November 26, 2010

Two Great Fast Company Pieces Worth Checking Out

If you don't read Fast Company magazine, what are you waiting for? It's a magazine that I have read since the early 2000s, and every issue has made me think about something I am doing in my life and career. In the November 2010 issue, which was the magazine's 150th issue, there were two really great stories that I think all association professionals should read.

1. Chip & Dan Heath's monthly Made to Stick column focuses on ensuring that you're focusing on what consumers (or members in our case) feel they need, not on what you might think they need. One paragraph captures the crux of their argument:

If entrepreneurs want to succeed, as venture capitalists like to say, they'd better be selling aspirin rather than vitamins. Vitamins are nice; they're healthy. But aspirin cures your pain; it's not a nice-to-have, it's a must-have.

An example: you might create an on demand education program series for your members, which is a great use of new technology that you think would be good for the members. However, what the members really feel they need is an in person meeting that would satisfy their desire to network with their fellow members, etc.

Is what you're providing a vitamin or aspirin for your members?

2. Nancy Lublin, who serves as the CEO of the non-profit Do Something, wrote a fantastic and timely piece about the importance of two little words - thank you. The reason I like this column so much is because she reminds us that it's important to remember to thank the people we often forget - the delivery drivers, mail carriers, interns, the repairmen, etc. that we interact with on a daily basis in our offices.

I think this is all too often forgotten, as we are so concerned with thanking our members and the people who bring in the revenue for our organizations. I found it interesting in her piece that in her organization, they did a test about the names of some of the people who regularly interact with their staff, and the average result from the staff was only 50%... I wonder what the results would be if we were to do the same in our organizations.

Giving thanks is important, and sometimes getting thanks encourages people to go above and beyond the next time they're giving you service. Think about that the next time the repairman comes in and fixes something in your office. Those two small words could go a long way the next time something breaks.

November 23, 2010

Giving Thanks...

It's that time of year again, and in today's Association Twitter Chat (#assnchat) some of the time was devoted to talking about giving thanks and recognition to volunteers and members.

For me, giving thanks to volunteers should be an ongoing process, not a once a year project. How can we best do it? Here are my guidelines for giving thanks to members and volunteers:
  • Make it personal - don't just give them a certificate or something... Make it something they're really going to enjoy. If you don't know what your volunteers are going to enjoy, you're not working closely enough with them (or you haven't documented enough)...
  • Make it regular - Don't wait until the end of their service to thank them or give them something to show them how much you appreciate them. Send regular notes... Send regular updates about something you know they are passionate about within the organization... Etc.
  • Make it wide ranging - I try to send a regular annual thank you around Thanksgiving to everyone who has made an impact on my work throughout the year. I use a template but personalize each person's note for something specific they've done to help make my job easier or how they've made an impact on the organization. That list sometimes becomes more than 100 people that I personally recognize. Imagine if everyone on our staff did the same thing what kind of impact we could make...
As we think about thanking and recognizing our members and volunteers, we (and our bosses) need to realize it takes time and dedication. We MUST devote time and energy to keeping track of those who need/deserve praise and thanks, and our organizations must embrace that. If they don't, they won't see the positive things and continued engagement that comes from really energized volunteers - those who feel the love and want to give it back...

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving to the readers of this blog. You have all made me a better professional with your comments and kind words of encouragement. Be safe!

When Passion Goes Overboard

I was watching the Texas A&M vs. Nebraska football game this past Saturday evening, and I witnessed someone being probably as passionate about something as I have ever seen - Nebraska coach Bo Pelini... He was running up and down the field, screaming at referees and players, just showing his passion and exuberance throughout the entire game.

Problem was: he was penalized for his actions in chastising a referee over and over again, he nearly had one of his players quit because he screamed at him so much, and his team ended up losing the game after committing 16 penalties.

Here's the point - passion is important, but too much passion sometimes hurts a team or organization...

Have you ever witnessed an association volunteer or staffer show too much passion, which ended up hurting the overall effort? I'd love to hear some examples in the comments...

November 22, 2010

The Importance of Taking Advice from People You Trust

An old boss of mine wisely once told me that there would always be a reason NOT to take a new position, and that it was always easier to stay in the comfy and stable place where I was.

His advice has always been that I need to be willing to take a chance, and take the not-so-stable course. A few years ago, I told him that I needed to stay in my position because I was getting married and needed the stability. I recall him telling me that the next thing that would keep me in my job was buying a house (which happened), then it would be a baby (which also happened)... He is a wise, wise man...

I'm happy to report that in the last few weeks, after over four years of staying in my stable position, I decided to FINALLY take his advice. I accepted a new position literally in the most unstable time of my life - a mere two weeks before my wife's due date with our first child.

I chose between stability and the unknown, and I am happy with my choice... I start on Monday, and am ready for what the unknown will bring. I'm sure this new position will feel stable at some point a number of years into the future. That's precisely when I'll take my trusted old boss' advice again.

October 26, 2010

Say Yes to Everything? No thanks.

I'm back today after a little hiatus from this blog to take opposition to something you hear a lot of people say in terms of getting ahead - say yes to every opportunity that comes your way... I've heard it over and over and agreed with it for a long time. It got so bad that contrary to most people where "THE" is their most used word, I sometimes think that "YES" is mine...

Now, in certain instances, I think saying yes to everything makes sense. To someone who's just getting out of school and needs to make an impression on their new boss, saying yes to every opportunity to make that impression makes sense. In fact, in a story that we did in our about to be released magazine at my organization, one of our members who is giving advice to our undergraduates says, "Say “Yes” to everything, no matter how menial the task. If you complete it quicker than expected and better than expected, the requests from others will increase and your credibility will rise."

I agree for the most part to his analysis.

But here's where I disagree: what if you say yes to so many things that you don't get things done quicker and better than expected? What if by saying yes to everything, you actually stretch yourself too thin and aren't able to be the best professional you can be?

Not only that, but as someone who is now pretty established in my career and who is craving work-life balance, I think this advice to say yes to everything is flawed. As I said earlier, I have been saying yes to just about everything for a long time.

Because of this, I'm now serving on four committees for professional development and volunteer organizations, each with its own conference call and other responsibilities. I'm someone who likes to be involved and be seen as a leader in a lot of different things, and I don't want this to seem like I don't appreciate the opportunities to lead. However, saying yes to all of these things has really cramped my ability to be the best volunteer, employee, husband, and soon-to-be father that I can be... It's time for me to step back and learn how to say no.

So I guess if an undergraduate asked me what my advice would be to them, I'd say "Don't be afraid to say yes often, but learn how to say no, now. You can thank me later."

Thanks as always for reading. I hope you'll add your thoughts to the comments...

August 26, 2010

The Most Regular Question I Got at the ASAE Annual Meeting...

I got back earlier this week from a fantastic 2010 ASAE Annual Meeting in LA - my third consecutive Annual Meeting. It was memorable for a number of reasons, some of which I will talk about in a future post. Today, I wanted to talk about the most regular question I received from fellow attendees who didn't know me at the event:

Why is a Fraternity attending ASAE?

My snarky response in my head has always been the Fraternity isn't here... I, a staff member who feels professional development is important, am... However, I have never had the nerve to say it to anyone!!

My real response has been - fraternities and associations are not very different. In fact, if my organization had the word "Association" instead of "Fraternity" at the end of it, people likely wouldn't even think of asking me about it. However, it doesn't, and I have answered the question for the last three years, often asked by someone who followed the initial question up with Do you manage the keg parties? I often give a chuckle, knowing the person likely just doesn't understand how similar our organizations really are...

So, I thought I'd use this blog to educate some folks who either have, or will in the future, ask me these questions...

The fact is that fraternities are complex membership organizations, just like associations.
  • We have engaged members ranging in age from 18 to 80 or 90, who work in various professional areas.
  • Our organizations hold events, many times with many hundreds of people attending.
  • We have member education programs like most associations do - many groups are beginning to host online education in a wide variety of topics for members from many different backgrounds, like any of the major associations.
  • We have print publications, use the web to communicate through social media tools, and have robust communications strategies oftentimes led by a single staffer.
  • We provide opportunities for our members to connect and network, again much like associations do...
Oh, and I forgot to mention that both my boss and I have volunteered for ASAE & The Center for the last three years - him serving as the Executive Management Section Chairman for 2010-11, and me serving for the third consecutive year on the Communication Section Council.

While I understand why I receive the question, I hope I can educate enough people, both through this blog and in my experience at the events moving forward, about why it makes complete sense for myself and my fellow Greek-letter organization professionals are attending the ASAE Annual Meeting.

August 13, 2010

Three Things I'm Looking Forward to at the 2010 ASAE Annual Meeting

So the 2010 ASAE Annual Meeting is happening in just over a week, and there are really three things I am looking forward to most about the event.

Collaboration - The first thing I'm doing when I get to LA is attending our Communication Section Council in-person meeting, which will be an excellent opportunity for all of the new and old members of the council to collaborate on a shared vision for the year. Each and every time I am involved with these folks, all of whom are excellent communicators, I take something away that I can utilize personally or professionally. The collaboration that takes place in these meetings is always a highlight for me, and I'd recommend any Communication Section member to either attend the meeting on Saturday afternoon, or connect with one of us throughout the conference. We'll have ribbons on our nametags.

- One of the greatest things about ASAE as a whole is the community of like-minded (and sometimes non like-minded) people with whom you come into contact. I'm very much looking forward to meeting a number of folks I have yet to, as well as reconnecting with a whole host of great association leaders that I have met at past events. You all know who you are!! It's going to be fun!

In addition, this year myself and my boss are welcoming three new people into the ASAE Annual Meeting community - three of our co-workers who have never been to an Annual Meeting (or any other ASAE event) before. We're very excited for them to get a taste of the outstanding programming and community that is created at the event. They are all great, and will hopefully make a very positive impact on the sessions they choose to attend. I hope you'll take a moment to make them feel welcome if you meet any of them.

Content - As usual, the content that will be presented at the Annual Meeting is diverse and compelling, and at some time slots there are like four sessions I wish I could attend. It's amazing that there is so much good content that comes out of one event.

This year, I'm particularly looking forward to attending some of the meetings and events sessions to help round out my knowledge in that area. I think I have some things to learn in that discipline, and I'm looking forward to hearing the content leaders discuss their best practices there.

Lastly, I'm looking forward to the FUN! The crowd that attends the Annual Meeting is always such a fun and outgoing group, and I am looking forward to the many opportunities there will be to connect with my fellow association leaders in the down time.

I think I'm going to blog from the event much like I did last year (here, here, and here), so check back once the event starts for some of my random ramblings about what is sure to be a great event!

July 28, 2010

Traditions Can Change if You Lead

Who woulda thunk it... Dez Bryant is a leader.

If you haven't been keeping up with what's happening in the Dallas Cowboys training camp right now, it goes like this... A rookie wide receiver on the team, Dez Bryant, refused to carry a veteran player's shoulder pads off the field after practice, taking a stand against the decades old professional sports tradition of rookie hazing. In reading the stories surrounding it this week, many people are saying that Bryant should have just gone with the tradition and dealt with it because "it's the way it's always been done".

As someone who works for an organization that has a lot of tradition (we've been around for over 110 years), my experience is that not every tradition is one that should be embraced or continued. Whether it's hazing of new members, an event that has worn out its welcome at an annual meeting, or even something as small as printing out membership forms when they come in online - some may call it tradition, but in reality, people are in the "it's always been done this way, and we don't want to change" mindset...

What people often don't realize is that just because something is a tradition today doesn't mean it will be in a few years... If you are willing to lead NOW and put a stop to some of the outdated traditions from the past, a few years down the road there will be all new traditions for your members/staff to embrace. In my organization specifically, where we work with college students, our turnover rate is four years (i.e. if something hasn't happened in the past four years, the undergraduate members we serve don't necessarily realize it ever did because their tradition is only what they've witnessed in the last four years...)

I don't claim that changing tradition or the "we've always done it that way" culture is easy or popular every time, but by thinking about the 'why' of something (i.e. what's the purpose of this tradition) before thinking about the what or how, it seems as though you might be on the right track.

Will you be the next Dez Bryant in your organization - standing up to the tradition that has lost its purpose? Here's to the leaders who are willing to lead change to make our organizations/associations better.

Do you agree with me, disagree with me, or have additional thoughts to share? I certainly hope you'll share in the comments (particularly if you have had success in changing traditions that no longer make sense)...

July 20, 2010

Social Media ROI

I've heard a lot of talk about ROI on social media recently, and it seems as though a whole heck of a lot of executives are worried about whether the staff time being spent (or more accurately "invested") managing a Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc. presence is wise.

I've heard people say that there are a lot of things that associations do where executives don't necessarily monitor the ROI regularly, so why are they so concerned with the ROI of social media? To me, those people are missing the point and aren't looking at the big picture. Executives are paid to measure how the resources of the association can best be put to use. They should be concerned that the time their staff is investing in social media makes sense for the association. However, I believe there needs to be a long-term view of the investment, rather than a short-term view.

When I hear people ask about the ROI of social media, I always say that they should ask the same question: Would our organization be better off if we were NOT engaged in social media? In most cases, I'd guess the answer most associations would give is no. While the return is hard to quantify, we MUST have a presence to meet our members where they're already engaging in conversations.

Case in point, in some recent statistics I read, Nielsen said that people spent 22% of their internet time on social media sites during April. More than 1/5 of the time spent on the web is spent on social media sites... That's a powerful statistic in my opinion, and speaks directly to the reason why having a presence is so important - they're there, we need to be as well...

Getting back to ROI, I personally believe in most cases, engaging with members on social media sites is more like investing in a retirement account (steady returns that yield a very positive result later on) than a highly volatile stock (you might see amazing immediate success that might not be sustained). Thinking long-term on your investment in social media is the right way to go about it.

Also, in my opinion, determining ROI by how many followers or fans your organization has doesn't make a lot of sense. Yes, it's quantifiable, but it takes someone two seconds to become a Fan (or to be more accurate and current "Liker") of your Facebook Page. Does getting someone to say they're a fan really create the return? I don't think so. The return comes with continued and regular interaction and engagement through these channels, creating opportunities for your followers and fans to help your organization succeed.

Social media is a set of powerful tools that help you create a return by utilizing them to help engage and inspire your association's members to action. How you measure that return is up to your own organization, but remember that it's tremendously hard today to engage and inspire members to act without having a presence in social media...

ROI is a hot topic that is sure to be continued at the ASAE Annual Meeting later this summer. I'm looking forward to the conversations that will happen there to hear what others have to say. In the meantime, what do you think?

July 19, 2010

It's an Investment

I think I have investments on the brain tonight...

I was just sitting here VERY excitedly thinking about the fact that I'm about to pay off my student loans from college!! Only one more payment, and the large investment in the outstanding education I received at my alma mater will be fully paid for. It was a great investment, and one that really has helped me become the man and professional I am today.

As I think back to my time in college and in joining the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter on campus, I recall our advisor continuously mentioning that joining the organization was an investment in our future. He was right, and that statement had really stuck with me...

It's interesting, because I often forget that when our members are joining and volunteering, they're actually not only investing in their future success, but that they're also investing in the future success of our organization, much like my investment to join PRSSA back in college.

Do you sometimes forget about that investment that your members are making? I'm challenging myself to think in those terms as I think about our members and volunteers, and will challenge you to do the same. How can we more effectively and personally recognize the investment our members are making? I think that's a key in continued engagement and involvement of our members. If they're not feeling enriched, or that they're enriching the organization, their investment will not be seen in their eyes as a good one.

As I have gotten more and more involved in the association community, and with ASAE, I continue feeling as though the investment has already, and will continue to pay off in the future. I'd like to thank all of you who have made that investment a good one, and who continue to make it more and more enriching for me...

July 8, 2010

The (Sometimes Costly) Consequences of Using Social Media

So I'm sure some of you heard the story about the CNN Editor who was fired because of something she tweeted... Essentially, her tweet was seen by CNN, and apparently a lot of viewers, as being supportive of a founding Hezbollah cleric from her native Lebanon.

After she tweeted it and there was some backlash, she wrote a blog post (which seemed reasonable and well thought out) to expand on her meaning in her original tweet. However, she was still essentially fired by CNN, though the post says she "resigned"...

I think this should be a wake up call for all of us, and especially those new to social media. Twitter's 140 character limit is just that - a limit. You cannot create a great deal of context within that limit. So, while we should be authentic in our dealings on the social web, we also must be well aware of that fact when we go to post something on our social media outposts...

I know a lot of us have little disclaimers in our Twitter profiles that say something like "These opinions are my own and do not represent my employer." While I think those are great, I don't know that would have saved Ms. Nasr in this situation. This is where CNN was right in that it has a crystal clear social media policy.

Nicole Provonchee over at the Parthenon Publishing Blog stated it well: "The reason behind the tweet apparently did not matter to CNN. Nasr broke CNN’s strict social media policy and the result is the termination of her employment. Among other things, CNN’s social media policy states: “CNN EMPLOYEES ARE TO AVOID TAKING PUBLIC POSITIONS ON THE ISSUES AND PEOPLE AND ORGANIZATIONS ON WHICH WE REPORT.” The policy is clear."

Last thing: there were a heckuva lot of folks who really spoke loudly a few months back when an organization that we all know "censored" a blog post that was written by one of its employees. I guess my question is: should CNN have fired this woman for expressing her views, and if you say yes, isn't this is the same thing (i.e. her expressing her views and having consequences from them) as what happened with the aforementioned association and the blog post heard 'round the association social media world? Or is it very different since in this situation, the actual post/words are not being removed from anything, but rather utilized to illustrate an important point? Would love your feedback!

June 27, 2010

Communicating about the Elimination of Programs or Services

So my wife and I were planning to go to a movie on Friday night... I went online to find out the time of the movie at our favorite theater, and was met with a number of dead ends. I couldn't figure out what the issue was, and finally after calling the phone number found out that the theater was closed.

I couldn't believe it... The theater was never less than full when we went, so why in the world was it closed? I guess I hadn't been paying attention to the local news closely enough... We still wanted to see the movie, so we decided to go to a competitor and see it.

This experience immediately made me think about our work in associations... Often, decisions are made to "sunset" a program or offering that isn't measuring up... However, do our members get the message? If not, when they try to go get the product or take advantage of the service the next time, they have a similar situation to mine...

I think it's imperative as we make decisions on our offerings, that we also think about how we're communicating about them to help members understand what's happening... I think we need to answer (at least) the following questions in our communication:

- What the reasons are for removing the product/service...
- When it's happening...
- What our plans are to take the product or service's place...
- Where members can provide their input/reaction...

The fact is that we won't be able to ensure everyone gets the message, but we really need to be very strategic in how we plan to ensure that the most people know as possible.

I think the communication needs to start with the association's volunteers and the members who have already decided to take advantage of the product/service... Additionally, another important group is the segment of members who you've already marketed it to. Finally, the membership at large... There are probably more segments of the membership who are important, but these are just a few.

What it comes down to is that communicating openly and effectively the reasons why and what the future plans are will hopefully help alleviate members' frustration when they're trying to find a product you have decided to take away...

June 21, 2010

Embrace Those Who Are Good at Executing Big Plans

So here's how wild and crazy my Friday nights are these days - I spent last Friday night watching PBS' Newshour with Jim Lehrer... Wild? Probably not. Instructive and interesting? Absolutely. This past Friday night especially...

Newshour's regular columnists, Shields and Brooks, who spar with one another each night, were discussing the disgustingly sad situation happening at Arlington National Cemetery... Brooks, who's also a New York Times columnist, said the following (at 11:29 of the video here):

"...Vision's important. But actually executing properly, getting the proper computer system there, even after millions have been spent, executing in the Gulf, executing on an oil platform, that is underplayed in a society that likes something fancy, something oratorical, but actually executing is tremendously important, upon which everything else exists. And we have a failure of execution on BP, a failure of execution I think now in the Gulf, and certainly at Arlington."

While it's not perfect grammatically, I agree with Brooks' comments wholeheartedly. To me, execution is an oft overlooked aspect of our work in associations as well. We can have many great ideas, a bold new vision or a shiny new plan, but if we don't execute those things very well, they're worth nothing more than the paper upon which they were written.

An example: The organization for which I work has a bold vision for what we're going to be in 2025. It talks about how large we're going to be, what kinds of offerings we're going to have, etc. Essentially, it's a number of bold aspirations that will guide our path as we move toward it. However, unless we execute the intermediate sets of metrics and goals that will help us get there, that bold vision will be a nice thing to point to, but won't accomplish much. That's why execution is so important...

Now, I don't want you to get the wrong idea - I do believe that big things can be accomplished by thinking bigger than the status quo. I respect the big thinkers out there who are leading our associations to new heights, and hope to be someone who does so someday.

At the same time, there are a lot of staffers out there executing the big plans that are being developed by those big thinkers. Embrace those people! They are as important to the success of our associations as we move forward as those who are coming up with the ideas themselves.

Now, back to my regular Monday night ritual - watching Shields and Brooks battle it out again... Maybe I'll gain another tidbit that I can use here soon!

June 10, 2010

Becoming a Championship Association

Blackhawks WIN! Blackhawks WIN!

If you follow me on Twitter, or are a friend of mine on Facebook, you probably saw me LEAP onto the 'Hawks bandwagon as they entered the NHL Playoffs. Who watches the NHL regular season anyway?!?!

Anyway, while watching a team in the town where I live win a world championship was AMAZING, and I actually took away a few lessons that we can take from the Blackhawks' run as we strive to become championship associations...

1. Having the right organizational leadership means the world - Four or five years ago, the Chicago Blackhawks franchise was in shambles. People were not going to the games and the team was a joke in the city... The leadership team was failing miserably. Then came Rocky Wirtz, the current chairman/owner of the team who vowed to bring winning back to one of the original six NHL franchises... He developed a plan, hired the right management team (including a successful team President who came from one of the city's baseball franchises), and made his vision well known - he was going to bring a championship back to the city. In just a few years, his vision became a reality... As we think about becoming a championship association, having the right leaders in place (both on staff and on the Board) is extremely important.

2. Don't overlook young leaders - When Wirtz first took over, the first two players he brought in were Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, who were the young guns he was going to build the new transition around. In associations, we often have young members who are interested in getting involved and engaging in leadership positions early on, and we need to be willing to let them take the lead and bring a different kind of leadership to the table.

3. But don't forget about your old leaders - One of the greatest things about the Blackhawks' run was how they embraced their leaders from years past... Men like Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Tony Esposito, all of whom were leaders on the last team that won the Stanley Cup, were front and center throughout the team's championship run... The lesson for associations here is while it's important to embrace young leaders, keeping high profile past leaders in the loop and visible is extremely important...

4. Your fans love to cheer for a winner - When things weren't going well, the fans went away from the 'Hawks... When they started winning again, the fans came back in droves... Being a championship association means keeping your fans engaged and empowered at all times. How can they help you reach your vision/mission? How can they help you get your message out further? If they can see your vision, they'll be invaluable!

It took the Blackhawks a long time (49 years to be exact) to once again become the Stanley Cup Champions. It might take your association some time, but by keeping some of the tips in mind directly from this year's NHL champions will help you focus on some things to get you back to championship-caliber!

Oh, and GO 'Hawks!

June 3, 2010

The Future of Magazines?

So I happened to be going through my tweets, and happened upon one by Chris Uschan from OmniPress sharing the video below.

It got me thinking - is this how magazine content will be widely consumed in the coming years, and if so, how can we get in on the bottom floor now in creating this kind of interactivity and user defined experience?

Many of us are using Nxtbook and other products like it to move our magazines to online platforms, and that's a step in the right direction. However, what's shown in the video below seems more like a giant leap from where many of us in associations are right now. Can we develop this kind of product for our members? Should we?

I think now is the time we begin thinking like Wired and Time (which also has an amazingly interactive iPad app for their magazine), and get ahead of the curve in our publishing capabilities, because Lord knows that our members and readers are only becoming more technologically savvy the more time goes on...

June 1, 2010

Quitters Never Win...

We all heard this line growing up from our parents when we decided we no longer wanted to play the clarinet (or whatever geeky thing you decided you wanted to quit)... Well, there were a few things that I almost quit recently, but I decided to heed my Mom's advice and stick with them - this blog and Facebook.

As you might be able to tell, my last post to this blog was in March. Throughout my hiatus I had thoughts to share, but just didn't sit down and actually write them into posts... I always found something else to do instead, but I have decided that I really need to rethink that and get back to writing. So, get ready for more regular posts and thoughts about everything from blogs I have read to things I've seen that I can relate to associations somehow...

The other thing that I alomost quit was Facebook, and I almost decided to do it yesterday on Quit Facebook Day. I had friends who decided to quit for their own reasons, but I decided to stick with it... My reasoning - I think if you want to create change within a company (or even an association), quitting isn't the way to do it. I think that building your coalition from within and going to the leadership with sound reasoning is the better way to create the change you desire.

I understand that there are concerns about privacy. I understand that there are concerns about Facebook selling your information to advertisers who then use it... If you feel as though these are things you cannot deal with, then by all means, quit. Make your small statement that doesn't help fix the problem.

To me, the bigger statement that you can make is working with the company/association/organization to craft a more meaningful policy from within to create the change you desire. By quitting, you're giving up. By working to create the change you seek, you are making the culture better for everyone, thus creating a HUGE statement that is worthwhile to everyone.

Now, some people are probably going to say that those who quit Facebook were the ones who caused them to change their privacy settings last week. I don't think that's true. I think the ones who helped convince them were users who were not happy with what they saw, and decided to let Facebook know about it.

Now all of those who quit seem to have lost, while all of us who stuck it out seem to have won with the new privacy settings. Who says parents aren't right?

March 2, 2010

Saving Your Job by Doing Something New...

My brother is in the newspaper business. That's right, the business that is slowly losing readership and paid subscribers because of the rise of the internet and free online news sources. He's seen the closure of newspapers across the country, the many layoffs that have happened in the industry, and understands that this is not a great time to be in the business... Or is it?

By trade he is a writer and page designer - two positions that are being cut quite often as the newspaper business shifts online. But while those are his main roles, he's also carved out a nice niche where he is a blogger about the business of sports, and is the host of their newly created podcast detailing their biggest stories of the week.

In other words, he is not being hamstrung by the title that he has, but rather is utilizing his skills to build himself a role as the landscape of print shifts online. He has been able to understand that the newspaper business is about content, and while the content might not be delivered in print for much longer, it is still valuable in some form.

I guess the whole point of this post is that even in associations, some things that we currently do might not continue to work the same way they have in the past. As staffers and executives, we need to think ahead as to how the landscape might shift, and then as individuals figure out how we can have a hand in making the shift seamless to ensure long-term job security.

February 25, 2010

It's the Time of Year for the Gold Circle Awards!

ASAE & The Center's Gold Circle Awards are back, providing you and your organization opportunities to be recognized for outstanding efforts in communications. Sponsored by ASAE & The Center's Communications Section Council, the 2010 awards reflect the best in association communications during the 2009 calendar year.

So why should you enter? There are really six reasons...
  • Gain recognition for your organization’s communication excellence
  • Receive a stunning crystal trophy
  • Use of the 2010 Gold Circle Award logo to promote in your award-winning communications
  • Have your entry showcased in ASAE & The Center’s Online Knowledge Center
  • Demonstrate your communications effective practices
  • Have a chance to win a Council's Choice Award.
There are a number of categories for you to enter: Annual Report, Blog, Feature Article, General Association Web Site, Innovative Communications, Issue-Specific Web Site, Magazine, Media Relations Campaign, Newsletter, Peer Reviewed Journal and Podcast.

It only costs $100 per entry, but be sure to enter by the deadline of March 31. Oh, and if you're planning to enter, be sure to attend a best practices session led by the Gold Circle Awards Committee of the Communications Section Council that is being planned for March 18 in DC. More information will be made available in the coming week or two.

As a member of the Council, I hope that you take a few moments to enter today!

February 16, 2010

How NOT to Fundraise...

So I was on my way home earlier this evening from a quick trip to the store, and I saw an odd number on my phone with my old hometown's area code. I answered reluctantly, and heard the following:

"Hi Bruce, this is (INSERT NAME HERE), and I'm calling on behalf of the (INSERT COLLEGE NAME HERE) University volleyball team. I wanted to see if you wanted to donate money to us."

That was it. Literally... That was the pitch. Couple problems with it though...

1. I didn't go to said university (although I do regularly give to their Foundation to a specific fund named for a friend of mine who passed away)...
2. I am not a huge volleyball fan, nor have I ever gone to one of this university's volleyball games.
3. Aside from the fund named for my friend, I have no affinity to this university...

So, here are a few recommendations I have for associations on how to avoid such issues:

1. Ensure There's an Affinity - If trying to raise money, be sure the person you're calling has some semblance of an affinity toward what you're raising money for. (i.e. if it's for your leadership programming, they should have received some kind of leadership training already...)
2. Train Your Fundraisers - Be sure the people who are asking for the money are trained and know what they're doing. The girl who called was a member of the team, which while more personal, was just not someone who should be doing it. She likely had little training, and what if I had asked her about a very specific part of the university I WAS interested in supporting? She wouldn't have been able to effectively answer me.
3. Be Careful of Your Data - I wonder if the Foundation of the university provided my information to this team with knowledge of what they were doing? It seems as though the Foundation would not want to potentially lose a regular donor because of something like this...
4. Mine the Data - If the university would have done its due diligence, they would have known I had no interest in supporting a volleyball team of a school I never went to.

All in all, I'm still going to support the very specific fund that I do every year since it holds a very dear place in my heart. However, I have lost some respect for the institution because of this episode. Will your members lose respect in you? I think if you follow the tips above, they won't...

February 5, 2010

This May be Blasphemy, But...

I don't get Foursquare. There, I said it. I know it's the big thing these days, but I just personally don't see the value in it for me. Everyday on Twitter I see that everyone is unlocking all these buttons, becoming mayors of places, and developing their own online kingdoms or whatever... For me, it's noise.

A usual complaint I hear from non-Twitter users is that they don't understand why you want to know what someone had for lunch today. As a Twitter user, I know that's not what people who get followers tweet about, but to me, this is almost the same thing. Why do I personally care that Joe Schmo who I'm following became the Mayor of Starbucks in Timbuktu? Why do I personally care that Jane Doe frequents Kroger in Islamabad? I don't...

Now, while I don't personally find value in the tool right now, I was thinking about how associations may be able to use it to their benefit, and as far as my sometimes small brain can tell, there may be some potential uses. Here are a few that I thought about:
  • Gathering Data on Members - Perhaps you find out through Foursquare data collection that one of your volunteers is the Mayor of his local Starbucks. You are able to then provide that person with a more personalized recognition (like a Sbux gift card) if necessary, than you would if you didn't have this information...
  • Gathering Members Together in a Regular Location - I don't know... Perhaps you are able to find out by mining the data collected from Foursquare that a large number of your members frequent the same location in NYC. Perhaps you have a networking event there since you know they're already congregating in that specific location...
  • Annual Meeting/Expo Usage - Perhaps you can use Foursquare to have members visit certain parts of your Annual Meeting or Trade Show floor by allowing people to become Mayors and unlocking buttons at specific vendor booths or rooms...
Now, the first two uses would only be good if you were easily able to gather and then mine the data from Foursquare. I don't know how easy that would be, nor do I think that many associations have the manpower (or womanpower) to do this at this point. What other potential uses are there for associations that I'm not thinking about?

So, my questions to you...

1. What am I missing about this phenomenon?
2. Why do you use it/like it so much, and what is the value add for you?

Help me understand!! Thanks as always for reading...

January 12, 2010

Some Tips on Streaming an Event Live

So my organization recently beta tested streaming video using for a state of the organization speech at an event. We asked three members to sit and watch the stream from home while it happened, and then provide us with feedback - both positive and negative.

I also had left the event midway through, and watched it with a critic's eye from home. Here are a few tips I have for those of you wanting to utilize it:

1. Know the Exact Layout of the Room - So we had seen the room in the hotel walkthru, and had what we thought was a good idea of how it would be set up. However, the morning of, we found that the screen was not next to the stage as we had thought it would be, and thus was out of the shot. The streaming would have been MUCH more useful with the Powerpoint slides easily seen by those watching from home.

2. Test, test and test again - We tested the internet connection when we did our walkthru to make sure it would be strong enough, etc. However, we did not have the A/V hooked up to see how the sound would be in the room with the mic. While it worked out ok for us, we should have also tested this beforehand. In addition, we should have tested with the actual people who would be speaking to ensure that it was ok.

3. Prepare and Plan for Ambient Noise - If you're live streaming, be sure that there aren't people right next to the webcam coughing, typing loudly on their computers, whispering, etc. The microphone on the camera picks all of that up, and it can be distracting for those watching at home.

4. Prepare Your Speakers for the Online Aspect of the Presentation - At times, I think the speakers forgot that there was an online audience, and said things that people in the room would "get" but perhaps not those online. When doing something like this, speakers need to be prepared for that and adjust their remarks accordingly.

Going along with #4:

5. Engage with your online audience early - When welcoming people and introducing the session, your speakers should also welcome those who are in the online audience. In addition, they should include sayings like "if you're speaking, please be sure to speak up so our online audience can hear you", etc. The person who is at the computer (i.e. the chat moderator) should also provide some nuggets about the room, who's there, how many, etc.

6. Q&A - If you are taking Q&A from the audience, be sure to repeat the question for the online audience, as well as engage the online audience by answering some of the questions they might have. Solicit this when you solicit the questions from those in attendance (i.e. I'd now like to open it up to questions from those in the room and those watching us online.)

7. Provide online-only interaction - In the future, we will likely try to engage the speaker with the online-only audience following the talk in a question & answer session specifically for them. So, we'll ask the speaker to spend 10 extra minutes following the session sitting down in front of the webcam, and answering some of the online generated questions from the Q&A. This will make the experience special for those watching at home.

As I close, I think we'll likely integrate streaming events into our efforts. However, there are a few things we'll do differently to ensure a better experience for those watching at home. We'll probably only live stream events in smaller rooms, with limited Powerpoint/visual aids, and perhaps with smaller crowds. We'll carefully pick and choose what we stream, and when we do, it will be exciting to those of our members who are unable to be there in person. I'm excited about its possibilities for our future!