November 18, 2017
    Tips for a good CEO-communications pro relationship

    Key takeaways and lessons from sessions at the ASAE Marketing, Membership and Communications Conference

    By Wes Trochlil, Scott Oser | 09/05/2014

    In June at the ASAE Marketing, Membership & Communications Conference (MMCC) in Washington, we presented sessions on the topics, “What the CEO REALLY thinks of the marketing, membership, and communications function,” and “10 questions the CEO should ask their marketing director.” Here are key takeaways and lessons that can be learned:

    1. Be creative, bring new ideas to the table and be sure to report back after. The CEO is looking to you as the marketing, membership or communications pro in your organization, to bring new ideas, new products and new initiatives to these areas. And when these new ideas are green-lighted, you have an obligation to report back the success or failure of these new initiatives.

    2. Don’t bring problems to the CEO without also bring potential solutions. The CEO doesn’t want to hear about things that are wrong; she wants to hear what you’re going to address them.

    3. Push back appropriately. If the CEO is wrong about something, as a professional you have an obligation to let them know how and why they are wrong.

    4. Put yourself in the shoes of your audience. Don't market the way to which you want to be marketed, market the way to which your audience would like to be marketed. The biggest mistake you can make is assuming your members think like you do.

    As former association staff members we realize it is not always easy to put into action the learnings stated above. Here is a selection of the “10 questions” that the CEO and the MMC professional can use to open the lines of communication:

    1. What do you consider to be the goal of your efforts in your current role? This question would be asked by the CEO. Asking this question allows the CEO and the MMC professional to get on the same page as it relates to what they are trying to achieve. Agreed-upon expectations are critical for success and this question is aimed right at that.

    2. What are you doing to optimize our marketing source mix? Are there more “cost” effective sources than others? This question allows the CEO to see if the MMC professional is thinking about maximizing the ROI of their efforts while also allowing the MMC professional to explain to the CEO why he is putting their resources into which activities. Being on the same page as to what should be implemented and why is critical in this relationship.

    3. Do you feel we are doing a good job of cross marketing? Many associations have silos that impact the success of the marketing, membership and communications efforts. By discussing cross marketing, the CEO and MMC professional can see if they have a challenge with silos and can also address ways that they can break through silos and be more effective and efficient.

    One theme that resonated throughout both sessions is the requirement of trust between CEO and staff. When the CEO and MMC staff have open and honest communication, success is virtually guaranteed. We are confident that the tips and the questions presented here will give you some of the tools you need to develop that type of relationship.

    Oser is president of Scott Oser Associates, Trochlil is founder of Effective Database Management,

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