September 01, 2014
Association communications pros go from being risk managers to fixers

By Lindy Dreyer | 10/08/2010

I recently helped pick sessions for the Marketing, Membership and Communications Conference that ASAE is hosting in April 2011. Honestly, there were some good sessions, and a lot of bad sessions from which to choose. I think the sessions that were picked are a good mix, though. And I'm hopeful that ASAE will find a great keynote speaker or two.
 
This is the first year for the "communications" part (it used to be just marketing and membership), and it was really fantastic having members of the Communications Section Council there as experts. More than once, a communications session came up, and we all looked around and said, "Is that even a valid way to approach the topic anymore?" The role of the communications professional has changed - perhaps more than any other association role. Here's one striking difference:
 
THEN: Communications pros used to be like risk managers. The job was to prevent something bad or embarrassing from ever happening.
 
NOW: Communications pros are more like legal counsel. Their job is to fix things when they go wrong.
 
Communications departments no longer own the distribution channels the way they once did. Anyone in the organization can post something online that can get picked up anywhere. I'm not talking about the problem posts. I'm talking about the really great, substantive content and conversational responses that your subject matter experts - your executive director, chief elected officer, head of advocacy, head of research, member services director - can and should be posting. This distributed model will become the norm (if it hasn't already) because response time and accuracy need to be scaled, and that takes more people responding directly, and fewer chances to wordsmith and approve every response. Mistakes will happen, and associations will look to their communications experts to make things right.
 
A few years ago, people would tell us they couldn't participate in social media because their legal counsel was against it. We told them, "get new legal counsel." And today, if you have communications staff who are insisting on editing and approving every post and response that is going on social media sites, I'd suggest you get new communications staff.
 
Do you agree or disagree? How else has the role for communications pros changed?
 
Dreyer is chief social media marketer for SocialFish, a social media consulting firm for associations and nonprofits. Details: www.socialfish.org.


Association TRENDS