31 October 2012

What I'm Reading

30 October 2012

MarComm Makeovers

Is your magazine frumpy?

Is your blog out-of-date?

Are your social media efforts mismatched?

Join me and Mitch Arnowitz (Tuvel Communications) at MGI (623 N. Washington Street) for the November Alexandria Brown Bag on Thursday, November 15, at 11:30 am.

Mitch and I and a panel of experts (aka the Brown Bag attendees) will provide on-the-spot analysis and advice for the samples you bring to help improve your marketing and communciations efforts.

This will be an interactive session with a computer and Internet access available for pieces like your website, landing pages, or social media outposts. If you'd like the group to look at a print piece (like a brochure, postcard, magazine, etc.), please bring enough that we can pass them around (say 5-8 copies).

Show off what's working at your organization, or get the input you need to take your marketing and communications efforts to the next level.

Register now! It's free!

26 October 2012

Friday Top 5

It's the information overload trifecta! Top 5 Interesting Facts about Information Overload:
  1. Although the concept has existed since at least the first century C.E., the term itself was originated by Alvin Toffler in his 1970 book Future Shock.  
  2. There is now over one zettabyte of information available electronically in the world. What's a zettabyte? It's a thousand thousand thousand terabytes, or about the amount of information contained in 250 BILLION DVD movies.
  3. Information overload costs the US economy approximately $900 Billion a year in lost productivity.
  4. It would take the average individual five years to view the amount of video content that will be being created EVERY SECOND in 2015.
  5. Human beings still have 24 hours in a day. 
 What does all this mean? Watch this space...

Image credit: The Sheffield Institute

25 October 2012

Little Billy

OK, so Tuesday, I posted a serious video about information overload. Today it's time for a funny video on the same topic:

24 October 2012

What I'm Reading

23 October 2012

Are You a Digital Junkie?

Preparing for an upcoming presentation, I found this terrific video that was, apparently, a student project, on the topic of information overload:

22 October 2012

Always the Last to Know: Quirky

Got an idea for the next Snuggie or ShamWOW? Or for something amazingly useful, like a power strip where each outlet can pivot or a croakie for your earbuds? You need Quirky, a social product development website. You come with the idea, the community improves it, and they provide the design staff to make it happen.

19 October 2012

Friday Top 5

On Tuesday, I presented at and attended a small staff association workshop. We had presentations on generational issues, developing personal leadership, marketing, AMS selection, going green by going virtual, raising more money from your events, communications and negotiation. WHEW! We covered a lot of ground!

My top 5 takeaways from the day were:
  1. Mobile is not just the new frontier for communicating with and engaging our members, it can also be a great source of event revenue via ads, sponsorship, and prime placement spots.
  2. If you're thinking about going virtual at your office, DO NOT ignore the human factors. Many people get a significant percentage of their social circle and social interaction from their work colleagues. You have to help them plan for and make that transition.
  3. Learn how the money works.
  4. When thinking about generational diversity in the workplace, it's important to be knowledgeable about and aware of generational cohorts and their characteristics (Traditionalists, Boomers, Xers, Millennials), but it's also important to remember that there are some things that are universally true about 25 year olds or 40 year olds  or 62 year olds.
  5. If you're curious about what a person's relationship to authority is likely to be, look at her/his relationship with her parents and other institutions from adolescence and early adulthood.

18 October 2012

Is It Ever OK to Fire a Member?

Of course you know I'm going to say "yes," right?

So the real question is: when? And how do you do it without creating a PR nightmare in a social world?

(Here's one tip: don't use a post-it.)

We all have "problem" members. You know - the person who calls or emails constantly to complain. She's never happy with what the association provides. He doesn't feel that you respond appropriately to his complaints. Sometimes she's on the board or in a volunteer leadership position, and the association never does anything right. He not only complains to the staff, he complains to other members (and, in fact, anyone who will listen). God help you when she attends a face to face event - she'll park herself somewhere and gather a crowd while she moans about everything from the temperature of the rooms to the content of the educational programs to the qualifications of the plenary speakers to the food at lunch.

Of course, it's always more than one, and you certainly don't want to throw over anyone who demonstrates the first sign of being unhappy with something. Not only will it kill your reputation, it will kill your retention rate.

So how do you identify when someone has crossed from "problem" to "cancer"?

First, listen openly to her complaints and honestly assess whether they're valid. No association is perfect, and while sometimes the squeaky wheel is just being a pain in the ass, sometimes she's the canary in the coal mine.

Second, think about how he expresses his displeasure. Is he respectful? Does he share things with association staff who are in a position to do something about his issues, or does he just yell at the receptionist? Does he offer suggestions to fix the problem? Is he willing to compromise on a solution? In other words, will you EVER be able to make him happy?

Third, measure how much time, energy, effort she's really 

Finally, assess how prominent he is. Yeah, I'm advising that if someone is well-known and well-connected, go more extra miles for him. We all tell ourselves that all our members are equal, but that's not *really* true. This is one of those cases where who you are matters.

So let's say that the person's complaints aren't valid, she expresses them inappropriately and is never happy, no matter what you try, she's taking up far more than her share of everyone's resources, and she's not the Board chair who is also the CEO of the largest, most respected company in your industry. In other words, you *can* fire her.

So how do you do it?

Aside from "carefully," it requires an actual conversation with the problem member in which you calmly lay out the facts of his unsatisfactory interactions with the association and explain that you're terribly sorry that you are unable to meet his expectations. Then you explain that you will be refunding his dues for the most recent dues period and that when his membership term is up, you will not be bothering him with a renewal invoice (so yes, you're giving him back this year's dues but not canceling the membership). Then you wish him well, and encourage him to think about checking out the organization again in a few years. Throughout the conversation, you walk the fine line of polite but firm.

Yes I have done this and it did work. Anyone else?

Think I'm crazy? Tell me in the comments.

Image Credit: Corbis Images via Habit Forming Success

17 October 2012

What I'm Reading

16 October 2012

Membership Marketing on a Shoestring

I'm presenting on the topic above at the Events By Design Small Staff Association workshop today, and while it's too late to join us, I thought I could share my best membership marketing tips for small staff associations (aka "the handout") with everyone.

Find a complimentary organization or two, and swap member lists, swap magazine ads, swap e-newsletter promotions, swap banner ads, swap conference attendance/booths/speaking spots, etc.

It takes time, but you can do personalized, segmented HTML emails using some very simple shareware tools, some skill, and a little legwork. It doesn’t require subscription to RealMagnet or Constant Contact, etc. (although that does make things WAY easier).

Word of Mouth! 
Who are your passionate members and volunteers? If you know, ask them to spread the word about the exciting things you’re doing (you are doing exciting things for them, right?). If you don’t know, FIND OUT!

Customer Service! 
Don’t underestimate the value of excellent customer service at every level, from the CEO to the mail clerk. Retention is even more important than recruitment – it’s a much lower cost, higher value transaction. “How can we serve our members better today than we did yesterday?”

Little Things Mean a Lot! 
Get the invoices out on time. Track who’s paid and who hasn’t paid. Proof read all written communications. Test your emails to make sure your links work. Double-check to make sure your return address (snail- or email) is correct in your marketing materials.

15 October 2012

Always the Last to Know: Raspberry Pi

Have you noticed that while a lot of people know how to USE computers these days, not a lot of people understand how they actually work? The people who used the first PCs were tinkerers, because they had to be - the computers were really, really basic and didn't automate much for you (remember when you had to know how to make it load the operating system?).

Eben Upton, one of this year's Technology Review TR35 (top innovators under 35), aims to change that with the Raspberry Pi. It's a Linux-based, programmable, tinkerable, hackable computer, designed to engage kids and turn them into the next generation of computer engineers and scientists, not just users. And it's $25.

12 October 2012

Friday Top 5

Seasonal post alert! I'll be picking up the Halloween candy this weekend, so in honor of that, my Top 5 Treats to Hand Out (based on popularity among the kids in my neighborhood):
  1. Blow Pops. Unbelievably popular, at least on my block. Hands-down winner. Seriously.
  2. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups singles.
  3. Hershey's miniatures.
  4. Single-serving bags of M&Ms.
  5. Boxes of Nerds.
(Hey, I can't be serious all the time :)

11 October 2012

It's Not About the Notices

Membership retention isn't about renewal invoices: how many you send, when, in what format.

Or at least, it isn't ONLY about the invoices.

When someone decides to join your association, she's responding to a promise made - your brand promise.

Your association has promised her a certain experience with your communications, your staff, and your events. You've promised to make her professional life better in tangible ways.  You've promised to connect her with other professionals who share her goals and passion, who can help her become a better professional, and who she, in turn, can help in the same endeavor. You promised to make her investment of time and money in your organization worth her while. Are you delivering?

Do you know what your brand promise is? Because it doesn't matter what you think it is. What matters is what your audiences think it is, and how they translate their experiences with your organization.

Are you living up to it? Because if you're not, it won't matter how awesome your renewal pitch is, or when you send it, or how many times, or in what format. People will leave. Sure, not all of them - there are some members who will renew virtually no matter what. But everyone else - and believe me, that's the majority of your members - is at risk.

Got churn? Declining membership? Before you freak out about "should we send 4 or 5 notices?" or "should we start sending them 3 or 4 months in advance?" ask yourself: "are we keeping our promise to our members?"

Yeah, it's a bigger question and may be a harder problem to solve, but unlike sending an additional notice, it will actually cure the disease rather than slapping on a band-aid.

Image credit: awesome branding word cloud from the Journal of Hospital Marketing blog

10 October 2012

What I'm Reading

09 October 2012

It's Not Too Late!

Small staff association executive?

What are you doing next Tuesday, October 16?

If the answer isn't, "Joining you and a bunch of really smart people at Intelligent Office in Alexandria for a 1/2 day of interactive learning focused specifically on the needs of small staff execs, of course!" you better reconsider.

The mini-conference, which runs from 8:30 am - 2 pm, is FREE. Educational topics include:
  • Intergenerational relationships in the workplace
  • Personal leadership
  • Membership marketing on a small budget (that's my session!)
  • New non-dues revenue ideas
  • Greening your office
  • Picking the right AMS
  • Internal communications
  • Contract negotiation
Registration is limited to the first 25 people, but there are still a few slots available. What are you waiting for? Go register!

08 October 2012

Always the Last to Know: Coursera

Coursera is a platform that offers university-level classes from places like Stanford, Duke. Princeton, Penn, Emory and other top schools in a wide variety of subject areas (statistics, history, poetry, computing, philosophy, math - you name it) FOR FREE. OK, it doesn't support degree programs - at least not yet - but it's currently the leader in open online courses.

What are you waiting for? Go learn something!


05 October 2012

Friday Top 5

I have my first (totally unintentional) coaching client! No, I'm not really planning to make this a major part of my service lines, but someone I know could use some periodic advice and is able to pay for it (woot!), so there you have it.

We had our first meeting this week, and, being the generally pretty generous person I am, I thought I'd share some of the tips I shared with him with you.

Our topic this week was how to efficiently structure your work day and task lists when you work for yourself:
  1. Have a task list. Make sure it's accessible from anywhere (technology can be your friend here). But keep it manageable. 150 items is overwhelming. If that IS the length of your task list, you need to create some sub-lists (like "order office supplies" goes on your To Do list, while the specific supplies you need to order live on a separate list).
  2. Learn to delegate (assuming you have someone you can delegate to). And when you delegate, really delegate. If the person had to come back to you to confirm all choices and decisions, you didn't actually give them the authority and responsibility for the task. Learn to let go. You don't have to do everything yourself.
  3. Pay attention to when you are most productive. There is no right time to do stuff - only the time that's right for you. Everyone makes a big deal about being up at 5 am and being super-productive before the sun comes up, as if that's the only way to be Bullshit. If your best hours are from 9 pm to midnight, do your most intense work then.
  4. Pay attention to where you are most productive. Some people like to have a defined office space with a desk and a chair and a computer and a phone. Some people are more comfortable on their porch or their couch or their dining room table or in the coffee shop down the block. And that's OK. There's no reason to force yourself to sit in your office if it doesn't work for you. That's one of the reasons you work for yourself, right?
  5. Pay attention to how long you can be productive without a break. Is it 20 minutes? 2 hours? More? Less? That's all OK. But take breaks when you need them. And pay attention to what really feels like a break. It could be playing a quick game of Angry Birds. Or taking a walk around the block. Or making a cup of tea. Or throwing in a load of laundry. Or doing a quick IM session with your mentor. Whatever you do needs to leave you feeling refreshed, though.

04 October 2012

Small-Staff Association Event October 16

I'm excited that I'll be one of several speakers at the FREE small-staff association day hosted by Events By Design, Tuesday, October 16, in Alexandria, VA.

I'll be speaking about membership marketing on a shoe-string budget and joining a group that includes :
  • Shira Harrington (Purposeful Hire, Inc.) on bridging generation gaps in the workplace 
  • David Kushner, CAE (Kushner Companies, LLC) on personal leadership 
  • Vinnu Kudva (Events by Design) on new event revenue streams 
  • Laura Skoff, CAE (Team Dynamics, LLC) on greening your association 
  • Eric Davis (independent marketing & technology consultant) on choosing the right AMS 
  • Rich Sheehe (The Sheehe Group) on improving your internal communications 
  • Eileen Johnson (Whiteford, Taylor & Preston LLP) on contract negotiations 
Lunch is included, and did I mention that registration is FREE? But it's limited to the first 25 people, so register now to join us.

03 October 2012

What I'm Reading

02 October 2012

Social Media Around the World 2012

What's new in social media? Funny you should ask. InSites Consulting recently posted a fantastic deck to Slideshare addressing just this:

The deck is pretty long. It starts with the five "big conclusions" they reached from their research in the first 30 slides. The rest is all sorts of interesting facts and figures about the way people behave in different countries, the different platforms, emerging markets, people's current level of engagement and future plans, etc. Good stuff.

01 October 2012

Always the Last to Know: How America Gives

How America Gives is a free resource that spotlights giving statistics across a variety of income levels and allows users to compare and share data about charitable contributions. You can access it at the Chronicle of Philanthropy website, where they also offer a free summary report that includes rankings and analysis.