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MASAE members are front line professionals in association and nonprofit management. They are chief staff officers, executive directors, senior staff and members of diverse teams including membership, marketing, financial, human resources, education and information technology (just to name a few). Members are also consultants, vendors and suppliers from a host of backgrounds, all committed to helping nonprofit and membership organizations from throughout the region continue to realize their missions and more. The community has come together to create this blog and share their experiences with the larger association community. It’s part of MASAE’s commitment to create real value, right in your back yard. We hope you enjoy the stories our guest bloggers share and that you join in the conversation by sharing your thoughts in the comments section.

 

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Top tags: engagement  relevancy  President  Tim Bower 

Finding a Community, Finding a Career

Posted By Joeseph Sapp, CAE, Wednesday, November 1, 2017
Updated: Sunday, October 1, 2017

Much like others who find themselves in Association Management, I was completely in the dark about the industry until I found myself right in the middle of it.  I did not study to become an Association Executive and I have never joined a membership society before therefore I did not know that there was an abundance of associations for almost anything.

At the start of my career in association management I was at the bottom – learning membership protocols, staffing a booth at a tradeshow, returning phone calls to the office, and stuffing envelopes.  As I improved my understanding of what this industry was, I sought resources that would give me more opportunity.  That first resource was DVSAE and, subsequently, MASAE. 

I attended a half-day workshop in Philadelphia and there I met a few people, heard some things that made no sense to me at the time and left overwhelmed.  A few months later I attended the Annual Conference.  I saw someone that I had met at the previous workshop, and they remembered my name. They welcomed me and said it was good to see I had decided to attend the conference. 

That was an “Oh Sh*t” moment that changed everything.  I was no longer working in Association Management, I had a career in Association Management.  I had found a community, one that gave me the tools I needed to grow professionally.

Since that day, I have been to nearly every MASAE event.  I have met colleagues and friends.  People that I trust, that I can call with a question and know without a doubt I am getting honest and professional feedback. 

I have seen what impact I can have on the industry as well.  From calling a member about renewal to planning the Annual Conference, I have seen the value the organization brings to people and their career.  I think about the different industries our members serve and the type of value they are bringing, and from time-to-time it still gives me that same “Oh Sh*t” moment I had years ago when I realized the value that MASAE gave my career.  

Tags:  engagement 

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We Can't Do It Alone

Posted By Ryan Rosenbaum, MBA, Monday, October 16, 2017
Updated: Sunday, October 1, 2017

I have been working in Association Management for the last 15 years. This is something I am proud to say because there are 1.5 million professionals working for 90,000 trade associations around the country. Association Management is a small field compared to others. Larger associations (Mainly AMC’s) could have dozens of employees but a majority of associations have 5 staff members or less. Because of these statistics, we, Association Professionals, tend to navigate our world by turning to colleagues who work at other similar associations. “Who knew that there was even an association for the associations” is what I thought to myself a few years ago!

I found MASAE in 2010. I was a few years into my career and really looking to share and gain knowledge from those in my industry. I found out that even though every association was different in its mission, the core values are quite similar. Many of us have shared strategic obstacles, membership development techniques, technology concerns, board engagement issues, educational components, marketing campaigns and sponsorship ideas to share.

By attending MASAE conferences, webinars and networking events, I have been able to enhance my career but I’d like to think that I’ve improved those around me too. There is a great sense of comradery of professionalism. I look forward to the MASAE events as It allows me to network and see how everyone is progressing in their careers. Seeing familiar faces and even newer faces offers me the encouragement and assurance that I’ve chosen the right career. Being a part of an SAE is also my commitment to my professional career. It indicates a constant devotion to learning about the industry and taking these educational steps in helping my association.

MASAE has both the duty of fulfilling its obligations to its members by offering a superior suite of opportunities. It has no choice as the members themselves know a good membership organization when we see one. It is my hope that many of you see these same values that I have experienced in the last 7 years because as I learned, we can’t do it alone!

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How Did I Get Here and Where Do I Go Now?”

Posted By Ethan Gray, Sunday, October 1, 2017

If you’re like me, Association Management was not on your radar screen while you were in college. Since I finished my undergraduate studies in 2003, the industry has (in my eyes) gained much more visibility. I think that speaks not only to its vitality but the recognition of its essential role in society by institutions of higher education. That didn’t help me in 2003 though. I left college with enthusiasm, great memories, an economics degree and almost no direction. Instead of moving back home, I relocated to Philadelphia with my future wife and some equally wayward friends and signed up for AmeriCorps (an exceptional program with beautifully varied opportunities).

AmeriCorps introduced me to the non-profit environment and to real service. When my term ended, I envisioned two paths I could consider walking: 1) Go back to economics and try to find an entry-level role as an analyst or continue to pursue this foggy non-profit world. I chose the latter. I was lucky enough to convince several people that I had a real penchant for service and for contributing to a cause or profession designed to make a difference rather than simply generate a profit. Two jobs later I said to myself “I seem to have at least found a role that makes sense and might keep me gainfully employed for a while”. This was partly because I had been able to transfer skills I had acquired in my econ training (data manipulation, introductory project management etc.). This is an important point because I believe many concentrations teach fundamental skills that are applicable daily to this industry. In a way, that provides a diversity of opportunity that may not be so readily available elsewhere. Anyway, I found myself in another period of contemplation. And then it happened. I found a job at an Association Management Company. What was “As·so·ci·a·tion Man·age·ment”?? I didn’t know but would be quickly educated. When I fully grasped the concept, I knew I had found a career. Not only was I amazed but I felt gratitude for having somehow been delivered to this opportunity; an opportunity for a real professional life. Through that job, I was introduced to MASAE. Now, I had not only a career path but a community and resources to help me navigate, contribute and be successful. 

That all happened 11 years ago. Since then, my wife has walked a path that lead to the same industry (how cute) and her vocation has taken her all over the world as a volunteer specialist teaching people about the power of professional engagement and community.  Through this all, MASAE has been a place for learning, building relationships and becoming a better association manager. The organization was a principal reason I pursued and achieved the CAE credential. I have been grateful that MASAE has also allowed me to serve as a speaker, committee member and now board member.

Whether you have been recently delivered to Association Management or are seasoned, MASAE is your community and can be an indispensable resource should you choose to engage (come to networking events! access resources online! join a committee!). The community will be stronger with your contributions. My path to this profession was largely circumstantial. Since I arrived, I have been deliberate in my unwillingness to travel elsewhere. I know many MASAE members and I would like to meet and learn from more. I hope to see you at upcoming events. Feel free to connect at any time.

I now work in membership at the Society of Hospital Medicine in Philadelphia; egray@hospitalmedicine.org or find me on LinkedIn

Tags:  engagement 

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PEEK BEHIND THE SCENES OF ONE INNOVATIVE ANNUAL CONFERENCE FOR NEW IDEAS TO USE AT YOUR ANNUAL CONFERENCE

Posted By Amanda Kaiser, Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The following is a guest post from Amanda Kaiser.  You can check out more great posts from her on her weekly blog for association professionals at SmoothThePath.net or follow her on Twitter @SmoothThePath.

 

Your annual conference is even more important than you think! For many new members the annual conference is the first time they get to interact with the association and the community in a meaningful way. If they have a good experience at this first conference they are more likely to become more engaged. Many members also say the conference is the biggest value compared to the association’s other offerings. Conferences are where our members have their first experiences of the association and conferences are where our members derive the most value.

Because conferences are important we want to deliver the best possible experience for all attendees, first-time to long-time. This is certainly the case for the Mid-Atlantic Society of Association Executives (MASAE). This year I participated in the conference committee and got to see conference planning in action (by the way, the conference is December 14th and 15th in Atlantic City and I think you should go). What is particularly interesting about this year’s conference is the team methodically set about meeting some of members’ biggest challenges. Here are the challenges we all have and here is what we did about them:

New Members Feel Like Outsiders

One of the most common stories I hear in member research no matter the association is that first time attendees feel like outsiders. They don’t know anyone but, it seems like everyone else does. They don’t know the industry lingo but, it seems like everyone else does. They don’t even know where to go or what to attend but, it seems like everyone else does. When first-time attendees feel like outsiders for too long they do not get as much value from the conference and they do not come back.

Some of the committee members noted that they too had the same feelings as first-time attendees. The team decided to try a first-time attendee orientation at the start of the conference. The orientation has two objectives: 1) make new-comers feel comfortable and welcome and, 2) give first-timers a sense of what to expect and what not to miss. New attendees will leave the orientation knowing each other and the conference committee members. If they want to ask questions during the conference or are looking for a friendly face to talk to at lunch or during the evening reception they will have us!

Attendees Have a Hard Time Taking Insights to Action

Have you ever heard members say something like, “well, at the conference I always learn at least one new thing”? Don’t we want them to learn and remember 100 new things? Isn’t it a success if they act on 10 of those new things? The conference is not a success if the only value is earning CAE credits. We want attendees to absorb what they learned, digest the implications for their unique situation, remember key insights and put them into practice back at the office.

Conferences can be really long with very packed days. We run from keynotes to sessions to lunch to and back to sessions with very little time to ruminate on what we just heard. The committee decided to build in time for reflection right into the conference schedule. At the end of the conference attendees will be invited to choose their favorite topic to discuss in small groups. In this low-pressure, collegial environment they will have the opportunity to share their biggest take-aways and early thinking on how they might implement within their association.

Associations Are Under Extreme Pressure to Change

A recent association industry benchmarking study says that 7 out of 10 associations have just started focusing on innovation in the last one to five years. Most associations are decades old and are finding the old model isn’t working as well as it used to. We are having to innovate but innovation is new, uncertain and risky.

Because innovation and change is such a big focus for associations today, the focus of this year’s conference is also on innovation and change. Four keynote and five session speakers will be tackling the topics of innovation and change. They’ll be sharing how they are doing it at small associations and large associations. They’ll be sharing ideas for association CEO’s as well as those involved in professional development, membership, marketing and more. They will be talking about organization-wide innovation and how to have a more innovative mindset. We’ll hear about how to change a culture and how to set up the right processes. We will learn that innovation is not luck and heroes. Innovation is a science, something we all can do. Did I tell you? I think you should join us?

One association colleague of mine said the best conferences are not only ones where you learn from the sessions, speakers and each other but the best conferences are where you also learn from the conference organizers by seeing how they do what they do. I think this will be one of those conferences. We’ll be learning from the speakers. We’ll be learning from each other. And we will be experiencing in real time how each of these new tactics works and how to make them even better back at our own conferences.

It is going to be great!

I haven’t even mentioned yet all the other new things you will experience. There will be an innovative new show floor layout. The four keynoters have been working together as a team for months to bring us a cohesive story. Attendees will get a printed copy of the 37-page 2016 Association Industry Innovation Research Study.

I think you should register now. Don’t you?

 

Amanda Kaiser is a qualitative researcher for the association industry. Qualitative methodologies are great for answering difficult, thorny strategic questions. The more familiar quantitative methods like surveys and analyzing our own data are good for answering What. What members are thinking. What members are doing. What goals members have. Qualitative research adds a critical layer of insight by answering Why. Why members are thinking that. Why members are doing that. Why members have that goal. Knowing Why helps us make more accurate strategic decisions.

Channeling member insights, Amanda writes a weekly blog for association professionals at SmoothThePath.net or follow her on Twitter@SmoothThePath.

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Fine Tuning Your Connection with Your Members and Prospects

Posted By Administration, Friday, January 1, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, May 26, 2015
By Rick Rutherford
Industry Resource Director, YourMembership


Gibson has developed a new technology for their electric guitars. It is a big, blocky looking, battery-powered robot tuner that tunes your guitar in seconds. Seriously?

As a self-admitted old school kind of guy this just kind of rubs me the wrong way. Since I work for a technology company, I probably should embrace this great advancement that will benefit all guitar players, especially those who don’t know how to tune their instrument. But I don’t.
It’s an obstacle to what I think is one of the most important tenants every player should follow – know thy instrument. In fact, knowing how to tune your guitar is the most important thing you should learn when you start playing. It helps you connect with your instrument and also helps you develop your (musical) ear.

Associations have a similar obstacle when looking at the technology they use in their day-to-day business. Tools like member management systems, online job boards, learning management systems and online communities should help free you and your association’s staff from much of the tedious administrative work you are often consumed with, so you can do something very similar to the aforementioned guitar player – make real connections with your members and prospects by analyzing the data this amazing technology collects and putting it to work to help determine their current and future needs.

But is that happening? Are associations getting out of the weeds and using the technology available to them to become more strategic and less tactical? There is growing evidence that they need to be – much sooner than later.

While technology helps connect people in ways previously only dreamed of, there is also a growing deficit of personal interaction. We see this especially in young people who have gone from having actual face-to-face conversations to preferring to text or post their “conversations” on Facebook or Twitter. Relationships built on emoticons and 144 characters or less.

Is this really such a big deal? Well, let’s pause a moment and take a look at the current job market for a little insight. In a report released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 5 million job openings on the last business day of March, holding steady with February. The top reason for these unfilled positions remains lack of qualified candidates.

According to a survey by the Workforce Solutions Group at St. Louis Community College, more than 60% of employers state that many job applicants lack “communication and interpersonal skills”. A survey by staffing company Addeco came away with similar results, with 44% of respondents reporting that the area with the biggest gap was soft skills, such as communication, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration. Only 22% acknowledged a lack of technical skills as the major pain point.

One area appearing to make a difference for graduates is internships. In a Harris Interactive survey of more than 2,000 college students and 1,000 hiring managers, more than 80% of employers responded that they want the new grads they hire to have completed a formal internship. In contrast, only 8% of students found interning in a field related to their major as something they would commit time to doing.

However, among students who don’t intern, only 44% consider themselves ready for the workplace. That belief increased to 58% for students with unpaid internships; and for students who completed paid internships, that number significantly increased to 70%. And as one might expect, the Harris survey uncovered a huge gap between students’ perceptions of their abilities and hiring managers’ perceptions of those same skills.

This creates a number of interesting opportunities for associations willing to step up to the plate. Who better to provide professional development and mentoring to young people sorely in need of that assistance? Our experience with the association career centers tells us that associations often provide the most qualified candidates for open positions in the industries and professions they represent. The growth of those career centers brings that point home.

We have shared how social media giant LinkedIn is actively working on ways to help young people prepare for the jobs they seek. The question I would ask is who better than associations to more effectively fulfill those learning opportunities? And by doing so create the member loyalty and relevance that can help sustain their organizations.

The questions remains, is our technology freeing us to be more in tune with our members and future prospects? Making those connections has never been more important.

About Rick

As YourMembership’s Industry Resource Director, Rick guides YM’s thought leadership initiatives, directing the company’s Resource Center, weekly blog and monthly webinar series, as well as coordinates YM’s Industry Alliance Program.

Rick has worked in the association industry for more than 29 years, serving as a vendor partner, staff member, and co-founder of a technology company focused on associations. Rick previously served as the Communications Director for the Texas Society of Association Executives, where he received a Gold Circle Award from ASAE.

@ricknatx

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Greater Member Engagement with an Old School Approach

Posted By Administration, Friday, January 1, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, May 26, 2015
By Rick Rutherford
Industry Resource Director, YourMembership


It’s nothing personal, it’s just business.

Whenever I hear that phrase, I feel my blood pressure start to rise! Of course it’s personal – it always has been.

The whole notion that business isn’t personal simply provides justification for treating people poorly in the workplace and within organizations. It works to diminish human interaction and the results are almost always counter-productive. It is at the very heart of poor customer service. We all know that people who aren’t treated well don’t stick around, whether that be employees, customers, or members.

One of the alarming trends I’ve noticed during the last 36 months is the increasing number of associations that are being force to disband – essentially going out of business. The most common reason I’ve seen given for this is dwindling membership, causing shrinking revenues that eventually lead to the organization becoming no longer financially viable. Competition for associations has increased substantially, and even with an improving economy, there is still a great deal of pressure on non-profit organizations.

You may have heard the phrase “people don’t quit jobs, they quit people.” The same can be said for members and their associations.

As our organizations struggle to find new and creative ways to grow and retain membership, they are finding themselves forced to place all of their cards on the table. They must create a member experience based on undeniable value. Does that mean overhauling the traditional dues structure, adding new services, or more non-dues revenue initiatives? Maybe. But I think what is really needed calls for something more personal – getting personal.

Getting Personal

As a society, we always find room for the things we value, even when that seems impractical. Traditionally, members have rallied around their associations during tough times. The ability to network, share ideas and ask for help created unbreakable bonds until associations ran smack into the buzz saw known as technology. The New Millennium has not brought glad tidings to many organizations, which have been forced to realize they’re not quite up to speed when it comes to serving this new, demanding audience that wants, and expects, everything at the click of a mouse.

We’ve all witnessed, and been given access to some of the most amazing technological advances known to man. The born from technology have made us more available to one another than ever before. It’s a 24/7 world whether you want to engage it, or not. And yet with all of the advancements in technology we seem to have grown more impersonal in how we communicate with one another. Just because it’s been tweeted, or is out there on Facebook doesn’t mean the connection has been made.

People join associations for a variety of reasons, most of which are personal. Whether they are there for professional development or volunteering their time and talents, it is a personal commitment to the organization. And on the flip side of the equation, when it comes to staff providing exceptional service to your members – it should be personal.

Going Old School

So as we work our way to the Dog Days of Summer, I want to boldly suggest an “old school” approach to cultivating an intimate relationship with your members that has been a longtime and proven favorite of mine – pick up the phone!

One of the casualties resulting from the growth of technology in communications is that we often end up removing the person, the real person, from the equation. Email, texting, tweeting have made it so easy to avoid the “real” in communications – I’m talking about the conversation. No sharing of mood (sorry, emoticons don’t count), personality, or understanding of the true nature of the message. Calling someone on the phone has become a big deal – as in taking a lot of effort.

How often have you read an email that leaves you thinking the author is angry with your organization, angry with you, or just plain rude? In many cases when you talk with the person to discuss their message, you realize they are neither angry, nor rude – just not a very good writer.

Email is often a poor form of communication at best, one that can easily be misinterpreted. Misunderstood messages often lead to nasty exchanges that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

Do you want to make an impact that lasts longer than the time it takes to compose an email and then have the recipient move that message to a “black hole” folder? Institute a no email day, at least for yourself. Once a week, once a month – it doesn’t matter. Start with a commitment you can build from. Start with yourself and then engage your staff to join you.

The Starting Point

Where do you start? Look in your inbox. Select someone you have only communicated with through email or have not spoken with in quite some time. Look in your database and identify members who have not been contacted by anyone from your association in a while. Call members coming up for renewal. Call (former) members who have let their membership lapse (a tougher conversation, for sure). Call a member when they receive an accolade, professional or otherwise. Call a vendor or sponsor to let them know how valuable they are to the ongoing success of your association. I guarantee you, there is a lot of low hanging fruit you and your staff can pick.

Now you’re ready to enjoy the opportunity of making a real connection. Maybe there is no one there to take your call and you end up leaving a message on their voice mail. In the end, it doesn’t matter. Either way your voice on the line says “I care about YOU.” That always makes a difference. Start dialing!

It’s not just business, it’s personal.

About Rick
As YourMembership’s Industry Resource Director, Rick guides YM’s thought leadership initiatives, directing the company’s Resource Center, weekly blog and monthly webinar series, as well as coordinates YM’s Industry Alliance Program.

Rick has worked in the association industry for more than 29 years, serving as a vendor partner, staff member, and co-founder of a technology company focused on associations. Rick previously served as the Communications Director for the Texas Society of Association Executives, where he received a Gold Circle Award from ASAE.
@ricknatx

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Hard to Believe, but “Members Only” Doesn’t Always Benefit Your Members

Posted By Administration, Friday, January 1, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, May 26, 2015
By Rick Rutherford
Industry Resource Director, YourMembership

It’s not easy to identify ways to make the value of membership offerings resonate with young professionals, but every association and membership organization will need to develop offerings that will attract them as members in order for their organizations to sustain. And the good news is that it can be done. 

In our webinar Flipping the Membership Equation: Thinking Differently About Membership Recruitment and Retention we discussed the need for associations to redesign their membership offerings to remain competitive and relevant to Gen X and Gen Y in today’s economy. Associations have been wrestling with questions around membership and dues for years, but like with everything, technology’s need to address this subject is accelerating.

Baby Boomers are reaching retirement age in staggering numbers, ten thousand people reach age 65 every day, and this trend will continue through 2020. By 2018, one in four workers will be over age 55.

Technology, and specifically the internet, has changed not only the way people access and purchase today, but it has also introduced a “try it before you buy it” expectation. There are many for-profit players working their way into the space, and at some point associations will need to take a hard look at what they are doing to keep their offerings fresh. Those organizations will need leaders who aren’t afraid to radically rethink business models or resources.

“Flipping the Membership Equation” discussed these challenges and highlighted how moving from “Dues before Value” to “Value and then Dues” can be a workable business model for your organization.

One area where we run into some lively conversation with association leaders is whether a job board/career center should be a “members only” benefit or open to any prospect wanting to post a resume and find a job. We almost always start out on the opposite sides of the question.

I’ll be the first to admit that I understand the rationale behind “member only” areas for associations. After all, there has to be tangible value created by being a member of an organization to get someone to lay down their money to join. Market forces have taught us that scarcity and exclusivity are two of the key drivers behind a members only value proposition. 

Scarcity triggers an emotional response because we find it hard to resist wanting things that are not readily available. Many people have an innate view that scarcity increases value. They assume it is more valuable and of higher quality – because it’s harder to get.

Exclusivity is also about availability, but from a different angle. Exclusive things are accessible only to people who meet particular criteria – like association members.  Scarcity and exclusivity can boost word of mouth about an organization by making people feel like insiders. If someone gains access to something that not everyone can, it makes him or her feel special. Gaining that insider knowledge is a form of social currency.

And so, on the surface, the thought of members having exclusive access to great job opportunities through a “members only” job board appears to fit the bill. Except for one basic reality about job boards – it’s always a numbers game.

By numbers I am referring to the number of job seekers registered on a job board; how those numbers are compelling to employers looking for places to list their open positions and the significant non-dues revenue available through an association career center.

When we call employers on behalf of the associations we work with, they almost always want to know how many people are members and what percentage of those members are registered job seekers on the job board. If that percentage is low, it is a much tougher sell to get that job posting. However, if you allow prospects to register and post their resumes on your job board that number can increase significantly. Remember, the more registered job seekers, the more valuable that job board becomes to employers. Their goal is to get that listing in front of as many qualified eyeballs as possible.

And as an added benefit, prospects registering on an association’s career center have given permission through their registration, for you to market to them directly. That conversation takes on a whole new direction when you are able to identify how they are already taking advantage of the products and services your organization provides.

There are some associations that don’t really seem to care if they charge for job listings or not. These groups will allow members and employers to post job openings for a minimal fee, or even at no charge. By taking this approach they are denying their organizations valuable non-dues revenue that could have a positive impact on their bottom line.

Experience tells us that employers are more than willing to pay to list and advertise their targeted opportunities to members and prospective members, all while creating a steady stream of non-dues revenue for the association. By posting jobs on an association’s job board, employers gain exclusive access to the best, most qualified candidates, consisting of engaged, (career-minded) professionals with the degrees, certifications, and experience needed to increase quality of hire and candidate success. Online career centers connect an association’s members and prospects to the top employers and opportunities within their industry, helping to build greater member loyalty and engagement. And most importantly, these associations are growing their influence as the trusted resource for career seekers as they continue to provide access to career opportunities within their industry.

So while association’s “members only” offerings are not going away, your job board is one area where you may want to reconsider making available to anyone in your industry. The value it creates for employers, prospects, members, and your bottom line most likely outweighs any perceived value that exists by making your job board a gated offering.

About Rick

As YourMembership’s Industry Resource Director, Rick guides YM’s thought leadership initiatives, directing the company’s Resource Center, weekly blog and monthly webinar series, as well as coordinates YM’s Industry Alliance Program.

Rick has worked in the association industry for more than 29 years, serving as a vendor partner, staff member, and co-founder of a technology company focused on associations. Rick previously served as the Communications Director for the Texas Society of Association Executives, where he received a Gold Circle Award from ASAE. @ricknatx

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Using Technology to Build Your Brand

Posted By Administration, Friday, January 1, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Welcome to Rick Rutherford who will be our guest editor through the first half of August. 

 

By Rick Rutherford
Industry Resource Director, YourMembership

What does your association’s brand say about the organization? Ideally, it should represent the leader for your industry or profession, locally, regionally, or nationally.

For years associations have relied on word of mouth (WOM) to play a role in creating that awareness. WOM is a very powerful tool. There is no question that social networking has taken WOM to a whole new level. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Yelp and many others have literally created an industry around brand awareness.

While you work to build your association’s brand, do you use all the tools at your disposal to achieve the results you desire? What role is technology playing in your efforts?

Let’s look at three avenues where you can positively impact your brand awareness through technology.

Association Management or Membership Management Software

Association Management Software (AMS) is the hub for connecting your association to your members via technology. It really comes down to member data and putting that data to work to drive engagement and create membership value.

Using membership software that integrates with your job board, social networking, events and ecommerce activities multiplies the value of the member data you collect and the ways you can put that data to work.
Creating opportunities for member engagement through surveys, polls, forums, blogs, and user ratings can provide additional insight that you can strategically use in your recruitment and retention initiatives.

Career Centers and Online Job Boards

An association career center is an excellent tool for building member loyalty, recruiting new members, and driving non-dues revenue for your association. It should play a significant role in positioning your association as the career resource for your members and prospects alike.
Prospects who upload resumes or create profiles and job alerts on your association job board are communicating that they are interested in receiving value from your association. Are you telling them what your organization does to enhance their careers?

Creating a contact list of non-members registered on your career center provides you a prospect list to market to for new member recruitment.
Implement a “personal” touch campaign to connect with these prospects. It should be more than a direct mail piece or email.

Employers posting open positions on a job board are willing to provide testimonials when they find a great hire or have an overall good experience. What about members that actually find new jobs via your career center? Do you get their testimony?

Solicit testimonials via a form on your website asking “If you have found a new job through the XYZ Association Career Center please share your experience.”
Contact them personally. Congratulate them on their new job.
Get permission to use their positive experience along with a photo so that you can share their story with your website’s visitors.
You achieve two wins – you recognize a member for their accomplishment and you promote the ability of your Career Center (and the association) to positively impact the professional lives of members.

Conferences and Events

How do you use technology to create more value for your events? The simple choices are offering online registration and payment. What else can you do to build brand awareness via your conference?

Create a microsite that exclusively promotes the event, helping to create a unique conference experience.
Create pre-conference surveys and forums that connect attendees with presenters, helping to align the content to be presented with attendee expectations. It’s an easy way to increase overall satisfaction.
Man-on-the-street interviews shot on something as simple as a smart phone that help capture the positive experience of being at conference. Edited properly and posted on your website and social media channels, you can help enhance your associations brand while creating exciting and anticipation for next year’s event.

These are just a few of the many ways technology can be utilized to help you can increase your association’s brand awareness.

About Rick


As YourMembership’s Industry Resource Director, Rick guides YM’s thought leadership initiatives, directing the company’s Resource Center, weekly blog and monthly webinar series, as well as coordinates YM’s Industry Alliance Program.

Rick has worked in the association industry for more than 29 years, serving as a vendor partner, staff member, and co-founder of a technology company focused on associations. Rick previously served as the Communications Director for the Texas Society of Association Executives, where he received a Gold Circle Award from ASAE.
@ricknatx

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Happy Birthday To...

Posted By Administration, Friday, January 1, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, June 3, 2015

By Bob Bauer 

Happy Birthday to . . .

Marking the anniversary for your association can be a fun thing to do. I’ve done it once already and will be doing so again fairly soon. By way of background, we’re a bit of a hybrid here. We’re the staff of a food industry trade association. Over the years, however, some smaller groups within a segment of the food industry have come to us to ask us to manage them; so we’re a quasi association management company as well. Our main association, AFI, takes up 85-90 percent of our work.

In 2006, AFI marked it centennial. In 2017, one of the other groups we manage will celebrate its centennial. Though it will create some extra work, I’m already looking forward to the centennial. AFI’s celebration was well received, so we’ll probably do something similar to what we did back then, with some technological improvements.

The first thing I did was get together for a lunch with some old-timers, including my predecessor, to get some input on how they thought the association should mark the occasion. It was a great couple of hours filled with lots of reminiscing. Though I wasn’t able to get a lot of input about the event itself, I heard a lot of great stories about the association, its members and its impact. It also spurred everyone around the table to check at home for old pictures, etc. 

Picking the date and location were among the next steps. Should we do it at our annual conference, which is typically held in Florida? Should we do it in a resort-type setting at another point during the year? We opted to do it in on a Saturday night in New York, the night before a large trade show many of our members attend. Though we’re an international organization with member firms all over the world, our highest concentration of members is in the New York metro area. So that, coupled with the trade show, made the date and location the logical choice. We opted for the Roosevelt Hotel. Teddy Roosevelt happened to be president when our association was founded.

We have a small staff, so I decided I would handle the association’s history research on my own, some of it on my own time - like there was a lot of that. I soon discovered it was a lot of fun and was happy to squirrel away even more time to put things together. Before long, we had a timelime of important dates in the association’s history, pictures going back many, many years and copies of association publications, such as newsletters, bulletins and our annual publication. We put together four DVDs – one with the timelime, one with pictures from the association publications and two of pictures from association events. At the event itself, we put four TVs around the room and the adjoining foyer and had one DVD run repeatedly on each. We had a fifth TV that showed a highlight DVD from a convention the association had in Morocco, still the most-talked-about event in the association’s history.

We marketed the heck out of the event; using old pictures, highlighting the convenience of the event being the night before the show that opened the next day, everything we could think of. Though I can’t remember exactly what the numbers were, we reached our target in terms of domestic members registering to attend. We had hoped we would get more of our foreign members to attend, since some were in town to exhibit at the upcoming show but we fell a little short on that end. Some told us they didn’t want to have a late night the night before an important show, with some adding the jet-lag issue.

We were trying to do things on a budget to keep registration costs as low as possible, so I took advantage (with the board’s approval) of having a brother who is a musician (keyboard player/singer) who gave us a great price to play at the event. I also reached out to a local photographer who I knew did good work at a reasonable price. It was cheaper to pay both their travel time and costs than to hire someone in the city. I also knew the quality I was getting. I simply had to tell both what I had in mind and knew they would deliver. 

The night itself was great. The DVDs were a huge hit. As people gathered around to look at them, their eyes would light up when they saw a familiar face they hadn’t seen in a while or when they saw something about an issue they and the association faced way back when. The music was perfect for this type of event. The photographer got hundreds of great photos. The past chairmen (and my predecessor) who spoke all kept to their word and stayed within the short time limit they were given. 

Over the next few days as I walked the floor at the trade show, many people who went to the centennial celebration told me what a great event it was and even more who didn’t attend said they heard so much about it they wished they had attended. The centennial celebration proved to be a nice lift for the association because people were proud to be a part of an organization that had been working on their industry’s behalf for a full century. 

As I prepare to start working on the next group’s centennial, I’ve got a few ideas on things to add. We’ll do a lot more membership recruitment marketing tied to the centennial. This group exhibits at a couple of trade shows. I’ve seen people serve birthday cake at booths and it’s usually resulted in a lot of extra traffic. I’m sure I’ll be able to get some members to volunteer time at the shows to serve cake/talk up the association. 

With the past celebration and the upcoming one, one of the keys was/will be to have information for non-members (when promoting the event and just the centennial in general) to show them why their competitors have valued their membership long enough for the association to reach such a milestone.

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Always Being On Isn't Necessarily a Bad Thing

Posted By Administration, Friday, January 1, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, June 3, 2015

By Bob Bauer

Traveling for business is a necessary evil for me. In fact, I’m writing this as I’m in an airport in Turkey waiting to board the first of three flights to get me home. If all goes as planned, I’ll be home in 28 hours. After nearly 20 years with AFI, learned to take the bad with the good and try to make the most of my time on the road.

With today’s connected world, one works a lot longer when traveling now than before the Internet and email. The days used to be long enough already. Whether putting on your own event or representing yourself at another industry event, the hours are long. Throw in a day or more of travel each way and the scenario has always had exhaustion written all over it. Now, however, when you get done with everything else you have to do, if you haven’t been able to do it as you go along, you have to spend x amount of time checking/replying to emails, etc. 

I was fortunate to be able to bring my wife and children along with me to several events our association ran when the kids were younger. I’ve had to remind them over the years that I chose those particular events because I knew I could squirrel away a little free time at them and that there would be other kids their ages there. So as they got older and heard I was going away, they figured I had a few hours most days to sit around the pool, etc.  Of source, it didn’t help that my flustered wife would sometimes say I was on vacation when I went away on business.

Truth be told, whether it’s something around the corner or on the other side of the globe, when you’re away from the office on business, you’re always “on”. Take this trip, for example. It was at an all-inclusive resort. The meals that were not a part of the function were buffets held in two restaurants. I didn’t make plans to have any meals with anyone but there wasn’t a meal I didn’t sit with someone I knew and talk about industry issues. It’s great in terms of getting the pulse of my membership but it means you’re always “on.” I didn’t have time to relax on the beach or at the pool but if I did, I’m sure someone would have come by to talk.  It happens a lot and did so at our conference just last month. So even when you have the opportunity to unwind a bit, you’re still “on” because you run into members. When it happened at our conference, it turned about to be a couple of great conversations with people who have now pledged to be more active in the association.

So I’ve learned a few tricks over the years. At this event, 50-75 of the 1,000 attendees were from member companies. Another couple of hundred knew about our association but either aren’t members or really don’t need to be. Since we have members all over the world, I don’t see some of these people very frequently and vice versa, so recognition can be difficult. I make it a practice to wear shirts with the association logo on it so people who don’t know/recognize me have a better chance of making a connection. It also helps keep them from having to squint at the conference name badge to see who I am. I can think of three occasions during this event when people stopped me because they recognized the association’s logo on my shirt. (Yes, I purchased the shirts from an MASAE associate member – Brown Dog Marketing.)

- Interruption – 

Sorry about that. While sitting in the airport club writing this, someone who was at the same event as me noticed my shirt and struck up a conversation. Here’s hoping it results in another company added to the membership roster.

Another tactic I’ve used over the years is to volunteer to speak or do something else publicly during the event. Speaking is the best option because it puts you in a position of authority as you expose yourself to potential members. It also helps existing members feel good about the association because they’re hearing an association representative provide valuable information. 

I also keep myself in front of people in other ways. At this event, during portions of the day when no formal activities were planned, I found spots in a couple of high-traffic areas, which resulted in several people finding me and discussing industry issues with me. At a trade show next month at which AFI doesn’t have a booth, I’ll spend a lot of time in one of the show floor’s main corridors. Thousands of people go to this event and by spending time in its busiest area, I’m able to see many of my members who attend the show. Usually, at least a couple say they need to introduce a potential member to me. 

One thing I’ve started doing lately is not rushing home (he says as he leaves his current trip early to get home in time to celebrate his wedding anniversary). I’ll also leave early if I’ve been to the event before and I know the networking typically is not good at, for example, the closing dinner. After all, I do want to make it home to be with my family. But unless I want to get home for family reasons, things like red-eyes are not in the cards. I just don’t see the value of finishing a meeting in California at 6 p.m., having dinner with someone and then rushing to the airport to get little or no sleep and arrive home early in the morning in need of sleep/time to recover. I find it much more effective to have that same (early) dinner, get to bed early, get an early start and be home in the late afternoon pretty much back on schedule and perhaps having had time to get some work done on the plane. If the meeting ends earlier than 6 and/or there’s no dinner with someone, then I’ll use that time to start the meeting minutes or otherwise catch up on things. 

When I return to the office, those who don’t travel for business may, like my kids used to, think I was on a vacation of sorts, particularly if I mention how nice the setting was or say something about a pool, a bar or a nice dinner. But more than ever, business travel means incredibly long days where you’re always “on.” But when you get down to it, that’s a good thing.

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