Posts tagged ‘strategy’

“Lights! Cameras! Interaction! 5 Internet TV Strategies for a New Era of Member Engagement

Imagine your association or trade organization having its own television network full of “must-see” original series-based and niche programming which draws in a loyal audience of members, non-members and relevant stakeholders.  It begins with great storytelling.

Good storytelling is like a “window”, but great storytelling serves as both a “window” and “mirror” reflection upon your audience’s own experiences, interests and core values.  Good stories appeal to us on a rational level but great storytelling reaches the heart and soul which leaves us feeling a stronger connection and “kinship” with the story, its subjects and origin.

Despite these truths, as membership professionals we’ve spent years doing our best working within the limitations of the communications channels and platforms we’ve had at our disposal in our attempt to engage members in our messaging, stories and networking.

While video is considered to be the most effective multi-sensory form of communication, it has largely been out-of-reach for most of us until the recent evolution of web video.  Despite growing access to web broadcast channels and video platforms, one might conclude that our industry’s approach to video strategy has been somewhat primitive at best.

In the end, it’s not the format of video itself that creates a compelling story-driven experience, but rather the way in which we utilize video as a tool to tell powerful series-driven stories which create that ongoing “window” and “mirror” reflection that strengthens the way members identify and engage our associations.

Interactive internet TV technology is gaining steam and when you consider the reach of internet-based video across living room TV screens, computer screens, tablets and mobile phones, the opportunity becomes clearer.  However, it’s going to take more than a couple of flip cams to get on the right track toward producing the right series and programming.  Below are some strategies to help you get started:

1)  Develop Channel Segments: Just as we define membership segments, it is equally important to define the key audiences you would like to reach.  Audience segmentation can help you not only plan the most relevant series/episodic content but also help you prioritize creative development.

2)  Interactive Video Platforms and Tools: There are more options out there than you might think.  Emerging technologies, such as Coincident TV, are providing an early glimpse into the full potential of truly interactive internet-based TV.  This technology converts passive viewers into fully engaged active participants who are in control of the viewing experience.  This type of video technology is hardwired for social networking and enables the producer to create behavior-prompting “cue points” during the video which to convert compelling “moments” into actions.   Click here to consider the possibilities.

3) Story Format and Series Planning: We live in the age of reality-style TV, which is essentially a documentary-style form of storytelling.  Immersing audiences into the center of a story in an authentic way is not only compelling, but also a far less expensive form of production than “staged” programming.  Consider the prospect of following a member/s over multiple episodes, entering into their daily life and experiences.  The premise of the series should be rooted in the key messages, themes and goals your associations seeks to convey, only your messengers are real members telling/living real and relatable stories.

4)  Sponsor-Integrated Programming: The need to generate non-dues revenue is a trend that will likely not go away anytime soon.  Sponsors seek to create a close strategic alignment/relationship with your members.  The challenge is granting sponsors the level of integration they desire while at the same avoiding disruption and value-detraction.  Interactive original internet-based video programming offers the creative possibility of incorporating sponsors as meaningful story elements incorporating the CTV style of capabilities above.  Perhaps the best news of all, original series-based programming is not only a great vehicle for sponsors but also an excellent means by which to underwrite production costs.       

5)  Leveraging Series Stars as Association Surrogates: The cascading benefit of an effective internet TV strategy is you are creating an air of “celebrity” around the “stars” you feature as part of your series-based programming.  These association “celebrities” can become amazing surrogates and spokespersons for your association at a number of key levels.  Looking for an example, watch this example which contributed a spike in membership for the Emergency Nurses Association.

Need more examples to jumpstart your storytelling, take a look at these soon-to-be-released non-profit examples from America’s Chefs and The Exchange Club .

In the end, as you develop your internet TV strategy always keep in mind you are building a deeper and broader level of engagement with your members.


April 5, 2011 at 3:03 pm 2 comments

Social Media – From Trend to Standard Association Business Practice

Having returned from the 2010 ASAE Annual Meeting last week, all I can say is it has been a fascinating year in the slow evolution of the social web’s impact on association business practice.  I can also say  there are many more miles to travel before associations secure a strong future with their audiences.

Perhaps the most interesting development I’ve seen is the way some of the trendy social media hipsters are starting to lose a bit of interest, which can only mean that we may finally be moving toward the integration of social media strategy into the standard association business model, strategy and operations… but we aren’t quite there yet.

I admire all of the cutting-edge early adopter personalities out there as they are the ones who help push everyone else through the gravitational pull of the association atmosphere to get us all to the point where we can shift our focus to analyze how the business trends of social media are reshaping our world.

Where do we go from here and what does 2011 have in store for us?  My recommendation for you is a series of board and executive management sessions in your association geared toward educational and planning so the business impact and opportunity of social media can, once and for all, be understood and advanced.

In doing so, we move the conversation from the delegation of social media responsibility to the new part-time college graduate hire over in marketing/communications to the place where all strategic business issues are discussed and planned… the Board Room.

As the saying goes, “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”.  Now, let’s get out there and build a strong future for associations.

September 1, 2010 at 9:46 am Leave a comment

What Social Media Means to Associations – Beyond Mere Facebook Pages and Twitter Accounts

I’ve recently had the wonderful opportunity to deliver presentations to a variety of individuals and organisations regarding how social media is already transforming the future of associations.  Through these experiences, I’ve listened carefully to fears, perceptions and admirable admissions of a lack of functional understanding relating to what social media means to associations.

I also hear allot about Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, as if that is somehow enough to leverage the potential of the social web.  The reality is social media is more than a communication channel, rather it is a one-to-one and one-to-many conversation and relationship-building tool.  The same types of conversations and relationships we have been engaging in with current and prospective members for years.  It’s also a business strategy, just like other vital aspects of organizational operations provided it is already acceptable for staff to answer the phone and handle attendee questions at conferences.

Simply put:

The social web is an opportunity to expand your association sphere by listening, connecting, engaging and building vital relationships which expands your association sphere.

Why is this important?  Because conversations and relationships are what led to the creation of associations in the first place.  Further, social cohesion is the glue which holds together and propels our organizations.

A member’s commitment to an association is measured by the extent to which they feel a connected part of the organization.  The way members connect to an association is through some form of engagement or participation.  Before the social web, it required a greater sacrifice and investment to participate (planes, trains and automobiles), but today the social web provides an inexhaustible opportunity to connect and participate.

As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they remain the same.  The social web is simply a smarter tool with which we can adapt and greatly expand our mission.  With the right organizational foundation, we can all be ready when Facebook inevitably becomes tomorrow’s MySpace.  While the platforms will continue to change, the “rules” will always remain the same.

I designed the cluster symbol above to demonstrate the way in which a like-minded group of people bond together to form an association.  Clusters form within associations to initiate new projects and components.  Today, new clusters are forming outside the walls of your association, in almost every case not to replace you but to give rise to issues and concerns facing a trade or profession.  As associations, our goal is to reach out and create new bonds with individuals and groups working in support of our interests.  This symbol is also the official symbol of my new consulting practice, Social Frequency Media, which I started out of a deep desire to help associations transform their futures and leverage the potential of social media.  I hope you will find the above information and other postings here at Association 2020 useful.  SM

December 7, 2009 at 2:12 pm 3 comments

5 Ways to Get into the Flow of Social Media

DSC_0131Below are  5 ways to use social media to expand your organization’s sphere of engagement, interaction, particiaption and influence: 

1)  Develop a comprehensive relationship-focused social media strategy driven by the mission and strategy of your association.

2)  Conduct a social media audit to identify all groups and influencers within your association’s social sphere. 

3)  Engage regularly in social media monitoring, utilizing keyword-based search tools built into popular social media platforms or third party applications.

4)  Operationalize the use of social media as a business tool at levels of the organization.

5)  Be authentic, experiment, make connections, build relationships and cultivate brand ambassadors.

August 24, 2009 at 10:03 am Leave a comment

How Social Media Broadens the Association Sphere and Transforms the “Nature” of our Future

stuart-meyer2With the announcement of the Google Wave, the internet’s newest and next “big thing”, many associations still continue to ponder whether or not social media threatens the very fabric of their existence.

My answer would be an emphatic “absolutely not”.  As our associations move rapidly to join our future… already in progress… the opportunity presented by social media for associations is just the opposite of threat. 

Whereas the traditional “social sphere” of associations has been nestled within the physical core of actively involved members who like to get on airplanes and fly thousands of miles a year to get connected, social media will continue to expand and broaden our “social sphere” if we chose to reach out, engage and replace our tall ivory walls with a more transparent and porous material.

In other words, the tide of social media shifts our social sphere in a good way because the challenge of connecting and creating cohesion within our association’s broader professional community is now shared.  Our job is to shed our illusion of control, celebrate those who are connecting outside our walls, reach out, be present, listen carefully, connect, build relationships and cultivate the type of powerful social capital which will draw those in the broader social sphere into the “nucleus” of the association.

Always remember, people complain because they care and simply want to be heard.  There is immense and transforming power when you listen, engage, establish the conversation and watch the relationship grow.  

Think of chemistry and how an atom is formed by a strong nucleus (the association) with electrons (traditionally loyal members) that are bound to the nucleus by “electromagnetic force”.  An atom can be positively charged (progressive) or negatively charged (change averse).  The social web is sending new types of atoms into the larger sphere within which associations have traditionally operated creating the opportunity of atoms joining together to form new and powerful elements.  Elements are the building blocks of “nature” itself.

Let’s be very clear, people connect with the social web not because they want to be isolated and enjoy hearing themselves speak, but rather they are attempting to fulfill the basic human need to connect to something larger. 

It is essential that we transform and expand our thinking in knowing that social media strategy is a relationship-building and engagement strategy which should be driven by the mission and goals of the association.  In addition to serving members we are now in the position to reach farther in connecting with and serving a larger sphere of participants and influencers… all of which are prospective electrons moving toward that electromagnetic force which will ultimately draw them toward the nucleus.  Staff at all levels, with basic rules of engagement, have the opportunity to monitor, listen and make these connections.  

Further, think of non-member social web participants and influencers in your space as “surrogates” who care and want to be heard.  The bar is not as high as one might think in creating relationships that will move these individuals into the role of promoter and prospective member. 

Remember, control is an illusion and the next time a discussion of social media turns to fear and threat, you can now tell the group to not worry because it’s positively “elemental”. 

You may now be excused to connect with your former high school chemistry teacher on Facebook to thank them for making you suffer.

June 4, 2009 at 8:01 pm 1 comment

Using social capital measurement as a predictor of future success or failure within your association

I’ve been truly blessed in my career to be able to combine a wide breadth of professional experiences with an even larger variety of teachers who I’ve had the good fortune to cross paths with.  As you move along in your career journey, the combination of these elements begin to reveal patterns which illuminate potential truths that may often be overlooked by the general population.  Time-tested universal logic and wisdom becomes tools for us all to apply to our associations.  In this posting, I will share with you what I believe to be one such truth as it relates to the state of our association world.

If you ask the typical association executive how he or she might predict whether or not their association would succeed or fail in the future, chances are you might hear a seemingly canned response full of management, operations and strategic diagnostic assessment covering everything from strategic planning to long-term investment portfolios to new product/resource development to technology to membership recruitment to research to competitive educational programs to advocacy to etc to etc to etc.  I think you get the picture.  

While in many ways the above elements are certainly crucial to a healthy and functioning association, I believe the true answer, above all else, is social capital… and not just social capital, but the highest degree of social capital possible.  

Social capital has been defined by writers, such as Robert Putnam (in Bowling Alone) and Peter Block (in Community – The Structure of Belonging), as the overall quality of relationships and cohesion within a community.  

Putnam suggests that social capital is about acting on and valuing our interdependence and sense of belonging… the extent to which we extend hospitality and affection to one another.  Building on Putnam’s assessment, Peter Block suggests that “we need to create a community where each citizen has the experience of being connected to those around them and knows that their safety and success are dependent on the success of all others.”

Personally, I’ve seen the factor of social capital drive success and failure in a variety of “community” settings throughout my career, ranging from my sixth grade rock band and high school football team to the world of state/national politics and, yes, our beloved associations. 

In essence, on paper an association might give the healthy appearance of being poised for a strong and secure future only to be disintegrating from the core.  Could your association be disintegrating at the core over declining social capital? 

By now, you are likely focusing your thoughts and analysis on your various membership segments and the degree to which they may or may not feel a sense of cohesion and belonging within your association.  You may even be contemplating how well your association’s bundle of resources, opportunities and networking structure is advancing social capital at the individual and group level.  Finally, I’m almost certain that as a seasoned association executive you are wondering how you can measure, benchmark and track social capital and it’s impact on the growth, activity and success of your association.

At this point, if you’re thoughts are precisely at the same place as my thoughts above then I would heartily congratulate us all for overlooking the a significant foundation and factor for the successful cultivation of social capital within our associations… our staff. 

Yes, it is true that we are all “paid” staff and in keeping with the traditional fallacy of economic enrichment let’s celebrate for a moment the desperately flawed assumption that a clear definition of job responsibilities, adequate compensation, leave time and fringe benefits automatically assures a high degree of social capital and personal investment within our staff structure. 

Simply put, unless the heart is beating the rest of the body isn’t going very far.

It is quite possible to have the most talented and experienced group of people comprising your staff structure yet fail miserably for a lack of cohesion and sense of belonging (aka social capital) which, if unaddressed, may only worsen over time leading to decline in social capital cultivation with members/volunteer leaders and the ultimate “extinction” of staff.  Your workplace will become overly stressful, the best and brightest won’t likely stick around and those who do remain are likely the ones whose only goal within your association is to collect that paycheck. 

Think of your staff as a mirror image reflection of the social capital within your association.

Okay, so here we are.  We’ve pinpointed the source of social capital, right?  I’m afraid we’re likely wrong once again.  After all, our staff is in place to answer the marching orders of our governing boards and councils and if these volunteer member leaders fail to espouse the creation of social capital with membership and staff alike then the leadership is to blame, right?   Well, let’s not jump to hasty conclusions just yet.

Ultimately, I believe the most powerful source of social capital creation with your association is none other than you… regardless of your role or scope of responsibility.  Our volunteer leaders certainly have a great deal of authority within our associations, but remember that leaders come and go while staff remains the constant, leaving you with considerable influence.  

When we commit ourselves to living and measuring our own success by the impact we have on the success of others, the ideal environment is created all around us for the cultivation of social capital.  More broadly, I also believe you can apply this principle to any aspect of your life. 

Let’s face it, if we aren’t helping others succeed aren’t we in a way allowing them to fail?  Granted, sometimes we take great satisfaction in seeing others fail, such as anyone major league baseball team playing the Chicago Cubs (sorry, couldn’t resist); however, we are talking about the construction and maintenance of an environment of intended cohesion and belonging, not a competitive environment.  Think Chicago Cubs fans unified around the ultimate success of that elusive world series pennant, not the more general community of major league baseball fans, with the one caveat being if the day were to arrive when the future of major league baseball as a whole is threatened.  Though alliances is not intended to be part of this posting, there clearly is significance in terms of social capital well beyond our own associations that I might address at a later date.  

Nonetheless, if you characterize the conditions within your association as intensely competitive, then it may already be too late.  Think of it this way, social capital is the essence of the phrase “good-of-the-order”. 

For some reason, the primary motivation in the traditional management world is more often than not negative motivation.  In essence, we are often conditioned to believe that if we do a good job then our economic security is assured and that if we fail it may ultimately cost us our jobs.  The topic of “risk” always factors prominently in the minds and weighs heavily on the shoulders of association executives, especially at the CEO level.  But regardless of your role, ask yourself which of the following most closely resembles your association:

Association A:  If we take a calculated risk, our primary concern is the impact of failure.

Association B:  If we take a calculated risk, our primary concern is the impact of success.

In other words, some associations camp on the question of “what if it doesn’t work”, while others work from the perspective of “what if it does”.  Which of these two environments do you think has the greatest abundance of social capital and potential for future success?   

As association executives at any level of management or responsibility, our role is not only to ensure the execution of marching orders issued by our governing leadership, but also to serve as dynamic leaders and facilitators of social capital within our associations at all levels.  Let’s face it, if social capital disappears from your association, the next vanishing act may be that of your association. 

Think of social capital as a measurable predictor of success, stagnation or failure within your association.  Why?  Because the degree to which members, leaders and staff feel a sense of cohesion, belonging, purpose and investment within the association will directly impact future output and action at all levels.

From the very beginning, the driving principle of associations has been rooted in the recognition that our success ultimately depends on the success of others.  Put another way, if our success is driven by the desire for personal gain and not the ultimate success of others, then there is little chance for survival on both an individual and collective level.  However, if we focus our energy and service on helping others succeed for the good of the whole, then we all succeed.  After all, I don’t know too many people who if given the option would prefer to fail than to succeed. 

Now for the million-dollar question, how do you cultivate, measure and track social capital?  Well, if you’ve read or heard me talk about my concept of Association EQ, then you likely know what I’m about to say.  I would argue that social capital is not driven by logic, rather it is rooted in emotion.  Remember, we are talking about a “sense” of belonging, cohesion, healthy relationships, connecting, and experiences as contributors to social capital.  I might suggest a slightly simplified definition of social capital as “a cohesively unifying state of emotional well-being”.

Regardless, my point is the measure of social capital may very well be the measure of emotion as behavioral economics suggests that the majority of people base economic decisions based upon emotion rather than logic.  So, if the desire of your association is to strenghten and expand your base of people (including members, volunteers, staff and other stakeholders) then you must measure the degree of emotional attachment to your association as a whole and in its parts.  Here’s where it’s time to get real in bringing psychology into play.

At this point, I have reminded myself that my goal was to write a blog posting rather than a book.  Given the many dimensions of this issue materializing in my mind I am going to create a related series of postings in near future to further explore ideas for putting social capital cultivation into practice within your association.  Stay tuned!

September 19, 2008 at 10:08 am Leave a comment

Succeed in association business innovation by seperating it from “the pack” in the developmental phases

If you’ve read my previous postings, you may be starting to see a pattern in my thinking.  In my mind, one of the biggest threats to innovation, in general, is not a lack of creative thinking or evolutionary ideas… it’s often the wrong composition of people involved in the decision-making process and roles of influence. 

Let’s face it, some people find a greater level of comfort in tradition.  While tradition helps us honor the past and the lessons learned, it often serves as the arch enemy of innovation.  The question is:

Q. How can well-reasoned innovative ideas and new association business models survive the gravitational forces of tradition and marginalization?

I would argue in analagous terms that you wouldn’t plant a new tree within inches or even feet of an existing mature tree because you need adequate spacing in order for the young tree to grow and prosper.  Over time, the young tree grows in size and it’s branches eventually reach toward and join together with the mature trees in concert to create a forest.

In association terms, why not create a special incubator with the right composition of people who embrace the vision and goals behind the well-reasoned innovation to do the foundational and developmental work with adequate spacing from the influence of tradition.  During the incubator process, the innovation endures the rigors of research, pilot testing, stage-gate and all predicted scrutiny.  

Eventually, once ready and the timing right, the innovation can be brought out of the incubator and the political journey toward institutionalization can be taken with the peripheral knowledge and validation gathered during the incubator phase.

I will confess, this is less a theory and more a case study from earlier in my career.  Based on well-reasoned analysis, a small team I was leading developed a truly innovative concept which would transform the structure of relationships and activity within and between our components.  You might be surprised to learn this is not a Board story.  As a matter of fact, our Board approved the initiative in the strategic plan. 

The struggle came with our internal stakeholders as we began building the foundation of the project.  Very early on, during stakeholder meetings, we realized that not everyone was enthusiastically on board and some simply struggled to understand the practical application of the concept. 

We were very understanding of these potentially sabotaging concerns/challenges and consciously avoided judgement realizing that some simply were not ready.  As a result, rather than “drag” the entire stakeholder group through what may have been both a failure-inducing marginalizing process, we chose to break the development process into phases. 

Phase 1 was our incubator which included both my early team who envisioned the concept as well as supporter stakeholders who could see how the concept would benefit their area.  As a result, the right environment was established to cultivate the innovative concept in tact and we were able to achieve some early success providing greater concept clarity which enabled us to win over our previously skeptical stakeholders… and everyone lived happily ever after…. okay, well we know it’s not always “happily ever after” in the association world as new challenges inevitably arise.  However, I believe this approach can help anyone maximize the potential for successful innovation.  Finally, regardless of how brilliant the innovation seems, never forget to do your homework at each step in the process! SM     

September 11, 2008 at 7:48 am Leave a comment

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