30 November 2011

What I'm Reading

  • Banish typos forever! Well, OK, probably not, but if you follow Grammar Girl's advice, you should at least cut down on typos.
  • Top reasons your social media policies are backfiring.
  • KiKi L'Italien on Google+ and association pareidolia. Bonus? New vocab word!
  • Are you using the cognitive diversity you already have?
  • Want to lead? Get curious.
  • Just started A Visit from the Goon Squad. I'm not far enough into it to offer any kind of commentary other than that I love the writing style and use of language, and it seems like it's going to be an interesting plot.

29 November 2011

She Tells Two Friends...And They Tell Two Friends...

Remember that old Faberge shampoo commercial, where the hook was that the shampoo was SO amazing that a woman told two friends about it, and then they each told two friends, etc., until the screen was covered with little boxes containing pictures of female heads with awesomely feathered hair?

Witness word of mouth at work.

The exact number offered differs, but we've all heard the old trope that someone who has a good experience tells a small number of other people, while someone who has a bad experience tells a MUCH LARGER number of other people.

For associations, the customer service we offer our members is a huge source of word of mouth, positive and negative.

So how can you make sure your customer service is in tip-top shape?

First of all, even if you're "senior," don't take yourself out of the loop. It's easy to say: "Let the call center/junior staff handle it. I'm too busy/important/expensive." Wrong. The day-to-day treatment your members receive IS your organization to them. No matter what super-important, high-level project you're working on, if your members have a lousy experience every time they call, email, or otherwise ask for help, they aren't going to care.

Second, empower your staff. Tell all your front-line staff that they have the authority to do whatever seems fair to them to resolve a member's problem without fear of punishment. And back that up. Yeah, they're going to make mistakes. And you'll want to make sure that post-game analysis is part of your process, so you can talk through what your staff chose and whether there might be an even better way to respond the next time. But seriously, your word on "no punishment" has to be IRON CLAD. If it is, I guarantee that beautiful things will happen between your staff and members.

Third, secret shop, or better yet, ask trusted members to do so for you and report back.

Fourth, ask your members. We all survey, actually probably over-survey, our members about EVERYTHING. And we love those Likert scales, because we can make all sorts of pretty charts and graphs from them. But ranking your conference location or the quality of a webinar speaker or the ease of your renewal process on a 1-5 scale is way less important than this one question, that should be on every survey you ever send:

"If there was ONE THING we could do to make your experience with better, what would it be?"

Yep, that's an open-ended comment box type question, which means you won't be able to make a nice graph out of it that you can show to your boss or your board and compare across time. And 90+% of the time, it will be empty when your survey is submitted. But 10% of the time, you are going to get fantastic intel about what your association could be doing that would make a real difference for your members and other audiences. And isn't that why you exist in the first place?

28 November 2011

Always the Last to Know: #CyberMonday

No, I don't actually mean I didn't know about Cyber Monday until today. But this is a community participation Always the Last to Know.

Aside from Amazon.com's one click ordering, my favorite online shopping tip is to Google " coupon code" before ordering anything. Who doesn't love getting a discount?

Now you! What are YOUR favorite online shopping tools and tips?

24 November 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I was trying to find a good video or audio recording of this, but no luck. So you'll just get the words: 

Our hands will work for peace and justice
Our hands will work to heal the land
Gather 'round the harvest table
Let us feast, and bless the land

"Harvest Chant" by Libana

What did you harvest this year? Have you given thanks?

(back Monday)

23 November 2011

What I'm Reading

  • Two great posts on committees, the first from Eric Lanke and then a response from Jamie Notter.
  • Think your staff loves working at your association and would NEVER leave? Think again.
  • Turns out, Google+ doesn’t necessarily solve all the privacy issues in social networks.
  • Heinz shows us how to turn those lemons into lemonade, so quit being so afraid of something going wrong!
  • Using QR Codes - ur doin it RITE!
  • 22 people and organizations you should be paying attention to.
  • Boomers: please don't start any more nonprofits. Please.
  • How to offer feedback that the receiver can truly hear and use.
  • Set up your Google+ brand page yet? Now what? John Haydon can help.
  • I'm also reading Witches of East End. I can't remember how it ended up on my reading wish list, but I gather it's the launch of a new series from the same author who writes the Blue Bloods series (which I haven't read). It seems like it's the author's first attempt to start writing for adults. She should've stuck to young adult novels. It's poorly written but decently plotted, so I'm sticking with it, but I doubt I'll bother with anything else by Melissa de la Cruz.

22 November 2011

Do Your Incentives Make Sense?

I had the chance to have breakfast yesterday some membership professionals who are new to ASAE. Their organization has both individual and group membership, and they were looking for ideas on ways to increase both recruitment and retention.

We had a great conversation and shared lots of potential ideas they could pursue. But one thing jumped out to me immediately. Their group memberships (80% of their members) are paid by companies. Their individual memberships are almost universally paid by the individuals. And they cost more and offer fewer benefits.

Spot the problem?

Now the association has good reasons to want people to join as groups. Having the entire team as members is better for the member organizations, and the administration is easier for the association. So just flipping that equation - dropping the price for individuals and offering them more in the way of benefits - would be counter-productive.

But they will want to increase individual membership.

So what we discussed as a solution was to find what's common among the individual members that's not among the members that join as a group. Are their companies smaller? Are they from different industry segments? Are they earlier in the profession or their careers? Once the association can figure out what makes those individual members different (why are they joining as individuals rather than a group in the first place?), they can develop offerings that address those different needs. If they're able to do this carefully and well, charging more, less, or the same as the group memberships won't matter - the members will segment themselves appropriately based on their needs.

Do the incentives you offer your audiences make sense from the perspective of their needs and your own as their membership association? If not, what are you going to do about it?

21 November 2011

Always the Last to Know: CrazyEgg, Revisited

I've been looking up resources for a presentation at the upcoming ASAE Technology Conference (you will be there, right?), and I had the opportunity to take a second look at CrazyEgg. When it was in beta - and free - it just provided heat mapping for any website (or really, any graphic you provided it), to help you understand where your audience's eyes would go first.

In the interim, they've expanded it into a full visual web analytics tool to help organizations increase conversion rates specifically (like, say, membership and conference registration perhaps?). It's not going to take the place of Google Analytics, but it provides an immediate, simple, visual way to understand what's happening - or more precisely, not happening - on your call to action pages. Sweet!

18 November 2011

Friday Top 5

Lots of people have been doing the "30 days of gratitude" meme on Facebook. I'm taking a pass on that, but it is definitely the time of year to express thanks. Of course there's the standard "family, friends, job, health" etc., but I do like to think specifically about what I've harvested THIS year. So in no particular order:
  1. I'm thankful for Patuxent Baths & Kitchens and that we finally finished our basement, a project we've wanted to do for 10+ years. Best parts? No cold drafts coming up the open stairs into the kitchen, being able to go down to do the laundry in my bare feet without worrying about getting filthy or stepping on something dangerous, and having private space for overnight guests.
  2. I'm thankful for all the wonderful women I've met and the experiences we've shared at my bellydancing studio. It's brought so many positive things into my life in the past three years I don't even know where to begin.
  3. I'm thankful for the Food Lab crew. You can't beat good friends getting together to experiment with food, eat, drink, laugh, and learn.
  4. I'm thankful that my cat darling Bast was in my life for 16 years, and that when it was time for her to go, she went quickly.
  5. I'm thankful for my enduring love affair with New Orleans. If you've never known what it is to fall truly, madly, deeply and irredeemably in love with a place, get out there and find the place where your heart lives. You won't be sorry.
What are you thankful for THIS year?

17 November 2011

PR Issues for Associations

I had the opportunity to attend a workshop of that same title yesterday morning put on by the local chapter of PRSA downtown.

Our speakers included:
  • Peter Panepento of the Chronicle of Philanthropy on creating a social media footprint
  • Tracy Cooley of BIO on the future of association meetings
  • Mark Neidig of the Kanzius Cancer Research Foundation on winning the Pepsi challenge
  • Shashi Bellamkonda of Network Solutions (and general awesomeness) on Google+
The session consisted of round robin roundtables.

I have to admit, I skipped the session on the Pepsi challenge (not relevant to my organization, although it is relevant to our members) in order to spend more time with Shashi. Big geekin'!

Top takeaways included:
  • LinkedIn is likely the future of business social networking (seriously - check out the Chronicle's LI group, although you will have to wait to be approved for membership).
  • Google+ is still a niche network (40 million users, mostly social media early adopters, as opposed to FB's 800+ million), but there are good reasons to be on it as a brand: so you don't get brand-jacked (like happened to Bank of America), because it will positively influence your SEO in Google (try Googling Dell), and because it's a great platform to launch campaigns because it's easy to aggregate multimedia.
  • The association meetings market is changing quickly and radically. We have to be willing to experiment equally radically and be prepared to dump what's not working equally quickly, regardless of internal political support.
  • Association meetings professionals MUST work with marketing to generate buzz and get bodies in the door.
  • When it comes to the broadening definitions of what constitutes "news media," trust but verify. Err on the side of being generous with your free press registrations for first timers, but request clips.
  • Engage media who can't attend your conference through social media. Are you following your organization, profession, or industry's media influencers on Twitter yet?
  • For smaller events that aren't inherently newsworthy, look for the buzz and try to get it to play in the local media wherever your event takes place.
What have you learned this week?

16 November 2011

What I'm Reading

Little late, but I was out and about all day. 
  • Rebranding? Mashable has some great advice.
  • Want better open rates? Associations Now has some simple tips.
  • The social graph is neither. This piece is long, but it's also smart and totally worth it.
  • Three types of people to fire immediately - can I get an "amen"?
  • Giving a presentation? Don’t let social media scare you – let it make you better.
  • Social at work – turns out, it’s actually GenX driving it.
  • Kill your Klout profile? Maybe.
  • The most powerful social media measurement tool. You may even already have one.
  • 20 association thought leaders everyone should follow on Twitter. I found some new goodies, and I'll bet you will, too.
  • Want diversity? Sometimes, you have to make it happen.
  • Speaking of diversity, have you checked out ASAE's great new report yet?
  • How to rescue a failing online community.
  • Smart Blog on social media can’t make its mind up: Google+ is AWESOME! Google+ SUCKS! I’m going to wait until the frenzy dies down to decide.
  • I'm also reading Gabrielle Hamilton's memoir Blood, Bones & Butter. The first two sections were great - memories of her odd childhood and wild adolescence, how she came to love food and open Prune. The final section has been awful. For her kids' sake, I hope she's not the mad, passive-aggressive harridan she makes herself out to be. I'd just stop reading, but I'm not far from the end and feel committed.

15 November 2011

Clay Shirky - Long Time, No See

I've been doing an intermittent series where I select something I highlighted while reading Here Comes Everybody and then comment on why I highlighted it. Of course, the last time I posted in this series was in July, so I'll forgive you if you had NO idea it was going on. Hey, there's been a lot of thought-provoking stuff happening in association management the last several months!

Anyway, I'm picking this series back up.
Small Worlds networks mean that people don't simply connect at random. They connect in clusters, ensuring that they interact with the same people frequently, even in large networks. This in turn reduces the Prisoners' Dilemma and helps create social capital.

Shirky, chapter 9, page 222
So what is the Prisonsers' Dilemma? Aside from being the bane of the existence of anyone who ever did graduate school in the social sciences (like yours truly)? It's the basis of game theory, and it elucidates why people tend not to cooperate, even though it would be in both their best interests to do so.

In a nutshell, there are three possible outcomes: both people cooperate, both betray trust, or one cooperates while the other betrays trust. Even though the game is set up so that the optimal total outcome eventuates if both people cooperate, the incentive to betray trust and screw the other person while benefiting yourself is so strong that both people are inclined to betray trust, which leads to both being punished.

So what does this all mean? Basically, humans are not inclined to trust strangers. And with good reason - you don't know them, and they could be bad people who are out to hurt you ("I don't know Mary. Mary could be an axe murderer. No way am I trusting Mary."). However, having a mutual tie, even if it's a relatively weak tie, helps us take the first step to trusting each other, which leads to building trust, which can produce great outcomes as we cooperate and work together ("I don't know Mary. But my colleague Sue knows Mary. I know Sue wouldn't be friends with an axe murderer. Therefore, I feel confident that I can meet Mary for coffee without risking life and limb.")

Weak ties are often derided, but they are in fact the foundation of social networks. Where can your weak ties take you? Who have you taken a risk on trusting because of a network connection? What good as come about as a result of that cooperation?

14 November 2011

Always the Last to Know: Nextdoor

Nextdoor is a hyperlocal social network. What does that mean? It allows you to connect with your actual neighbors and share information about your own neighborhood. It's secure and private. Address verification is required, so it really is just your actual neighbors. And it allows people to connect around recommendations, help, advice, local organizing, etc. - only without all the shouting and name-calling of the average ANC meeting.

11 November 2011

Friday Top 5

It's Veteran's Day. Although it's a federal holiday, most of us don't have it off work anymore (myself included). But I still recommend taking a few minutes to think about and thank any veterans you know. So thanks to...
  • My (deceased) paternal grandfather, who served in the South Pacific in WWII.
  • My mom's middle brother, who served as an Army nurse in Viet Nam.
  • My best friend from grad school, who was one of the first wave of Green Berets to go into Afghanistan.
  • My swing dancing buddy, Cameron, who's been all over, including several stints in Iraq.
  • My mom's youngest brother, who, although he served during peace time, served voluntarily.
If you have the chance, hug a veteran today!

10 November 2011

"PR by Ostrich"

Two major scandals have been ALL OVER the news media recently: the Herman Cain sexual harassment allegations and the Jerry Sandusky pedophilia accusations.

What do the two have to do with each other?

Cover up.

This is not a screed against Herman Cain, even though I do happen to think he's an idiot - why do people persist in thinking that President of the United States is a good entry-level job in politics? - or against JoePa, even though I think he's morally culpable for knowing what was going on and not doing more to stop it.

What it IS a screed against is the idea that paying people hush money and/or doing the minimum that is "legally required" is EVER a good idea.

The other thing that both of these scandals have in common is that they occurred when the Internet was still relatively in its infancy and social media wasn't even a gleam in Mark Zuckerberg's eye.

So maybe the parties in question - the leadership at the National Restaurant Association and at Penn State - could at least be understood for thinking, "Well, these are, in fact, CRIMES we're talking about here, but we should be able to sweep it far enough under the rug that it will NEVER come to light."

OK, probably not, but you get my point.

How about, instead of lying and denying and spinning and trying to shut people up, both organizations chose to be open, honest, and transparent, and let the chips fall where they may?

Sure, Jerry Sandusky would likely be in jail, and the Nittany Lions would've lost a great linebackers coach. Which is probably a good thing, because the way it's falling out now, it looks like the leadership of the school decided that winning football games was more important than children's safety. Think on that for a minute. Result? The entire leadership of Penn State has completely lost everyone's respect and their own credibility and integrity. And, shortly, their jobs. And JoePa's previously sterling reputation has been irredeemably tarnished.

The National Restaurant Association might have gone through an ugly court case - although realistically, it would've been settled out of court, since that's what almost always happens in sexual harassment cases - and they would've fired Cain and moved on to their next CEO. AFTER THE FIRST GO-ROUND. And then, when all this came out as part of his presidential bid, as it inevitably would, they wouldn't be giving a black eye to the entire association community. They could've pointed back and said: "One woman made allegations. We went before a judge. The case was settled. We fired Cain. End of story." And Cain could've gone on to harass women someplace else, most likely, but the NRA would've been O-U-T.

Look, if burying your head in the sand was EVER a good idea, it's not anymore. Now this kind of behavior, besides being wrong, is just dumb.

Thanks to Shelly Alcorn for the title of this post, derived from an exchange we had on Twitter.

For another take on this, check out Deirdre Reid's post.

09 November 2011

What I'm Reading

  • Don’t *just* retweet, add something of value.
  • Smoker? Expect to pay morefor your health insurance soon (no time like the present to quit).
  • Want happy employees? Forget the raise, just unblock FB (I would argue you should ALSO give them the raise).
  • The hidden ROI of social media: not sales but savings.
  • Use improv techniques to create a fantastic customer experience for your members.
  • Want people to share your stuff? Content alone is not enough.
  • The 5 employees who are wrecking your business (and they’re probably not great for your association, either).
  • The 4 myths that are killing you at the office.
  • I've just started Gabrielle Hamilton's memoir, Blood, Bones and Butter. Hamilton is the well-regarded chef of Prune in NYC. She's also one of the few female "celebrity" chefs. It's starting slow, but I expect good things.
And two reminders:
  1. Don't forget that it's Give 2 the Max day here in DC, so go donate to some worthy organizations.
  2. The Progress U blogger summit goes down tomorrow. I'll miss it, but you should go and there's still time to sign up.

08 November 2011

Are you ready to Give to the Max?

Give to the Max day is TOMORROW. The idea is that it's a one day give-a-thon. Charities have registered to participate (you can see which ones here). People like us are supposed to give to our favorite charity/charities. And that's great by itself.

But wait! There's more!

There are a variety of prizes at stake for organizations that engage the most donors and/or raise the most dollars.

So go check out the list and plan the organization/s you'll be giving to.

07 November 2011

Always the Last to Know: Poken

I know a lot of you - KiKi L'Italien in particular - got here a LONG time before me, but I finally got my first Poken! That's him ---->

One of the exhibitors at this fall's SHSMD conference sponsored them - which was a genius move on their part, since EVERYONE wanted one and so they got EVERYONE's information - and then we all had a blast with them during the event.

Pokens, for those who aren't already in the know, are little devices that allow you to exchange business card information electronically, then download that information into your address book via USB port.

The only downside? They aren't that widely used yet. But they were fantastic as a conference giveaway, because it was a captive audience.

04 November 2011

Friday Top 5

It's Digital Capital Week (aka #DCWEEK), and, once again, I'm too booked to go to anything. But that doesn't mean YOU can't enjoy it. If I could participate, these would be my Top 5 Don't-Miss Events:
  1. Progress U Blogger Summit (can't believe I'm missing this, but I have stuff going on at the office on Thursday I just can't move)
  2. The opening party (TONIGHT and, at last check, there were still some tickets available)
  3. "Miss Representation" screening on Sunday afternoon
  4. Advanced Social Media for Nonprofits on Monday morning
  5. The closing party next Friday
And look for a post on Give To The Max day next week...

For more, see http://digitalcapitalweek.org/

03 November 2011

A Little Mid-Week Inspiration

Get inspired by Steve Jobs' famous Stanford University commencement speech:

02 November 2011

What I'm Reading

I'm off to ASAE's In Honor of Women today to celebrate with "Rising Star" honoree Lauren Wolfe, but I wanted to get this out first.
  • 13 punctuation marks you never knew existed. I actually did know a few of these, because I'm a huge nerd, and thanks to Maddie Grant for the link!
  • Talent is irrelevant.
  • Think everything is fine and dandy from an employment perspective in the non-profit world? Think again.
  • How everything you learned in school screwed up your ability to write for business.
  • More great stuff on diversity, from Acronym and Dylan Tweney.
  • It's OK to be ordinary - you can still change the world.
  • Seeing as I aspire to the top spot some day, dear God, I hope this guy is trying (and failing) to be funny.
  • I'm also re-reading the Hunger Games trilogy. So much fun! I think the movie version is going to be terrific.

01 November 2011

Better Late Than Never

Did you know Blog Action Day 2011 came and went?

Where was I?

Oh right - topping off my organization's annual meeting with a visit with my in-laws.

Anyway, I know I'm about two weeks late, but this year's topic, food, is very important to me, so I'm going to write a brief post anyway.

If you know me at all, you know that I LOVE food. I love to read about food, I love to write about food, I love eating out, eating in, cooking for people I care about or enjoying them cooking for me. Food's great!

You know what I don't love?
  • 1 in 8 households in Washington, DC, our nation's capital, struggles with hunger.
  • 13% of all households in DC dealt with "food insecurity" in 2010.
  • In 2009-2010, 37.4% of households with children in DC reported that they were unable to afford enough food.
  • Wards 7 and 8, which have the District's highest poverty rates, also have the city's highest obesity rates and are home to large "food deserts."
  • Of the city's 43 full-service grocery stores, only two are located in Ward 4, four in Ward 7, and three in Ward 8. By contrast, Ward 3 - the highest-income Ward - has eleven full-service stores.
  • Only one of the city's 30 farmers' markets is located east of the Anacostia River.
All facts from DC Hunger Solutions.

That's a lot of our neighbors who aren't sure they can afford to feed themselves and their kids or who, even if they can afford the food, can't find good, healthy food to buy.

And that stinks.

So what can you do about it?

As always, educating yourself is a great place to start. Go to Google and type in "hunger in [your location]." You might be surprised what you find.

The next step? Feeding America can help you find the hunger relief charities in your area that can be supported with donations of food, your money, your time, or all of the above.

Are you in DC? Some great places to donate goods, time, or money include:
  • Capital Area Food Bank - maybe you could run a holiday food drive at your office?
  • DC Central Kitchen - FYI, founder Robert Egger is a complete bad-ass.
  • Miriam's Kitchen - hey - they have a walkathon coming up in 2 1/2 weeks where, if they can recruit 1500 walkers, they'll earn a $25,000 grant. And they don't even expect you to start until 9 am.
  • So Others Might Eat - they are always looking for volunteer servers, particularly around the holidays, which can be a really cool thing to do with your family or a group of friends.
What are you waiting for? Don't just sit there - go do something!