27 January 2012

Friday Top 5

I've got some crazy travel coming up, so T4P will be going on a brief hiatus (probably just a week). Top 5 Things That Are GREAT About Me Taking a Break: 
  1. You'll have ample time to read all the other amazing association bloggers out there. Need a place to start? Check out the Acronym blog roll.
  2. I'll come back charged up with a bunch of new thoughts and ideas to write about.
  3. Breaks are good for the soul.
  4. You can always check out Carpe Annum, my picture a day Tumblr, if you start to go through withdrawal.
  5. How can you miss me if I won't go away?
See you in a week or so...

26 January 2012

What Is Your Brand?

It's not your logo or your colors or your font. Those things are your brand IMAGE, but they aren't your brand.

Your brand is an idea...a feeling...an experience.

To quote David Ogilvy: brand is "the intangible sum of a product's attributes: its name, packaging, and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it's advertised."

Think about that: intangible - attributes - reputation.

What you think your brand is doesn't matter. What matters is what your audience thinks it is.

And all of us good little marketers nod our heads in agreement with the above. Yet we consistently talk about brand and act in ways that indicate that what we really believe is that brand is something *we* determine and *we* control and that *we* can change from anything to anything at will.

And that's just wrong.

You can't control your brand directly.

What you can do is act consistently in a way that supports the thoughts, images, and most importantly, emotions and experiences you want to be.

What can you do today to find out what your audience really thinks of you? What's one action you can take to help move that perception into closer alignment with what you'd like it to be?

25 January 2012

What I'm Reading

  • Need fundraising tips? One of my organization's former corporate partners writes a great blog on this topic, Fundraising Fundamentals, you should check out.
  • Facebook is changing big time, again - is your organization ready?
  • Jamie Notter breaks down what generational differences can and can't tell us
  • Another great piece from Jamie Notter on how conflict affects decision making.
  • Speaking of decision making, great advice (via Vinay Kumar): just do the next right thing.
  • SEO myths debunked.
  • Facebook: creating a home for the marginalized?
  • Running out of ideas for your brand to post on FB?
  • The last of the “for 2012” tips, I promise, these on making work more enjoyable.
  • Help! We're Being Disrupted!  It's behind the Technology Review subscription wall, but given that it's $25 a year and that I'm constantly singing its praises, what are you waiting for?
  • What is the cost of being you versus the cost of NOT being you?
  • Recognizing it a little late, but fantastic post by my friend Hecate about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • FB expands the “like."
  • Just in case you missed the great #assnchat Nikki Jeske (aka @Affiniscape) moderated recently, she's also blogged about it: What inspires you?
  • Speaking of inspiration, I've been re-reading a lot of TC Boyle recently. Right now, I'm on The Inner Circle, his fictionalized account of the research team around Alfred Kinsey.

24 January 2012

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

The title of the fourth book in Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, "So long, and thanks for all the fish" is the message the intellectually-superior-to-humans dolphins leave as they depart Earth just before the Vogons show up to demolish it to make way for a hyperspace bypass. Don't worry - the dolphins save the day by constructing a duplicate Earth and transporting everything from the original Earth onto it before the Vogons destroy the original Earth, thus saving the human race.

So what does this have to do with associations?

What happens to your members when they retire from the industry your association serves?

Do you offer them nothing more than active professional benefits at an active professional price? Do you kick them out because they no longer meet the standards of membership?

Or do you provide ways for them to move to an emerita/us status and stay engaged in different ways that make sense to people who've stepped back from active day to day involvement in the profession?

What might that look like? Has your association been trying to launch a mentoring program? Most mentoring programs suffer from too many prospective padawans and not enough Jedi masters (to mix my sci-fi metaphors for a moment). Retired members and young members are a match made in heaven (or at least on Tatooine) for cross-mentoring. Are you short volunteers who can help with the doing, not just the planning and issuing of orders? Your emerita/us members have time and expertise. Do you need people who can help orient new members? Trust me, your staff doesn't know what members need to know, but other members do. Are you trying to run a fundraising campaign and need people to make initial contacts? Your retired members can give, use their Rolodexes to help you identify prospects, and use their career's worth of contacts to open doors.

Don't leave your retirees with no option but to say, "So long, and thanks for all the fish!" Find ways to engage their expertise in and passion for your industry or profession in ways that make sense for them.

23 January 2012

Always the Last to Know: Tool Roundup

OK, sure, we're in mid-January, but this was too good not to share: Ray vanHilst's 2011 holiday best productivity and tech tools roundup. Bonus? Most are freemium tools. Thanks for sharing, Ray!

20 January 2012

Friday Top 5

One surprising (and good) unintended consequence of this year's New Year's resolution has been that, in an effort to find interesting and different things to photograph every day, I've gotten much more dedicated to taking a break to take a walk mid-day. If this isn't something you do on a regular basis, I highly recommend it. Top 5 great things about taking a stroll at lunch:
  1. Apparently, sitting all day is killing us. A lunchtime walk gets you up and out.
  2. Fresh air.
  3. Sunshine (especially important during the shortened days of winter).
  4. Chance to clear your head after the morning and plan the rest of your day.
  5. That colleague you wanted to tell off or argument you wanted to start? Have that conversation in your head and return to your office serene.

19 January 2012

The Birth of a Word

Very cool TED talk by Deb Roy about data and how we learn language.

18 January 2012

SOPA Blackout Day

Thanks for Playing is participating in a national online blackout on January 18th, 2012 in opposition of both the PROTECT-IP and SOPA bills.
If these bills pass, the U.S. government will have the ability to block any website—including any funding partners and external websites that link to the blocked website—based on accusation alone from a copyright holder.

Go to AmericanCensorship.org to learn more about these bills and how our Internet freedoms are at risk.

17 January 2012

Success with Member Get a Member?

I'm working ASAE's Membership Development Committee this year, and we're looking for your most amazing MGM campaigns. Have you done something a little unusual or out of the ordinary that had great results? We'd love to hear about it (and potentially steal it, of course), so share in the comments.

13 January 2012

Friday Top 5

Monday is the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Many of us will be off work, and there are lots of things you could do with the free day: clean out your garage, watch some of the movies in your Netflix queue, shop the sales, visit the monument if you're in the DC area and haven't yet (hint hint)...or you could participate in the National Day of Service.

A lot of the big organized projects that require preregistration (like those with Greater DC Cares) are closed at this point. Top five ways YOU can still get involved:
  1. Go to the service day site and plug in your ZIP code under "Find a Project" - there are still plenty of options out there (I found 39 attached to my own ZIP code).
  2. Pick up trash on your block.
  3. Call a local shelter or soup kitchen, ask what supplies they're currently short on, go buy them, and drop them off.
  4. Drop in on an elderly neighbor and ask if s/he needs any errands run or chores done.
  5. If you're in the DC area, go to the Greater DC Cares site and check out their ongoing volunteer projects. Although they're most known for the Big Three Servathons (MLK Day, spring which will be April 20-21 this year, and September 11), they have volunteer projects all year long. A good choice for January? It's National Mentoring Month, so you could sign up to mentor at-risk youth or, through ASAE, a young professional in association management.
Image credit: me!

12 January 2012

Do We REALLY Know What Our Members Need?

For ONCE I was able to participate in #assnchat this week! KiKi was taking the week off, so Nikki Jeske (aka "Affiniscape") hosted. Nikki did a great job, but I thought her closing question was particularly good:
And....there was silence. And this was in the midst of a hoppin' #assnchat. Which I think was really informative. I don't think we know the answer to that question. I think, if most of us association professionals were honest with ourselves, we'd admit that we're so insulated from our members that we don't know what they need. We know what WE THINK they need, but we don't truly know what they think they need.

Of course, that begs the further question: how? How do you - how do I - ensure that meaningful member interaction between large numbers of our members and large percentages of our staff takes place on a regular basis? And how do we capture the knowledge that results?

I don't know the answer to this - but I damn well am going to try to find out.

11 January 2012

What I'm Reading

Big list this week:
  • Good advice for all of us: take it easy on yourself and others.
  • Avoid these common networking mistakes.
  • Tips to get more people sharing your blog posts.
  • Jay Daughtry's innovation lessons from football - love it!
  • The App Fallacy. (I feel compelled to point out that Lindy Dreyer said it first.)
  • Fantastic advice for young and aspiring leaders.
  • 10 New Year's resolutions for fundraisers (you could swap out "member" for "donor," and they're equally applicable to association professionals).
  • The most annoying business terms of 2011.
  • Stefanie Reeves's 7 lessons from 2011.
  • Shelly Alcorn's 5 terms for 2012.
  • Vinay Kumar reminds us that, in order to have space to say "yes," sometimes we have to say "no" first.
  • 120 social media terms you should know. (Actually you probably do already know all or most of these, but this is a convenient collection of definitions when you have to explain something to someone else.)
  • What stories are - and aren't - we telling ourselves? And why?
  • Deirdre Reid recommends some great new habits for 2012.
  • MIT's Technology Review has a fascinating piece about privacy in a world without walls (login required).
  • Are we reaching a social media saturation point? Maybe – here’s some good advice to make sure your ratio of signal to noise remains strong.
  • 5 challenges for nonprofits in 2012, via the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
  • Jeffrey Cufaude, facilitator extraordinaire, is going to be examining the concept of facilitation every Friday in 2012 to "help you change how you think, and ultimately, change the consequences you help create."
  • Solid Google+ advice for nonprofit brands.
  • After having recently re-read Julia Child's My Life in France, it only seemed natural to move on to re-reading Julie & Julia. I have to say, I was really disappointed with the movie adaptation. Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci were fantastic as Julia and Paul Child, and I normally love Amy Adams, but I thought she did a lousy job as Julie Powell. It seemed like they were trying to make Julie Powell "nicer" for the movie (cutting down on the drinking, swearing, and Silence of the Lambs jokes), and all they succeeded in doing was removing her edge and making her whiny. Anywho, the book remains good fun.

10 January 2012

Here Comes Clay Shirky

This is it: my final post in my irregular "What I highlighted and why while reading Clay Shirky's  Here Comes Everybody" series:
"Open source doesn't reduce the likelihood of failure, it reduces the cost of failure; it essentially gets failure for free."

Shirky, chapter 8, p. 246

"...in a world where anyone can try anything, even the risky stuff can be tried eventually."
"In the open source world, trying something is often cheaper than making a formal decision about whether to try it."

Shirky, chapter 8, p. 249
There's an important point here about the sunk cost of failure - when you've spent a ton of time and money studying whether or not to try something and discussing whether or not to try something, if you finally do decide to try it, there's that much more pressure to succeed. Not only do you need the thing itself to work, but you need it to work well enough to make up for the opportunity cost of all the time you spent discussing and studying and dithering.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying (and I don't think Shirky is either) you should always just go with your gut and only your gut, data and debate and consideration be damned. But what if we flipped the decision model? Instead of killing ideas and energy and momentum with study after study and piles of data, what if we decided by doing a broad survey of the available information, going with our intuition on the right decision, and only if failure is sufficiently costly, do a deeper data dive for quantitative support of our decisions.

I think this would get us to faster, and I'd like to argue, better decisions. If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always gotten. Data can get you to the decisions that are an extension of what you're already doing, but it can't get you to the imaginative leap you need to make for capital C-hange and capital I-nnovation.

09 January 2012

Always the Last to Know: Flavors.me

Flavors.me is yet another attempt at a truly functional social media hub, allowing you to manage all accounts/presences in one place.

Both Joe Flowers and Maddie Grant are using it. Anyone else? What do you think?

06 January 2012

Friday Top 5

Curmudgeon time. We just got through "we can't get anything done because it's the holidays and the kids are off school" and people are already starting to talk about "we can't do anything in weeks X and Y this spring because it's spring break, and we have to take the kids on vacation." Depending on the percentage of your staff with school-age kids, 50% (or more) of your office could be out over the course of a few weeks, because their kids are all probably in one of a few school districts.

I realize my perspective is skewed by not having kids. But I also *was* a kid, and I only remember once in my entire childhood that my family took a trip during spring break (a long weekend in Washington, DC, when I was 14).

I know we're in a different world now than we were in the mid-80s. However, for those of you who do have kids and don't want to drive your childfree colleagues crazy with yet another series of weeks lost to "but the kids are off school!", I have a few suggestions:
  1. A week at Grandma's.
  2. Day camp.
  3. Hire a neighborhood teenager to watch the kids for a week - s/he could probably use the cash.
  4. Is one of your kids at least 14? Let her/him watch her/himself and the siblings. Use random calls to the landline phone and threats of hiring a babysitter and embarrassing them by telling all their friends as a check if you're concerned.
  5. Are your kids working age? Encourage them to use the week to get more hours at their after school jobs.


05 January 2012

Meme Time: Changing the World in 2012

Maddie Grant has thrown down the gauntlet of the first meme challenge (that I'm aware of) of 2012: How am I going to change the world in 2012?

The responses are already starting. I particularly like Jeffrey Cufaude's reframing of the problem: start by changing your own world and maybe you'll be able to change THE world.

What's my answer?

I've long believed that when the same thing keeps popping up for you over and over, you should probably start paying attention, since clearly the universe is tapping you on the shoulder.

What's been tapping me on the shoulder lately?

Diversity and inclusion.

First there was Joe Gerstandt's amazing Fly Your Freak Flag session at ASAE11.

Then Jeffrey Cufaude wrote a fantastic blog post that drew a ton of comments and that, rumor has it, is about to appear as a full lengthe article in an upcoming issue of Associations Now.

Those two inspired this post.

Then I had the chance to meet the amazing Constance Thompson from ASCE at the October idea swap, which also provided food for thought and, with a little luck, a session at an upcoming ASAE conference.

Then, of course, the calendar year ended with this.

How *are* we doing on D&I in associations? Short answer? Not well.

And I can't change that by myself. And neither can you.

But I can light one candle. And so can you. So that's what I'm going to do: do what's in my power to shine a spotlight on diversity and inclusion and where we fail and how we can pick ourselves back up and try again.

Taking a page from Shelly Alcorn's blogging book:

Need a little inspiration on how you're going to change the world? Check out these apps and sites for some ideas.

On to the tagging:
Additionally, I'm tagging a few people who haven't written in a while to help jump start their blogging in 2012:
Y'all are it!

04 January 2012

What I'm Reading

This week's reading is focused on tips to help us all be more productive this year:
  • Ramp up your productivity at the office.
  • Did you know that multitasking costs you more IQ points than being stoned?
  • Zen out to get more done.
  • 5 things you should STOP doing (gotta clear some space).
  • Even more productivity tips.
  • Want to REALLY focus? (To be honest, my goals aren't usually this clear, and so far that hasn't really been a problem for me, but it does remind me of the process a close friend of mine follows, so who knows?)
  • Throw out 50 things. (I would argue that you might want to sell, donate, freecycle or recycle instead, but I am definitely a fan of getting rid of things you don't need or don't use.)

03 January 2012

New Year, New Goals

You know it - it's time for the annual New Year's Resolution. Missed the backstory on how this works? You can get it here.

After much consideration, I've stolen an idea from a good friend who used this to document a year abroad: Taking (at least) one picture a day.


Well, I tend not to take photos.

OK, that's a lie.

I NEVER remember to take photos. I have a very nice, small Canon Powershot camera. And my iPhone4 takes decent pictures, too. I always have my phone with me, and the camera's small enough that it will fit in a coat pocket or a reasonably sized (i.e., not an evening bag) purse. And I NEVER remember to take photos.

Consequently, most major events in my life since I moved out of my parents' house and my dad stopped covering photo duties for me are undocumented. I'd like to change that.

Also, I'd like to become a better observer of the world around me. I suspect that having to take a picture of at least one thing a day will make me, to quote Ferris Bueller, slow down and look around.

Also, this.

Want to follow my photographic journey? I'm documenting the whole thing on Tumblr.

What do you want to learn this year? How are you going to stretch yourself?