TRENDS, in partnership with Qrisp Media, has released this analysis, designed to allow association social media decision makers to benchmark their levels of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube activity against peer institutions. These comparisons can be made overall and by association size and subject area. Any association that purchases the report will be added to the survey data and will receive a customized Social Media Summary Report. Details here.
By Brian Clark, marketing and membership director, Asphalt Institute, Lexington, Ky.
(This is an excerpt from an article that appears in the March 2012 TRENDS.)
Each year, our association enters the annual Association TRENDS All-Media Contest. This year, I’m proud to say we won gold for our 2011 membership directory.
Over the years, we have learned that aside from the tremendous “feel good” that winning provides, there are definite advantages for our association that we try to maximize. Here are a few tips on how to make the most of your award.
1. Tell your members. This may seem obvious, but some winners overlook the opportunity to promote the news about winning their award to their members.
2. Leverage the credibility. Quite fortuitously, we learned about winning our gold award just as we were preparing the advertising opportunity announcement for our 2012 membership directory. The timing couldn’t have been better. We included an “advertise in our award-winning directory” tag in the appeal. The result: our advertising quite literally doubled this year!
3. Motivate your staff. Karen Embs, our member services manager, is the principal editor of the directory but she has never been to the TRENDS Salute to Association Excellence program, where the All Media Contest winners are honored. This year, Karen made the trip to DC to receive our award. Here is what she said about the experience:
“The reception was a real pleasure because it was in a large room where there was space to walk around and see all the winning pieces,” she said. “I also was impressed with the award presentations for Association Partner of the Year and Association Executive of the Year. Mr. Harris and Mr. LaBranche were both very appreciative and shared great words of advice and inspiration for us all.” Details: www.asphalt.org.
Clark is a TRENDS 2008 Young & Aspiring Association Professional.
By Eileen Kessler
Advertising and sponsorships can be a substantial part of an association’s revenue, so make sure you’re not creating any unnecessary barriers between advertisers and your media kit. Here are a few tips for making your media kit as accessible as possible.
Don’t require advertisers to provide their email addresses to access the media kit. True, this might not allow you to track who is looking at your media kit and follow up with them, but having this extra step might be all it takes to turn an interested prospect away.
Keep your PDF as small as possible so prospects can download it quickly. If a download is taking too long, prospects might give up and move on. Also keep in mind that people are doing more and more on their mobile phones, and speeds can vary on these devices – make it work for your on-the-go prospects.
Make your PDF easy to find. Don’t bury the link to your PDF on an internal sub-page on your website. If it’s difficult to find, it won’t be seen. Make sure it doesn’t take more than two clicks to get to your media kit, whether it is a downloadable PDF, a dedicated website or an advertising-specific page on your main site. Keep the path to your advertising opportunities as clear as possible.
Get the word out! Put links to your media kit in everything you publish, from emails to blogs. You have the connections to a select audience that advertisers want to reach. Don’t be shy about broadcasting this.
Kessler is president of OmniStudio, Washington. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nearly three-fourths (74.8%) of association executives believe their members use smartphones — including 73% of those in professional societies and 78.5% in trade associations — but interestingly, only 28.1% of respondents report having a mobile strategy.
Also interesting is the fact that while trade association executives were more likely to indicate that their members use smartphones, professional societies are much more likely to be working on a mobile strategy for their associations. Over one-third (36.3%) of professional society executives said their association has a mobile strategy, while a mere 19% of trade associations said the same.
This is particularly interesting, as 73.2% of professional society executives and 61.6% of trade association executives have identified “offering new value-added products and services” as a top strategy for developing new revenue, and it can be argued that offering on-the-go access to the association’s content and products, in an age when 87.1% of executives themselves (87.5% in professional societies and 86.8% in trade associations) say they have a smartphone for business and/or personal use, is definitely a value-added service. The second-most selected strategy to develop new revenue streams among association executives is “developing strategic partnerships with external partners and vendors.”
Of the few associations that have mobile strategies, a majority are formatting website content to be mobile accessible (39.0%). About a quarter (25.1%) are developing original mobile apps or other custom mobile-specific solutions, and 20.3% are using QR codes to direct mobile traffic to association content. Very few (11.2%) are using existing mobile apps (including location-based apps like Four Square) to enhance the member experience.
These findings from the Association TRENDS Fall 2011 PULSE report suggest a few things: First, association executives are largely underestimating the power of mobile in their associations. Many mobile features can be cost-effective ways to interact with members, particularly leveraging existing apps to enhance the mobile experience, which would cost the association very little, if anything. Second, it suggests that many association executives are simply unaware of the possibilities around mobile. It may also speak to the limited resources in associations — both monetary and human, but it undeniably suggests that there is a world of potential for executives to tap into as it relates to meeting members where they are.
The biggest challenge for an association publication is how to provide information that is relevant to the industry, reliable to the public, and maintains journalistic integrity.
Association communications professionals joined other media practitioners in a panel discussion of the future of news at the Activism + Media + Policy Summit, last week in DC. The discussion was moderated by Huffington Post’s Peter Cherukuri.
Jim Barnett, in-house advisor to AARP Bulletin, discussed the rise of the nonprofit model in journalism. “As legacy models are crumbling, nonprofits – new and old – are jumping into the business and they’re doing news,” Barnett said. He asked the question that many critics of association news outlets are asking: “How can we have [objective] news within an advocacy organization?”
“An organization has to decide immediately: do you want to support journalism,” Barnett said. If the answer is yes, Barnett acknowledged that associations face the same issues the rest of the media industry is succumbing to, including funding challenges and organizational politics. He suggested that “the case for philanthropy [should be] attached to a mission for journalism” that furthers the association’s purpose. He also stressed the importance of reporting on issues that might contradict the association’s interests, to maintain credibility.
Chronicle of Higher Education editorial director Jeff Selingo suggested that part of the new industry model is a decentralized news organization, which is heavily reliant on contributors and freelancers, and in which news and commentary is shared across multiple platforms – a scenario with which many association publications are familiar.
Referring to mobile devices, Journal Register Co. social media director Steve Buttry said, “The tools of publishing are in everyone’s hands, so the community is creating content.” He said the job of the publication editor now is to gather content from the community and determine what to do with it, though industry professionals are still trying to work out the vetting process.
Barnett emphasized that, particularly for advocacy organizations, such as associations and nonprofits, transparency is increasingly more important. “Technology is accelerating the need for transparency,” he said. “People are willing to see you as a source, but they want to know where you’re coming from.” He added that it is permissible to have multiple voices write on behalf of one association, but authors must identify who they are and their interests in an issue.
Buttry added associations must concentrate on reporting within their own public service or industry niches, while localizing bigger stories to make the issues relevant to the audience. “Cover your slice, and cover it well,” he advised. Establishing the association’s publication as an authority on a specific issue or perspective will create credibility and position the organization as a reputable source on the issue.
Selingo had tips for organizations looking to monetize content. He proposed that some content be free – 40% in the case of The Chronicle for Higher Education – such as opinion pieces, which disseminate the association’s stance on a specific issue to a broader audience. Teaser articles to promote data-driven content also should be in front of the firewall, as should breaking news, which is likely available for free on other sites, anyway. But hefty data and survey results that are valuable to industry professionals should be kept behind the pay wall, requiring subscription or some other pay-to-view model.
All of the panelists agreed that organizations need to ensure content is good, trustworthy and not available elsewhere.
With the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)’s decision to approve the .xxx domain, a whole new realm of possibilities as it relates to domain name registrations has been opened, and associations — like other groups – are beginning to weigh the possibilities as it relates to their members.
For many associations, though alluring, generic top level domains are cost-prohibitive. The official price for a generic top-level domain application is $185,000, but National Restaurant Association CIO David Matthews admonishes associations to consider that appropriate consultants should be sought to help with filing the applications, which can add another $200,000 to the application price tag. Once one considers the possibility of dispute and auction fees if multiple entities go after the same domain, and takes into account that there will be a minimum charge of $25,000 per year to maintain the domains, the cost of registering top-level domain names alone may out-price many associations’ budgets.
Still, the possibilities available by registering a top-level domain name could prove invaluable for associations that can afford to make the investment. A top-level domain name could do wonders for an association’s brand and reinforce the organization’s prominence in the industry, or it could draw more attention to the industry as a whole. ICANN’s initiative will introduce new top-level domains in generic terms (such as .architecture), which will enable distinction for the industry overall, as well as for brands (such as .aarp), which will increase visibility of the association itself. Some associations are considering moving to register the domains with hopes that there will be a way to monetize them in the future. For some, it is a question of infrastructure, says John Nicholson, an attorney with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman. For others, he contends, it is more a matter of capitalizing on the opportunity before someone else does.
Software and Information Industry Association president Ken Wasch remains skeptical, calling ICANN’s initiative “a solution in search of a problem. I think it will go down as one of the biggest blunders ICANN has ever made,” he says.
Among Wasch’s primary concerns is how associations will be able to recoup the cost and monetize domain registrations. He suggests that perhaps associations could create a standard by which all groups seeking to register with their new specific domain should comply, but says that this will not offer real value, and certainly not enough to justify the cost of generic top-level domain name registration. Wasch worries that the cost of registration will prove to be a tax on members, who will inevitably bear the many burdens associated with the investment.
Generic top-level domain registration was among the topics discussed at the recent TRENDS Live annual technology update in Washington.
By Amy Showalter
Do you ever wonder if your communications to elected officials and/or their staff are remembered?
Researchers at the University of Illinois have examined how “political and legislative elites” use heuristics to recall information presented by constituents. This research sought to find out what factors encourage legislative staff to use heuristics in recalling information from constituents.
Their findings are below. Please remember as you review this list that it relates to information recall only – it is only one part of the persuasion puzzle. (Of which my colleague Dr. Kelton Rhoads has determined there are not “6 easy principles” or “10 tips”, but rather about 100 tactics you can use depending on the situation and influence prospect. Successful influence is customized!)
- Frequently presented information is more easily recalled
- Familiarity of the issue as it relates to major constituent groups is more easily recalled.
- Issue salience. The more vivid the issue, the more it is, in the researcher’s words, “overvalued” by staff, which is why it’s more easily remembered.
- Pre-existing attitudes – Is the information being presented consistent with the staffer’s belief system? If so, staffers judge the information as more important and also “overvalue” it.
- Numbers matter – the numbers of constituents affected in each district makes staff more likely to recall information about an issue.
The human mind operates the same whether you are a lawmaker, legislative staffer, or grassroots influencer. People use heuristics to recall information, because it makes life easier. And busy, harried “legislative elites” probably resort to heuristics more than other professionals, simply because of the volume of information they filter.
The bottom line? Remember that your audience uses heuristics to recall information, which can impact decision making. If they can’t easily remember your information, you’ll have to spend more time and effort to be heard.
If you suspect your information isn’t being taken into consideration with “legislative elites,” engage in vivid communications (translation: proximity). Demonstrate that your organization is indeed a “major constituent group.” Communicate frequently. And, if possible, find a value match with your information and the person you are trying to persuade.
Amy Showalter is a national grassroots and PAC persuasion expert who works with organizations that want to increase their government relations effectiveness through the application of research-based best practices. Over 85% of her long-term consulting clients have experienced an increase in financial resources, staffing, and senior management recognition after collaborating with Amy.
The tremendously popular Association TRENDS All Media contest, which generated 447 entries from 158 organizations last year, is now open for entries! This year’s categories have been completely revamped, and organizations can enter monthly magazines, journals, other periodic communications (daily/weekly or monthly), direct marketing pieces, CD/Video/Podcast/PSA, Advertising kit, exhibitor sales kit, convention promotion package, convention program, promotional items, membership promotion kit/campaign, directory, book/manual/catalog, annual report, commemoration/tribute, educational program, social media, or website for judging.