April 25, 2009

"I Never Knew... All You Do"

One of the people in the American Cancer Society commercials running on tv says this, and I can't help but think that ASAE & The Center is trying to make sure people aren't saying this about associations with their "The Power of A" campaign.

My question - couldn't the organization have actually shown what associations are doing in this commercial that will be run tomorrow (Sunday) in the DC area, as opposed to essentially closed captioning what the person is saying in it?

I like the message that it gives - that associations and their millions of members will be invaluable assets to solve this nation's problems. But, an opportunity was missed to actually show it. The great thing about the American Cancer Society ads that I mentioned earlier is that they have what are supposed to be real people who have been helped by the Society telling the story. It's compelling, and gets the message across.

My hope is that there are more pointed commercials that are developed and run that actually tell the stories of associations making a difference. That would show their power. Granted, if people actually decide to make it to the web site, there are a few stories there, but even the site is pretty sparse in showing how associations are making a difference. (I see six stories there right now.)

Again, I LOVE the message that ASAE is trying to get across AND that they have taken this effort on... I also know that it's easy to criticize from out here in the cheap seats. I hope this is seen as constructive criticism! I just think that the implementation missed the mark a bit, and perhaps it would have been valuable to reach out and ask what some of the members (communications professionals specifically) thought about the campaign's commercial before launching it.

If this did happen and I missed it, I go back to my original subject "I Never Knew... All You Do!"

April 22, 2009

Going Above and Beyond: Overcoming "That's Not My Job" Thinking

As you probably know if you regularly read this blog, I am an avid television watcher and fan. I was recently watching a rerun of the West Wing, and I saw the president's body man Charlie Young go above and beyond in finding a man who had written a letter to the president when he was a young child. The man had originally written the letter to FDR, but it was never delivered until his building was torn down and the letter was found. He requested a picture with the president, and because of Young's work, he got that picture, albeit with a different president and some 50 years later.

What that one scene really brought home to me is the need for people to have a desire to go above and beyond in their work. All too often, it seems as though people are only out to get a paycheck these days. I regularly ask myself 'why' when I encounter it. Why is the "that's not my job" mindset so prevalent?

As association professionals and executives, I think overcoming that mindset with our fellow employees is essential to having a top notch association. How can our members feel as though they are getting exceptional service when staff won't do something that isn't necessarily their job? Members can see it. They know who is willing to go above and beyond, and who is not.

I guess I had a couple thoughts on how to help this situation, and I hope you'll add your ideas in the comments:

1. The organizational culture must support going above and beyond, and leadership must lead the way. Why would someone decide to go above and beyond if everyone else isn't? We in leadership roles need to model the way in going above and beyond in our daily interactions and work. Coming in at 8 on the dot and leaving at 5:01 isn't going to change the culture. It's exhibiting the exact behavior we don't want.

2. Recognize staff who go above and beyond. People like to be recognized by their superiors, and if the recognition is something that they value, they're likely to change their behavior to model what the recognition warrants.

3. There has to be skin in the game. If staff don't understand the mission or direction the association is trying to take, they aren't likely to go above and beyond for the members. Helping staff see that the association's success is everyone's job, even if something isn't necessarily within their narrow job description, is another important way to overcome the "not my job" mindset.

Anyway, again, I hope to hear some of your ideas in the comments. Thanks for reading.

April 20, 2009

Celebrities on Twitter - What they Have/Have Not Realized about it...

Like many other people, I have been inundated with stories about celebrities and their use of Twitter. Some people say it's going to ruin the tool. Others say that it's going to get more people to use it, thus potentially increasing the visibility of early adopters (including some associations) to more people.

In thinking about this, I tried to compile a few things that celebrities have and haven't yet realized about this tool they're flocking to, which will hopefully help some associations who have yet to try it out or get on the bandwagon.

The things most celebrities have yet to realize include:
  • Twitter is not a toy like Ryan Seacrest mentioned a number of times in a recent Larry King Live interview. It can and should be a powerful engagement tool to more closely align what you're doing with what people want you to do.
  • Twitter is not a popularity contest, a self-promotion avenue (i.e. if you get more followers than someone else, you're better). The fact is, Twitter is more of an interaction tool as opposed to a "let's see how many people I can get to listen to me" tool...
  • That leads me to this fact - the REAL value of Twitter is listening... Most celebrities have not grasped this concept, nor will they likely in the near future. If they did, I would potentially think about following some of them.
The thing that some celebrities HAVE gotten include:
  • Twitter is a great tool at creating a bond with someone or something. By creating a way for people to see a more real side of you (or your organization), you are developing a more loyal fan base.
  • Twitter can serve as a real-time feedback mechanism. If you need to know what people think right now about something, turn to your Twitter followers to see their immediate reactions. They've chosen to follow you, and are likely to give you good feedback.

I guess in closing, my thought about the hubbub about celebrities flocking to Twitter is - who cares?!? It doesn't matter. If you don't want to read their tweets, don't follow them. You have the control here, not them.

April 12, 2009

The Leadership Meme - Three Tools to Become a Leader

I am following up on Jamie Notter's post, which was followed up by Jeff De Cagna's, Maddie Grant's, and Dierdre Reed's. There's a good little meme going here!!

I've had a pretty unique opportunity to be around and interact with a lot of leaders in my current position. It has been great, and I have gleaned a few pieces of advice from them that are the three things I believe make up a good leader:

1. Be transparent - As a leader, you are responsible for steering the ship. If you want to have people trust that you're able to do so effectively, be open with the data you're using to make your decisions. As one of my contacts, a university president once told me, he makes every decision they come up with in their meetings public, so people don't feel as though they're being left out of important decisions. It shows that you are confident in the way you're conducting business, which should provide needed trust from your members.

2. Get a Mentor - Having someone from whom you can learn the ropes is an important aspect of becoming a leader. Someone who can help you through the questions you have, let you know where you can improve your skills in a trusting environment, and be there as you struggle in your efforts, should be welcomed by up and coming leaders.

3. Learn that It's NOT All About You - As a leader, it shouldn't be all about you. A leader needs to be able to surround him/herself with capable people who can do their jobs effectively, and then allow others to take the spotlight when they do something great. The goal is to have a successful association, not to feed the leader's own ego.

These are my thoughts. The others did a good job in explaining some other great ideas. I'm planning on taking them all into account, and taking their ideas to heart as I hope to move up the ladder in my career. Thanks to everyone for sharing!!

April 8, 2009

Why, Social Media? Why Do You Tease Me So?

I have gotten on the bandwagon, drank the Kool-Aid, (insert whatever similar phrase you want to here...) I love using social media tools, can completely see their relevance and positive traits, and think they are great ways to engage members and align them with an association's goals and objectives. I am on a high!

Then, earlier today I came crashing down when I took a look at a story called "Economic Strategy for Associations: A Benchmarking Report on Priorities, Challenges and Strategies" in the April issue of the Association Forum of Chicagoland's Forum magazine. The crash happened specifically when I looked at Table 2 on Page 20, and Key Finding #5.

Table 2 asks the question "How effective are each of the following methods in helping your association achieve its goals?" and has a number of goals like "Improving Member Retention" and "Engaging Younger Members" that were rated with a number of different methods like "Database Marketing" and "Member Get a Member Program". Whew - taking a breath after that long sentence!

As you'll see if you take a look at the table, the method called "Online Media" (which are really social media tools) ranks the lowest in all but two of the categories, in many cases being closer to the "Not at All Effective" end of the range than the "Very Effective" end.

I was shocked that even with the goal of "Increasing Participation Among Younger Members", online media was tied as the lowest rated method to accomplish that goal. That just doesn't jive with what I have found in my organizational use of social media tools, nor does it jive with what others have talked about over and over again at association conferences.

A couple personal examples are that of our organization's 3,800 Facebook Page Fans, probably 3/4 of them are our younger members. Of our Twitter followers, 3/4 of them are our younger members. Do these stats mean that we are necessarily engaging them in achieving the organization's goals? If we're using the social media tools correctly we are. Have we actually measured that? No we have not.

In closing, my questions to you are these - are the people who took this survey just people who haven't tried these tools yet? Are they just not using them in ways that could be beneficial to them? Or, are they actually seeing that online media tools are not effective in helping them meet their association's goals? What have you been seeing, and does what you are seeing and understanding jive with what the survey answers say?

Thanks for reading.

April 6, 2009

Lesson from Southwest Airlines

So by now, you have probably seen the "Rapping Southwest Flight Attendant" either on your local news station or on YouTube.

You may have even read Bob Wolfe's great post on the Young Association Professional blog that asks the question "Are You Taking the Mundane and Turning it on its Head?" It essentially an embed of the aforementioned video.

For me, this video and its viral success leads to a few points that I want to delve into here - culture and differentiation.

As I look at the video, I can't help but think about the culture that Southwest has created that allowed this to happen in the first place. They have a culture that rewards innovation, which in turn provides value to their customers. Their employees are able to be themselves, using their skills to more effectively get their message across and make it fun and exciting for the traveler. They try new things without the fear that if they make a mistake they'll be in trouble. This in turn has led to a resounding success in getting the company a GREAT DEAL of free media, thus helping to extend their brand to people who might not fly regularly.

Just think... Which airline is the average non-flier likely to choose for their next flight - the boring, stuffy one, or the one that shows it has people with personality running it (and oh by the way, has cheap fares).

I often hear people talking about the need for associations to innovate if we are to be successful as we move into the next decade - that if we think we're going to be using the same business model and doing things like we do today, we will be way behind. So my question is - why can't we be more like Southwest?

Why can't we create a culture within our organizations where not only the ingenuity of our employees is celebrated, but also that of our members? We can differentiate ourselves by being THE association that is truly open to innovative ideas, no matter where they come from. We can develop rewards for the the most innovative employee/member/non-member whose ideas we can implement to redevelop ourselves as we move forward. We can essentially use innovation to drive our business models, thus providing more value to our members.

I guess I feel as though this ONE LITTLE YOUTUBE VIDEO really crystalizes the fact that a culture of innovation is something that not only benefits the employees of an association/company, but also the association/company as a whole through the amazing outcomes it can create.

Why aren't we embracing the innovative ideas that come from our employees and members by creating a culture that supports it? It seems easy, but as we all know, changing the status quo rarely is.

Perhaps we need to have an association executive rap about developing a culture of innovation at the next ASAE Annual meeting. Maybe that will get people thinking more about it...

April 4, 2009

A Lesson from Fundraisers

I had lunch today with a friend who is a fundraiser. In this economy, what job could be more difficult than someone who relies on raising money from people who are hurting financially?

I think something that he said can be really instructive for all of us in the association community, even those of us who are not responsible for raising money from our members. He said that right now, while he and his fellow major gift officers are having some trouble raising funds, they are using this difficult economy for relationship-building.

They are meeting people. They are enhancing their already established relationships. And most importantly, they are galvanizing their support while times are down, which will put them in prime position to take advantage of the economy when it recovers.

I think that now more than ever, we should be following my fundraiser friend's lead and try to develop as many meaningful relationships with our members as possible. This will benefit the association in the long run, giving it an amazing core of evangelists that will be even more engaged in its success than before the economy turned sour.

Do you make time in your schedule to reach out and develop relationships with the members of your association? If not, why wait? Now is the perfect time to step up and devote some time to an important aspect that oftentimes gets taken for granted.