Thought-out, calculated risks paid off for two associations that reinvented themselves: one created a member level for which dues are only $1, and the other devised a plan to create buy-in for changing its nearly century-old brand.
These were among the experiences discussed by winners in ASAE's Gold Circle Awards. The awards presentation and related education session were part of ASAE's Marketing, Membership and Communications Conference, this week in Washington. Preliminary numbers show 844 total participants, with 558 association professionals, 145 exhibitors and 141 other types of participants. There were 62 exhibiting companies, a sellout of the exhibit hall.
At the conference, ASAE presented the Gold Circle Awards, the association's competition for excellence in membership, marketing and communications programs. ASAE recognized 10 winners in the competition's 16 categories. The other categories had only honorable mention acknowledgments. ASAE also named an overall excellence award winner, the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers for its Technology Tower Trivia game, which won the innovative communications category.
"I never thought I'd get an award for creating a video game. This is kind of cool," SCTE marketing senior director Bill Schankel said. Schankel got the idea for the game from an education session at an ASAE annual meeting.
A related education session featured a few of the winners discussing the success of their programs. American Alliance of Museums business development and marketing director Susan Breitkopf discussed AAM's winning entry in the membership recruitment piece category. Following a rebranding, AAM's goal was to be "the umbrella group to unite the field." The association decided to restructure its membership and offer three levels of service, which were covered in the brochure: a bottom level for only $1, a pay what you can level, and a top level, which also offered the most service. A staff add-on package also is offered. "Go big or go home," Breitkopf said.
The recruitment brochure was sent to members with a new membership application and also was presented at several launch events. As a result, the association has gained 600 new members since September, and 550 signed up for the staff add-on package. AAM asked some members to remain at the old $15,000 level, while the new structure takes hold.
Many of the new members were zoos, botanical gardens and aquariums, which weren't typical members previously but were targeted by this effort. For instance, artwork in the brochure was selected because it depicted education, a common offering across all types of museums., Breitkopf said.
Building Owners and Managers Association of Georgia won the rebranding category for its effort to create buy-in for its new brand after nearly a century as BOMA-Atlanta.
BOMAG communications and advocacy director Erin Hall explained the steps the association took to embark on the new brand. A feasibility study found that there was a need for the organization to go statewide, and that the brand had to be new but also familiar. The new logo was originally rejected by BOMAG, but with some adjustments, was accepted on a second attempt by the designers. As with the old logo, a skyline is featured, but colors and font type were given an updated look.
Hill had five tips to a successful rebrand:
1. Select the perfect partner. Be specific in the RFP, and try to stump the applying firms. Select a firm that is familiar with associations and their budgets. Also keep an open mind to the designs a firm offers.
2. Make a plan and stick to it. Deadlines are imperative, she said.
3. Be transparent and engage members. Strike a healthy balance between member feedback and maintaining control.
4. Make it a team effort. Let all the departments know what's happening and when, so that they can plan their parts accordingly. This includes the person answering the phone.
5. Celebrate and make a splash. For the unveiling, BOMAG planned it for the luncheon part of its annual meeting. Before the unveiling, all signage and other material reflected the old brand. At the luncheon, a banner was unfurled that depicted the new brand, and afterward, all signs of the old brand at the conference were replaced by the new brand, including the new magazine, a new website and even business cards. "Make it dramatic," Hill advised.