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 If you are willing to lead NOW and put a stop to some of the outdated traditions from the past, a few years down the road there will be all new traditions for your members/staff to embrace.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!