is generated and shared at a speed and volume that’s impossible for a single person to manage with any effectiveness.

Style guides can help make your association’s many pieces of content cohesive, complementary, and effective by establishing a common set of guidelines. It also keeps all individuals who touch content in some way focused on what’s most important—the messaging—rather than whether a bracket or hyphen is the correct punctuation.

Create your own style guide with these 5 steps to make sure your brand is communicated consistently and accurately by anyone creating or reviewing content on your association’s behalf.

1. Know Who You Are.

Is your association’s identity explicit and clear or is it hidden between the lines of vague mission and vision statements? The association can slowly lose control of its personality when writers create content based on a collection of their own personal assumptions. Before you end up with a library of content entangled in misconceptions and oversimplifications, take your brand identity out of the abstract by naming specific characteristics.

I like Gather Content’s suggestion to briefly describe what you are but also what you’re not. Choose at least 3 words that convey your personality as well as 3 words that are the opposite. For example, you may want to present the association as “professional but not stuffy” or “compassionate but not overly emotional.”

Certainly, you’re aiming for consistency in how you represent personality, but it also makes sense that your tone, and not to mention the content itself, will have slight variances depending on the delivery vehicle. For example, your casual, conversational tone on Twitter might be fairly different from the formal one you present in your printed membership brochure. While it may seem obvious, the subtle nuances of the different voices can get lost or be misunderstood if not expressed clearly. Consider every outlet through which your content is delivered, and establish a tone for each.

2. Know Your Audience.

Gather Content makes clear the importance of knowing your audience when it says, “A style guide recognizes a link between what your audience needs and the best way to fulfill that need in the most impactful way.”

Target audience segments can be made more accessible and tangible with personas. They also encourage prioritization of the audience over a writer’s own agenda, inherently making that content more effective. Personas are particularly helpful when enlisting the help of freelancers and volunteers, in other words, people who may not intimately know your organization or who are inexperienced writers.

For associations, it’s especially important to remember that your website visitors, for example, are not all highly engaged members. Your audience also includes inactive members and prospective customers who are interested in your offers but don’t know the language you use to talk about your products and services.

Be careful not to get carried away in your descriptions of these personas, though. Keep them simple and easy to absorb. Your goal here is to provide writers and reviewers someone to envision, not to distract or overwhelm them.

3. Set Guidelines for Graphics and Formatting.

A branding style guide will include instructions for brand colors, logo use, etc., but for our purposes, you’ll want to include some guidelines for formatting different types of content, such as images, headlines, and list styles. It will also be helpful to include examples of appropriate and acceptable sources for borrowed content and how to indicate credit. Tip: results from a Google search are not free for the world to use.

Here are some questions HubSpot suggests you consider:

  • Where can writers source images, and how do they properly attribute them?
  • When should images align to the right, to the left, or in the center?
  • Should text wrap around images?
  • What are the RGB and hex codes for your text and headers?
  • What typefaces can be used?
  • Can writers use italics, bold, or underlining? If so, is usage limited to certain occasions, like bolding headers and hyperlinks?
  • Which kind of bullets should be used (square, round, or other), and how should they align with the rest of the text?
  • How should numbered lists appear: "1", "1." or "1.)"?

4. Get to the Specifics. Provide Examples.

This is where you get to the technical nitty gritty, which is more effectively communicated when examples accompany the principles you’re describing. Most style guides include an alphabetical list of common grammar, spelling, and punctuation issues and other frequent considerations. If you have an editor on staff, he or she may already have some form of this that they use.

It’s also important to know (or choose) which external style manual you will use, because they each have different rules (more like standards) on comma use, how to list references, etc. Associations whose content is highly technical also would benefit from lists of preferred terms (or spellings) and commonly used jargon.

Other areas where I’ve often seen high variability from one communication to the next include

  • time, date, and address formats (11:00 AM or 11 AM or 11 am)
  • credential and title formats
  • acronym treatments
  • use of hyphens in words like e-mail and online
  • use of the “%” symbol or spelled out as “percent”
  • inclusion of the “www” prefix in a URL.

5. Share It. Enforce It. Update It.

Now that you have crafted this formidable document, don’t make the mistake of placing it some nondescript binder in your “resource library” where it will be forgotten and inevitably become outdated. HubSpot recommends including others in every step of the process, even when drafting the style guide, to get not only their input but also their buy-in.

“Instead of mandating the rules your entire company must use when writing, get a few people together to help create the style guide as a group. Ideally, this little committee will span more than one department to increase the likelihood of widespread adoption.”

The document itself should live somewhere easily accessible by everyone who touches content, preferably on a shared drive or intranet. The hope is that it will be referenced often, hopefully every time content is written or reviewed.

The Content Marketing Institute recommends launching your style guide much like you would a product. “Create a mini-campaign to ensure that copies get into everyone’s hands, as well as to let them know why adhering to a style guide is important.” Make everyone aware of the standards, and reference it to help settle differences of personal opinion (serial comma or no?).

Finally, another way to make sure your style guide doesn’t suffer the fate of who-knows-how-many New Year’s resolutions is to update it frequently. It’s inevitable that you will run into a number of items to add, even the very day you “complete” it. By making the document easy to update, you’ll keep it relevant and useful.

But remember to relax your grip on the red pencil as well. The style guide is meant to encourage consistency, elevate the quality of your content, and support the values of your association. Don’t let it get in the way of creativity and progress. Continue to play in the sandbox—just give the sandbox some walls.


June Pinyo, MA is a managing editor in AMC’s Creative Media Services department and co-lead for the AMC Content Managers User Group. For more tips and conversation on content marketing, follow June on Twitter.

Other posts by June Pinyo:

12 Content Marketing Terms to Know

3 Content Marketing and Digital Strategy Lessons from the Call to Action Conference

PCMA Convening Leaders 2016 From AMC Attendees' Perspectives

By AMC

From January 10-13, five of AMC’s meeting professionals descended upon Vancouver for Convening Leaders, the large annual event put on by the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA). When they returned, we asked them to tell us about their top takeaways.

In reading them, you might notice a theme in their responses – the continued importance of networking, whether within the meetings industry or in the events they’re planning.

Stephanie Dylkiewicz, CMP

My big takeaways from PCMA were most importantly - networking. Often the most important connections and conversations take place during networking events and in the hallways between sessions at this event and the ones we plan for our associations. The opportunity to have so many in the industry in one location at one time is a wealth of conversations just waiting to happen. Another quote from one of my favorite speakers during the meeting, Mel Robbins, was “Go the extra INCH”. Often, the thought of going the extra mile is overwhelming, but if you extend your arm out and then stretch it just one inch more, the thought of going just that extra inch is easily achievable and over time all of the inches add up to a mile.

Kelly Jena

Taking a look back at my first Convening Leaders event, I would have to say my biggest takeaway was networking. I met many meeting professionals who share not only my same challenges but also fresh ways to handle different situations. It is always refreshing to hear about new ideas that I can implement within the annual meetings that I help plan. The second main takeaway was from a session titled The Happy Hour Effect which asked the question why should we limit ‘happy’ to just 1 hour? The takeaway was to try to bring motivation to whatever we are trying to accomplish and become a better leader. The speaker also touched upon work-life balance and how everyone is always concerned about separating their work and personal lives. However, she mentioned that everything blends together no matter how hard you try to “separate” and the key is to accept the blending of the two.

Kari Messenger

As this was my first PCMA conference, my biggest takeaway was how important building and maintaining relationships are within the meetings industry. During the conference, I was able to connect face-to-face with those that I worked with but never met in person. By having the opportunity to network with those individuals, I was able to discuss what my association clients’ needs are as well as obstacles that have been faced in the past. This opened the door for more conversations on what type of locations/space would best fit their future needs.

Vanessa Mobley, CMP

My biggest takeaway was alternative learning environments. At PCMA, they really moved away from doing the standard theater and/or classroom sets. Most session rooms had mixed set ups – long tables, cocktail rounds, high boys, couches, etc. They also had learning labs located throughout the foyer areas of the convention centers. These were as simple as 10 to 20 chairs in a semi-circle around a plasma screen on a stand. The learning labs were used for short 15 to 20 minute presentations on an array of topics from fitness while traveling, apps, LinkedIn, etc.

Darlene Somers, CMP

Every attendee survey I have seen lists networking in the top three most popular reasons for meeting attendance. Creating small conversation areas in the public space and adding more open time in the schedule of events facilitates the networking that so many attendees crave. Our members come to our events hoping to solve problems—solutions are often found during one-on-one discussions between sessions or during networking events. Building spaces to encourage this interaction adds value to the attendee experience and creates fans of our events.


Did you attend? What were your big takeaways? Let us know by commenting on our Linkedin Company page. We'd love to hear what you took away from the event.

Photo Credit: “Vancouver” by Cliff Hellis is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

 

Being Sherlock: Searching for Clues When Marketing a New Program

By Allison Lundberg, Account Manager, Hospice Medical Director Certification Board

To me, marketing is like detective work. It takes a lot of trial, error, and data to answer your burning questions, but once you put together pieces of the puzzle, it becomes an extremely effective tool.

Three years ago, my association, the Hospice Medical Director Certification Board, was launched into the buzz that is the credentialing world. We had previously participated in a market research study to make sure the credential was necessary, effective, and contained a large universe of candidates. The study said “Yes! Let’s do this thing!” and our brains said “Ok, but how?”

So we started down a long journey of legal items, procedure writing, planning, volunteer determination and more. You know, the fun stuff... But when it came around to marketing the launch, we put on our Sherlock hats and the real detective work began!

1. Creating a Database

When you start up a new organization, you have a database of zero. Yikes. In order to build our database and not panic, we exhibited at large industry conferences, obtained names, and purchased lists that we would use in our marketing efforts. Through forums, events, and contacts, we also identified key players in the industry that would volunteer their time to be our voice and advocate for our certification. Sometimes your detective work is finding volunteers whom people trust in order to create that peer-to-peer marketing effect. I don’t know about you, but I personally don’t make a large purchase without consulting my friends or family first. I want to trust that I am making a good decision and am making it worth my while. So we found our trusty volunteers that opened our eyes to organizations, lists, and threads with which we should engage to help us. The more exposure you get, the more the communication web grows.

2. Identifying and Segmenting Your Audiences

After building our database, we identified two main target audiences: physicians and CEOs. At my organization, we have a demographics program that requires an individual to update their demographic information prior to making a purchase on our website. With this technology, we are able to demographically segment our lists to target physicians and CEOs to create a valuable message for each group. Physicians look to see how certification can benefit them, while CEOs look to see how certification can benefit their organization. Two different audiences have two different needs so we shoot for two different messages. Lack of segmentation causes someone like Petco to send you a promotion for dog beds when you don’t even own a pet. It wastes your time and they waste their resources. Segmenting your audiences makes for more effective marketing and allows you to focus your marketing dollars in the right place.

3. Determining Your Voice

So we created an audience, we knew how to segment them, but we didn’t know how to talk to them. Messages should be compelling, they should speak to the reader, be relatable, and establish trust. When we began our email campaign about our new certification program, we weren’t sure how to speak to them. Should our writing be catchy? Should it be passionate? Touching? Excited? Loud? Our email vendor provides a lot of data reports, which became clues in determining our voice.

After sending a few emails, we buckled down and looked at the data. In one of our well-performing emails, the data told us that nearly 58% of recipients opened the email on a mobile device, while only 18% opened it on a desktop. Since our physicians are mobile, our content needs to be quick, to the point, and mobile-friendly. This is a trend we have continued to see since we started in 2012.

We also performed some A/B testing to determine which messages are most effective. We wrote to the physician audience on similar topics with two different voices. One email was the flashy/catchy type, the “woo!” email to get people excited about learning and certifying their knowledge. The other email was touching, a remembrance of why they entered into the hospice field and how earning this certification will show their dedication to the field and to their patients. These emails were sent to the same audience a few weeks apart.

The “woo” email had a 37% open rate, while the touching email had a 55% open rate. Our physicians are passionate, humble workers, so the touching emails work better for them. Look at your email data to see what speaks to your audience. Being relatable creates trust. Make sure you establish a connection and create compelling content to really pull them in.

4. Choose Your Vehicles

I personally want an Audi A8. Whoops! Wrong vehicle. I’m talking marketing vehicles. Once you establish your organization’s voice, play with social media and see where they hang out to get their information. Through our detective work, we found that hospice physicians are on Twitter a lot, getting back to that quick, mobile content; so we focus our energies there. We continue to use data to dig up clues and find where they are seeking information. Emails are quick, easy, and effective, but what about videos, images, and personal mail. Emails can get lost, so sometimes snail mail is the way to go. Be sure to track the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns to help budget your marketing dollars more effectively in the future. Through trial and error, we have established a good mix of marketing vehicles and look to expand our plans in the coming years.

In summary, be a marketing detective. Starting a new program has so many unknowns and you can only be effective when you pay attention to what your audience and your data clues are telling you. Keep in mind that industries and people change, so your detective work is never done.

Marketing, my dear Watson.


Allison Lundberg is the account manager for the Hospice Medical Director Certification Board, and also works on AMC’s Catalyst Consulting team. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Have thoughts on the piece? Connect with us on Linkedin and share your opinions. We value your feedback!

 

Photo Credit: "HOLMES!!..." by dynamosquito is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

Our Top Five Posts of 2015

By Bruce Hammond, Senior Manager, Corporate Marketing & Communications

The year 2015 was a good one for a number of reasons – not the least of which here at AMC is that we launched our blog and began developing and publishing our own unique content on our own website. With more than 220 staff members, there is a lot of leaders within our walls, and we are now better able to share their expertise more consistently with the association community.

So with that being the case, we though we would share our top 5 most trafficked posts on our site since our launch. Take a look and let us know what you think on our Facebook or Linkedin pages. 

1. Seismic Shift – How Workforce Changes Will Alter the Face of Association Membership in the Next 10 Years 

Written by the Director of our Catalyst Consulting team, Sue Stock, this post discusses the impact the generational changes in the workforce will impact associations. Included are the importance of thinking about “customers” when cultivating and retaining members, as well as how the engagement model needs to change in the future to attract millennials to our organizations.

2. Five Considerations When Rebranding Your Association 

An excellent primer from Louise Ristau and Liz Giannini from the Awards and Personalization Association, which went through a renaming and rebranding in 2015. Their considerations included engaging with volunteers, communication tips, checking your inventory, and considerations surrounding the launch. If you’re considering going through a rebranding process, it’s a must read.

3. Ask the Young Professionals – Question of the Quarter 

We compiled the responses from 10 of our young professionals on the question If one of your friends was considering joining the association industry, what would you tell them is the best thing about working for associations? Their responses speak to the impact that can be made by association staff members, and what makes our industry unique.

4. Ask the Management Team – Question of the Quarter 

In the first of what will become a regular series of asking our Management Team to answer a big question for our industry, we asked them to answer What is the issue that will affect the association industry the most (either positively or negatively) over the next decade? The responses received spanned technology, diversity, generations, the economy and relevance. It provides a snapshot into the thoughts of senior association leaders on the issues that need to be addressed over the next decade.

5. 12 Content Marketing Terms to Know

June Pinyo, a managing editor on AMC’s Creative Media Services team and lead of the company’s internal Content Management Users Group, penned this glossary of 12 terms to know if you’re interested in content marketing. She discusses a number of important tools in this bookmark-worthy post.

Thank you for reading the blog and for engaging with AMC! We hope you’ll continue to do so in 2016 and in the future.

Is Failure Absolute?

By Bruce Hammond, Senior Manager, Corporate Marketing & Communications

In the vast majority of cases, especially in the association industry, the answer is no. While we may not always hit our goals, the overwhelming likelihood is that we haven’t completely (and absolutely) failed.

This idea piqued my interest and got me thinking when I recently read a post titled Certain Failure on Seth Godin’s blog. In the post, Seth talks about how in everything we do, we are certain to fail to some extent, and that we need to accept that for what it is as we push toward making an impact. Failure is certain, but rarely absolute.

So let’s think about how this manifests itself in the things we do every day as association professionals. We aren’t going to convert every prospect into a member, which means we failed to some extent. We aren’t going to get every person to whom we market the annual meeting to register. Failure! We aren’t likely to get every member who is eligible to sit for our certification exam. How can we even get out of bed after that failure?

In the purest sense of the word, they are “failures”, but would any of us really consider them so? Not likely.

So let’s up the ante a little… What happens if we fail to achieve one of the aspects of our strategic plan? Did we fail to hit our goal? Yes. Is our organization still better off because of the progress that was made toward it? Likely, yes.

It’s unlikely that we converted zero prospects into members, got zero registrants for our annual meetings, or had zero of the members eligible to sit for the certification exam. It’s also unlikely that we made absolutely no progress toward our strategic plan’s goals. That would be absolute failure, and it rarely happens in our work.

So even though we can and should be frustrated when we don’t meet our goals, we should also take heart to know that we are making progress, having success toward achieving our mission and goals, and moving the association forward.

So as I close, let’s flip this concept on its head for a moment. While we may not always hit our goals or achieve our strategic aspirations that the Board and leadership lays out, in likely every one of those situations there has been not only failure but success. As you do your daily work, think about all of the successes you are having and keep pushing toward your goals.

While some level of failure is all but a certainty, in most cases, so is success.


Bruce Hammond serves as Senior Manager of Corporate Marketing & Communications at Association Management Center. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


Photo Credit: "Do not fear failure" by Tomasz Stasiuk is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

 

Change is the Only Constant

By Sue Farrell Stock, Director, AMC Catalyst Consulting

Creating value is often about embracing change. It’s about exploring options in relation to an organization’s overarching business goals. Here are a concrete example and a number of considerations about how change permeates all of what we do in associations.

Product Development Example

When talking about product development, change is surely a constant. In fact, advancing growth through product sales by creating a marketing/outreach strategy may be the right growth vehicle for an organization. Conversely, creating the SAME marketing/outreach strategy that you’ve used historically (that perhaps was very successful) may not result in success. Why? Because what worked in the past doesn’t guarantee future success, and doesn’t take into account the change that has occurred since it was last utilized. Regardless of the approach you take, change is a constant which impacts future sustainability of organizations and relationships.

We use historical data as the driver of future products – yet past practice isn’t always a predictor of future performance. What questions must association professionals ask themselves prior to launching a new business or product strategy?

  • What unmet need will be served by this new program/product or service?
  • How will we measure success of this launch?
  • How well do we understand this market/audience?
  • How well do we understand competitive threats?

Growth Considerations

Associations grow (or don’t) based on their ability to use and adapt to new information and new realities: about audience/customers or the marketplace; about industry trends or influences; and due to the ability of volunteer leaders to define strategy or policy that will advance growth objectives; finally to the staff who will operationalize those objectives.

Resource Considerations

Change often requires big resource investments – time, money and human capital. Often, when change is recognized as “needed” there is still great resistance. Why? Because the resource commitment of doing something differently is greater than staying the course. So if change feels overwhelming, might an organization consider a smaller, incremental approach rather than a major restructure, and will that result in an improved outcome?

Cultural Considerations

Cultural shift has to occur for change processes to be successful. Consider the impact culture has on change. Culture is a powerful, sometimes invisible structure that can advance or thwart change in an organization.

Opportunity Considerations

Associations often don’t consider opportunity costs – the financial impact of not doing something; or doing the right things; or doing them in the right order/timeframe. Opportunity cost is often viewed in hindsight, and it’s through this lens that it can become clear that “we could have” increased revenue through some action. The action could be reducing or eliminating complimentary meeting registrations, capturing thought leader presentations for future digital products, or a wide variety of other things.

When considering “opportunity” as an avenue to increase revenue or reduce expenses, a key invitation to change comes to mind through a simple question: Where is our opportunity to improve? Taking some small action can prove to be the key to big changes down the road, which can result in new opportunities for success.

So no matter how you look to create additional value for the organization and its members, keep in mind that things never stay the same – there is constant change that requires diligent consideration to create the future you and your members want to see.


Sue Stock serves as Director of AMC's Catalyst Consulting team. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . If you have thoughts or ideas you'd like to share about this article, be sure to check out our Facebook page and provide a comment.

Photo Credit: “Seasons Change” by Ian Sane is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

 

Our Big Takeaways from the Association Forum of Chicagoland Holiday Showcase

By AMC

Several AMC staff members attended the Association Forum of Chicagoland Holiday Showcase this past Tuesday, and we asked them to share their biggest takeaways from the event.

Sally Weir (American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology and Hospice Medical Director Certification Board)

In the CEOnly session, a speaker mentioned what kills high performance of a team - short-term thinking and micro-management.

Allison Lundberg (Hospice Medical Director Certification Board)

There are a lot of disruptions in today’s world that come from new technologies and innovations. As association professionals, we can’t be afraid of these disruptions that cause us to change, for if we don’t embrace change, it could end up hurting us.

Taylor Thomas (AMC Meetings Team)

In one of my education sessions, the speaker touched on the fact that having a positive attitude leads to more productivity, less stress, and a happier overall workplace environment. A statement he made that really stuck with me was - when someone asks you how you are doing in the morning, start off each day saying “I’m doing great,” and if you are having a day that is really not going well…reply with “I’m grateful.” Try and spend every day being great or grateful!

Judith Greifer (American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology)

The maximizing videos presentation was excellent and covered creative ideas for using videos before, during and after a meeting, along with detailed recommendations and some cost projections.

Marilyn Jansen (AMC Marketing & Business Development)

Our brunch keynote speaker mentioned this quote that I found very interesting: “the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” He also mentioned that associations should look to the 2008 fees for meeting data and not to last year’s number.

Stephanie Wimmerstedt (National Association of Neonatal Nurses and American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology)

My favorite session from the Holiday Showcase was “A Session on Sessions (on Sessions)”. We learned ways to be innovative with meeting planning but still remain cost effective. This session gave us new ideas on different presentation styles that will keep attendees engaged and interacting, staying away from the typical “talking head” presentation.

Michael Bourisaw (AMC Professional Relations & Development)

My two big takeaways were from the brunch keynote given by Michael Dominguez. He mentioned the importance of psychographics as opposed to demographics, thus truly understanding how your members and customers want to receive information instead of lumping everyone with a similar age and gender together. In addition, he included the quote “It is no longer the big fish eating the small fish but the fast fish eating the slow fish”, pointing out the need to adapt swiftly to the changing environment.

Stephanie Sayen (Association of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses)

A speaker mentioned for general sessions and keynotes at conference, using a 20-30 second impactful intro video rather than 5 minutes of people walking up/down and reading the introduction.

Brendan Sugrue (National Association of Neonatal Nurses)

The session on maximizing video for your event opened my eyes to so many possibilities on how we can engage our members and attendees not only prior to the event with promotions, but during it and after with real-time interviews and wrap up content.

Peggy Doherty (Awards and Personalization Association)

I found the information from our brunch keynote, Michael Dominguez, fascinating. Also, one of the leaders of a session said that Boards should be addressing industry trends (good and bad) at every meeting instead of ignoring them.

Bruce Hammond (AMC Corporate Marketing & Communications)

My big takeaway relates to the importance of data. In my session, my co-presenter talked about how much Cleveland Clinic uses data to tweak its approach to content marketing and how that effort has led to success. Our brunch presenter used data to effectively illustrate that associations need to understand the underlying impacts of cost related to their events. And in another session I attended, a panel addressed a question about data indicating that they felt it was imperative for moving an organization forward. Data mining and utilization is a key to success and will continue to be.

Cathy Underwood (American Pain Society)

I attended only the brunch but I thought the speaker was excellent. He succinctly outlined the stressors on successful meetings and identified trends to be aware of. One “a ha” moment for me was that as an association executive, I can lock in the room rate for the meeting but the variables in weather, transportation, animal health, etc. can significantly affect what I end up spending for food and airfare.

Maggie Patterson (Certification of Disability Management Specialists Commission)

I experienced my first Holiday Showcase earlier this week. As a marketing professional overseeing communications for a certification program, the sessions I attended broadened my understanding of membership organizations and the importance of recognizing the wants and needs of constituents/customers when planning conference, educational events and information sharing through social media. The importance of knowing your audience is key to successful outcomes.

Julie Enichen (Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association)

Small changes can have a big impact! Four ways to spice up your boring sessions are:

  1. TED style talks – short sessions without Powerpoint (approx. 10 minutes)
  2. Blended approach – send out prework to your attendees to engage their learning, incorporate mock trials, debates
  3. Gamification – use any type of game to make learning fun (Bingo, Jeopardy, etc.)
  4. Open space – create a place for attendees to post topics that may not be at the conference that they want to learn more about. They can meet one of the days to discuss in an open type fourm

Amanda Pairitz (Metal Construction Association and National Frame Building Association)

My biggest takeaway was from the keynote regarding the disruptors in the hospitality industry (F&B (e.g. bird flu), Weather (e.g. El Nino) and Airlines (e.g. Open Skies Agreement). They all affect hotel expenses! He also mentioned that organizations should be forecasting based on their 2008 budgets, as this more accurately reflects the current hotel industry.

Steve Smith (American Academy of Hospice & Palliative Medicine)

In the CEOnly session, we heard from two excellent presenters. I especially liked Andrew Miller’s talk on innovation. He discussed how to assess association “culture” related to development and implementation of new ideas. Key factors include levels of proactivity and ability to execute. He also reminded association executives that being “first to market” is not always best. In many cases, it is the second or “next” to market that is able to refine and further innovate a successful concept. Finally, Miller reminded us that innovative leaders search for opportunities that lead to success but expect failure. Idea generation is the means to innovation and needs to be encouraged and rewarded – regardless of the outcome.

Louise Ristau (Awards and Personalization Association)

In the CEOnly session, Susan Lucia Annunzio asked this question and provided these answers:

What grows high performance?

  1. Feeling valued
  2. Optimizing critical thinking
  3. Ability to seize opportunities


So what were your big takeaways? Let us know by commenting on our Facebook page or our Linkedin Company page. We'd love to hear what you took away from the event.

* Post photo is Michael Dominguez, Senior Vice President of Sales for MGM International, who served as keynote speaker at the Holiday Showcase Brunch. 

12 Content Marketing Terms to Know

By June Pinyo, MA, Managing Editor, AMC Creative Media Services

Content marketing—let’s start with this one. HubSpot defines content marketing like this:

“a marketing program that centers on creating, publishing, and distributing content for your target audience—usually online—the goal of which is to attract new customers.”

It’s the overarching strategy that considers all of an organization’s content and acknowledges the corporate website as the new storefront, the “hub,” in the business of gaining customers. It’s a philosophy of engaging customers through content curation to generate and convert leads.

The areas of mastery for a successful content marketing strategy are many. Modern marketing requires knowledge of an endless list of concepts and terms, many of which have entered the lexicon only recently. This list will hopefully answer some lingering questions you’ve had and help you polish your own strategy.

A/B Testing (or Split Testing)

This type of test is a data-based method of analyzing the performance of versions of a webpage. Because “best practice” is a moving, unpredictable target in the digital world, A/B testing allows you to check your experience and preferences against actual user behavior. Ideally, small elements of a page are tested rather than major ones. For example, you might test different headlines or button colors rather than vastly different page layouts or whole website designs.

Analytics

A shockingly large amount of data is available on website user behavior. With the right filtering and interpretation of this data, analytics can provide useful insight and support for decision making. Alexa has a great post on analytics terms, but I’ve offered a few key terms below.

  • Bounce rate reflects the percentage of users who arrived at that particular page and left your website without visiting another page. If a particular page is a final destination, somewhere visitors are intended arrive to consume information without any follow-up action, a high bounce rate may not necessarily be a bad thing. If your objective for this page is to inspire a purchase or further exploration, a high bounce rate can indicate something may need to be adjusted on that page.
  • Direct traffic indicates the segment of visitors who arrive at your website by typing the exact URL into the address bar of a browser (rather than through a search).
  • Organic search traffic indicates the segment of visitors who arrive at your website by clicking on a link found on the results page of a search engine like Google or Bing.
  • Referral traffic indicates the segment of visitors who arrive at your website by clicking a link on another website. Social referrals are those who came to your site via a link on social media.

Call to Action

This refers to the action you want the visitor to take, usually represented by a button or link, usually with the goal of getting your content shared, a product purchased, or a lead generated.

Content Curation

Much like a museum curator is responsible for a museum’s art collections, content curation is the active management of an organization’s content across all delivery vehicles, especially the website. It involves continual and attentive oversight on the timeliness, relevance, accuracy, and performance of content, old and new, original and aggregated.

Conversion, Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

The measure of conversion is dependent upon the objective of a particular campaign, web page, etc. It’s the percentage of users who complete the action you want them to take, whether it’s filling out a form for a free PDF download, registering for an event, or purchasing a product. Even if the ultimate goal won’t directly generate revenue, the goal should be measureable and conversion should be the ultimate goal. Conversion scientist Brian Massey explains this concept in a video on Unbounce’s Conversion Marketing Glossary.

Editorial Calendar

This tool helps you plan and schedule your content publication. It provides space for all the relevant information about a piece of content and should, at the very least, include its topic, target persona(s), delivery vehicle, delivery date, author, and goal. It can be as simple as an Excel or Word document with these exact column titles.

Keyword, Keyphrase

These are words or phrases users enter into search engines when looking for content on a specific topic. Certain keywords and phrases are common in target audiences and customer bases, and research into those that are most prevalent can help increase your page’s ranking on a search engine results page. Using keywords that are too broad can be a disadvantage because of too much competition, and using those that are too specific shrinks your pool of users. Keywords can also help provide insight into the kind of content that your customers are looking for that you may not currently have. Avoid overstuffing your content with keywords, especially those that aren’t very relevant, because search engines may penalize you for this tactic. Keyword Tool is a great resource for keyword suggestions and validation.

Landing Page

This term refers to a stand-alone page—usually bearing a look distinct from the rest of your website, even if it “lives” on your website—created for a specific campaign that users are directed to and has a focused conversion goal of generating leads (“Fill out this form to receive your free download” or “Register now”) or to encourage conversion through additional education or information (“View the full schedule” or “Browse our packages”). Its design and content make the call to action very clear by limiting options (no global navigation).

Metadata

Metadata includes description text that is not displayed on a webpage but that informs search engines on what that content is about. This content is found within the HTML code and is a particularly effective search engine optimization (SEO) strategy for images and videos.

Persona

A persona is an imagined user profile based on actual customer demographics that is used when developing content as a means to better target messaging. Personas help you in targeting messaging more effectively by segmenting your audience into recognizable and easy-to-grasp “individuals.”

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

This term refers to strategies used to help a website or webpage achieve a high rank in search result pages. Because 60% of all organic search clicks go to the top 3 organic search results, it is a highly effective and beneficial for website performance to aim for high search engine result rankings. SEO also has a higher return on investment, considering SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate, while outbound leads (eg, direct mail) have a 1.7% close rate. Here are a few key factors that contribute to SEO:

  • External links are hyperlinks on your page to other websites. The more connections your website has with other websites, the better.
  • Inbound links are hyperlinks to your website from other websites, which are extremely effective for improving search result rankings.
  • Internal links are hyperlinks on your website that direct users to other pages on your website. These links help search engines discover content on your website.
  • Tags are signals embedded in HTML code that indicate undisplayed information about that content. They include ALT-tags, metatags, and headline tags, among others.

Usability, User Experience (UX)

User-centered web design incorporates intuitive navigation and ease of use for visitors, known as “usability” or “user experience.” This type of web design relies on user behavior data and feedback from the end user rather than focusing solely on perspectives from within an organization. By focusing on the experience of visitors who come to your site instead of those who manage your site, you are more likely to improve the site’s performance and, in turn, conversions. 


June Pinyo is a managing editor in AMC’s Creative Media Services department and co-lead for the AMC Content Managers User Group. For more tips and conversation on content marketing, follow June on Twitter.

Photo Credit: “12” by Leo Reynolds is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Ask the Young Professionals - Question of the Quarter

By Bruce Hammond, Senior Manager, Corporate Marketing & Communications

As we have done with our Management Team, we have plans to develop questions for our young professionals to answer on a quarterly basis. Here’s our first question, as well as answers from 10 AMC young professionals.

If one of your friends was considering joining the association industry, what would you tell them is the best thing about working for associations?


Emma Thompson, Digital User Experience Coordinator, National Association for Healthcare Quality

We have many volunteers that we get to work with and they make our work meaningful and rewarding. The people that have passion and drive and share the mission of the organization make interactions and day-to-day work enjoyable and exciting. With such a wonderful group supporting the organization, we can’t help but be successful in fulfilling our mission and elevating the profession we serve.

Mason Good-Turney, Member Services Representative

It is so diverse. One moment you are helping a trade client the next you are speaking with a doctor. You never know who you will speak to and how you can help them. It makes for a very exciting day.

Brendan Sugrue, Marketing & Membership Coordinator, National Association of Neonatal Nurses

My favorite thing about working in the association industry is the opportunity to wear many hats. Coming out of college a few years ago, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do and how I wanted to utilize my degree. The association industry allowed me to work in many different facets, from working with volunteers on an upcoming conference to developing email marketing campaigns for new resources that benefit members. Every day is a new adventure and you really are able to see your work make an impact.

Allison Whitley, Operations Coordinator in AMC’s Professional Relations & Development department

I would say the best things about working for an association are definitely the people and the ability to make a difference to critical industries. The association staff are some of the most service oriented team players, and the industries we support are critical to the medical and trade professions. The work in the association industry helps members’ careers develop and aids in field innovations, while also connecting individuals, thought leaders, and industry with one another. That is rewarding to help facilitate.

Val Good-Turney, Account Administrator, National Frame Building Association and Metal Construction Association

I would say the best thing about working in associations is you really do get to help them “achieve what they believe.” Association leaders are volunteers, so their actions are driven by passion and the desire to expand their industry and that industry’s knowledge base. On another level, I think what’s great is that you get to wear a lot of hats, so to speak, when working with associations. In one day you might be assisting with a membership strategy, planning a conference, organizing meeting and registration logistics, communicating with volunteers, developing sponsorship opportunities, or processing invoices for vendors. You get so much exposure into this developed market, and gain a lot of valuable skills/work experience.

Jennifer Broome, Grant Development Coordinator in AMC’s Professional Relations & Development department

The best thing about working in the association industry would be the diversity of subject areas that you are exposed to. There truly is an association for everything. In my position, I work with multiple associations in several different industries. My day is never the same. One day I’m learning about different drugs that pharmaceutical companies have in their pipeline to assist with pain management. The next day, I’m learning about different safety standards in the post-frame building industry. Before working at AMC, these were industries that I either didn’t know much about or know of their existence.

Karl Kofmehl, Application Developer in AMC’s Information Technology department

Working with non-profit associations is both challenging and rewarding. Innovation and creativity are important to move associations forward while staying on tight budgets. This can be particularly difficult for a young professional. Generally speaking, we bring in new exciting ideas, but can often have difficulty implementing them. It takes hard-work and perseverance to keep up that struggle but the rewards come from the appreciation shown by the members and the relationships forged with colleagues. So if you love a challenge and love working with good people, the association world is calling.

Allison Lundberg, Account Manager, Hospice Medical Director Certification Board

The best thing about working in associations is the people. Not only the culture within the workplace, but also the volunteers within the associations. Our volunteers, members, and customers are extremely passionate about their niche and dedicate a lot of time to bettering their industry. Every time we have a board meeting, the volunteers reaffirm why I work where I do.

Olivia Schmit, Education Administrator, American Association of Neuroscience Nurses and International Transplant Nurses Society

As a young education professional, I never would have pictured myself getting the opportunity to work so closely with passionate nurses. Working with associations allows you use your skill sets in a diverse setting that you might not have been exposed to previously.

Amanda Duski, Meetings Coordinator

The best thing about working in the association industry is the closeness you feel to the end product. The work we do directly impacts the association members and their field, and you can physically see that by looking on their website, attending their annual conference, emailing volunteers, etc. You actually feel like you are making a difference, and that is a unique benefit you can only find in the association industry.

Three Ideas for Effectively Thanking Members and Volunteers

By Bruce Hammond, Senior Manager of Corporate Marketing & Communications

It's that time of year again – time to eat some turkey and pumpkin pie while watching the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions play in their annual Thanksgiving Day games. But Thanksgiving is also a time where we should do as the holiday’s name instructs – give thanks – to our friends and family, to people who have helped us, and for those of us in the association community, to our volunteers and members.

To be the most effective and genuine, giving thanks to volunteers really should be an ongoing process, not a once a year project. At the same time, Thanksgiving is a perfect time to purposefully set aside time to do so.

So how can we best do it? Here are three ideas for effectively giving thanks to members and volunteers:

  • Make it personal - Don't just give them a certificate. Make it something they're really going to enjoy. If you don't know what your volunteers are going to enjoy, you're not working closely enough with them (or you haven't documented enough)...
  • Make it regular - Don't wait until the end of their service to thank them or give them something to show them how much you appreciate them. Develop a system that ensures that you are doing so on a regular basis. Send regular notes. Send regular updates about something you know they are passionate about within the organization. Decide to be intentional.
  • Don’t be stingy - I use Thanksgiving as the perfect time to send a regular annual thank you to everyone who has made an impact on my work throughout the year. I use a template but personalize each person's note for something specific they've done to help make my job easier or how they've made an impact on the organization. Imagine the impact that could be made if everyone on your staff did something like this.

As we think about thanking and recognizing our members and volunteers, we need to realize it takes time and dedication. It needs to become an integral part of our culture. We MUST devote time and energy to keeping track of those who need/deserve praise and thanks, and our organizations (and leaders) must embrace that. If they don’t, the positive things and continued engagement that comes from really energized volunteers - those who feel the love and want to give it back – will not be realized. You see, when you recognize volunteers for their work and reward them for effectively serving in their role, they are more likely to continue working hard on behalf of the organization.

So what are you going to do to thank your members and volunteers this Thanksgiving? I’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts on how your organization does it. Please take a moment to head to our Facebook page and comment on the post or email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


Bruce Hammond serves as Senior Manager of Corporate Marketing & Communications at Association Management Center. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Image Credit: “Thank You” by Jen Collins is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Creating Easy, Customer-Centric Conference Registration Forms

By Beth Zemach, Senior Project Manager and Sarah Latshaw, Registration Coordinator

From our previous discussions on membership forms and a new customer’s first experience with our organizations, we learned that less is more. The form and online experience both need to be as inviting and user friendly as possible. However, cumbersome forms and processes are larger than just membership forms; it impacts conference and event registration forms as well.

Importance of the Registration Form

While it is important to provide as many opportunities and educational sessions as possible during conferences, the registration forms can become overwhelming and daunting to potential registrants, especially first-time attendees. Repeat attendees may know the options and know what to look for on the registration form, but first-time attendees are looking at the registration with fresh eyes. These attendees do not know the format of our organizations’ conferences. The registration form contains an abundance of options including full conference registrations, single day registrations, and multiple day registrations, join and register discounts, preconference events, post conference events, donations, handouts, corporate symposia events, concurrent sessions, and optional events. On top of all these registration options there are personal accommodation requests and demographic questions that our organizations ask from their registrants. With all these options and information being gathered it is no wonder that the experience can be taxing and overwhelming to the registrant. By asking for too much we may be encouraging potential attendees to not provide any information at all, potentially causing them not to attend.

Reduce, Simplify, Streamline

So how does an organization reduce, simplify and streamline a form to improve the customer experience? If your form and AMS are integrated, one way to do this is to pre-populate as many fields as possible for returning customers. If a customer who has had a satisfying experience with our association with one transaction (membership, products, conference) chooses to register for/buy another, we already have their information. Simply prepopulate a registration form with their data, ask them to confirm or update, and then pass directly to pay.

At AMC, we have a program called Informed Decisions for all healthcare organizations (membership and certification). If it has been longer than six months between transactions, their customers are asked to update their key demographic data before the next purchase. Just before check-out, a prepopulated demographic page pops-up showing the customer their profile asking for update or confirmation before completing payment. Taking this one step further, we should prepopulate all conference registration forms with demographic information and special accommodations from prior registrations which customers could quickly confirm and then pass through to the next section, allowing them to simply sign up for sessions and pay.

Rely on Data to Help

We can and should rely on data to indicate if all the options on the forms are really necessary. For example, on conference forms, the most cluttered, why do we ever ask “is this your first meeting?” Shouldn’t that information in the customer’s database record indicate whether this is the customer’s first meeting? Check - One down.

Also, as heard many times anecdotally in association meetings, the benefit of one and two day options versus only offering full conference registrations is the belief that these daily options attract locals. Is it true? What does your data tell you in post analysis of your meeting registration? Did you attract a significant number of locals? Did you make personal calls to engage them after their conference experience? Did they convert to members or stay engaged to make additional purchases? Net, does this option work? If not, get rid of it!

All in all, when it comes to forms for membership or registration, our goal is to get it! And through the superior product the organization provides (wonderful membership benefits or great conference experiences), we should strive to create an affinity and trust that allows us to gather a wealth of customer information over time, not in one place as if it was our only chance.

Have anything to add? We always appreciate your thoughts on our posts. Head on over to our Facebook page to let us know what you think.


Beth Zemach serves as a Senior Project Manager for Association Management Center. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Sarah Latshaw is a Registration Coordinator at AMC. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Photo Credit: “THAT WAS EASY” by joepopp is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

 

Do you have Grit?!

By Marilyn Jansen, Director, Marketing & Business Development

I attended the 2015 ASAE Annual Meeting in Detroit and there was one topic that really grabbed me, probably because I heard it over and over again; that topic was “Grit!”

I have known about “Grit” forever, but it is one of those old school terms that you just don’t hear any more and I wondered why it came back to life? Was it the 2010 remake of John Wayne’s famous movie True Grit? Was it a new trending term I didn’t know about? Turns out, it actually is back in the spotlight due to a Ted Talk, presented in 2013 by Angela Duckworth.

Duckworth shares her realization that IQ is not the only thing separating successful students from those struggling - grit is what makes the difference! However Ms. Duckworth also stated no one really knows how you develop grit.

After the conference and viewing the Ted Talk, I shared my observations with a group of AMC staff. The very next morning, one of those colleagues, phoned that she just received her daughter’s grade school newsletter and “could I guess the very first topic”? It was “Grit!” The day after the call, I saw a billboard on the Kennedy Expressway while on my way to a meeting, with GRIT in huge letters. Grit was everywhere and that made me think.

What is Grit? Merriam-Webster defines grit in the context of behavior; it is “firmness of Character; indomitable spirit.” Duckworth based her studies and tweaked her definition to be “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.”

I wondered – how gritty am I? I found this quick GRIT assessment and then shared it with AMC staff. Some of our rising stars asked, “now that I took the assessment what next? How can I improve my Grit Score?” It comes down to understanding the traits that comprise grit and how you develop them.

Here are 5 personality characteristics outlined by Margaret Perlis of Forbes that will help further identify, develop and measure your grittiness:

Courage

Your ability to manage fear of failure is key and a predictor of success. The truly gritty are not afraid to crash, but welcome it as a part of the learning process and understand that there are valuable lessons in defeat and that perseverance is essential for high achievement. If we know that the grittiest are not afraid to fail, then perhaps one way to develop grit is to follow the advice of Eleanor Roosevelt that said “do something that scares you everyday.”

Courage is like a muscle that needs to be exercised daily; if you do, it will grow and if not, it will atrophy. Courage fuels grit!

Conscientiousness

There are 638 Primary Personality Traits but the BIG 5 are: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neurotic. Of these, according to Duckworth, conscientiousness is most closely associated with grit; thorough, careful and vigilant. Conscientious people are efficient and organized. They tend to show self-discipline, act dutifully, and aim for achievement.

Organize and follow through to cultivate grit!

Long-Term Goals and Endurance

To be gritty, long-term goals are essential coupled with lots and lots of purposeful practice to achieve those goals. Duckworth writes: “…achievement is the product of talent and effort, the latter is a function of the intensity, direction, and duration of one’s exertions towards a long-term goal.” But bottom line these long-term goals help to cultivate drive, sustainability, passion, courage, stamina…grit!

Today, write down your long-term goals and revisit them often to ensure you are on task and on target!

Resilience

Optimism, Confidence and Creativity: Taylor Swift knows to “Shake it off, Shake it off” to develop grit! But what gives one the strength to just “shake if off?” Futurist and author Andrew Zolli believes that resilience is a dynamic combination of optimism, creativity, and confidence. Gritty people believe “everything will be alright in the end and if not alright, it is not yet the end.”

If you make a mistake or fail, shake it off; learn from your mistakes and come back swinging!

Excellence vs. Perfection

It seems that gritty people strive for excellence not perfection. Excellence is an attitude not the endgame. It is the attitude of an ongoing quest for improvement to be the best you can be but allowing for disappointment to prioritize progress over perfection.

Review your work honestly and ask “how could I have done better?” Implement those ideas to develop excellence and cultivate grit!

”Grit” is an attitude, a belief that you can conquer anything if you stick with it. It is a belief in yourself, a determination to win, a plan for success. It’s sticking to a job until “it sticks to you.” It’s not giving up, nor giving in. It’s putting your best into a project and into your life!” 


Marilyn Jansen, Director, Marketing and Business Development, can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling 847-375-4811. We’d love your thoughts on the post. Please let us know what you think by commenting on our Facebook page.

Photo Credit: “GRIT” by crystiancruz is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0