31 January 2013

How To Make Sure Your Marketing Sucks

Hubspot recently posted a hilarious and very helpful SlideShare on what NOT to do with your marketing.

My favorites?
  • Cold calls and unsolicited emails are, of course, THE BOMB.
  • The "Pro Tips."
  • "Greetings Earthling"
  • Yay, jargon!
What would you add to their list?

30 January 2013

What I'm Reading

Big list this week. Hey, lots of people have been writing interesting stuff!
  • Marketing Profs picked up Maddie Grant and Jamie Notter's survey on new leadership skills for the social media age (and wrote a really nice article about it).
  • Speaking of Jamie, he just released a new white paper, in which he applies the Humanize principles to the real-world problem of performance reviews (spoiler alert: it's the first in a series that's going to do this).
  • Still on Jamie, he clued in me in to a fantastic article that examines the concept of white privilege, Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. I highly recommend it.
  • Speaking of diversity, Joe Gerstandt takes on - and punctures - some of the dumb things people STILL say about diversity initiatives.
  • Speaking of Joe, because this is another one of his big themes, HBR asks: what if you could truly be yourself at work?
  • Self-awareness may be more critical to success than even talent and luck.
  • Jumping on the Big Data bandwagon? Get schooled in how the Boss of Big Data (aka the 2012 Obama campaign) did it.
  • Is college worth it? More and more people are saying "no."
  • Advice from Peter Drucker on the importance of humility, being human, and asking good questions.
  • Life is about experience, not performance.
  • Wes Trochlil reminds us: vendor relationships should be like a marriage.
  • John Haydon offers great tips for prepping your organization's Facebook Page to take advantage of Graph Search.
  • Does your association need social media training? There are signs.
  • ALL decisions to buy - including membership in your association - are emotional, and there's a scientific reason for it.
  • Want to make real progress in 2013? Jeff Cobb urges us to reflect, listen, curate, and give stuff away.
  • Given what we now know about the benefits and how to make it work for everyone, there is NO REASON to forbid telecommuting. Seriously. If you are, just stop.
  • How do you respond when staff members announce they're leaving? You should be happy for them.
  • Content marketing is all the rage, which makes it even more important to do it WELL
  • Want to innovate in 2013? Make more and bigger mistakes.

29 January 2013

IGNITE: Hack to Innovate

Invest five minutes in this outstanding IGNITE presentation from Jason Lauritsen on how hacking leads to innovation, and why, as a result, we shouldn't fear the concept.

I particularly love his "is it hackable?" matrix, which comes down to the simple question: "Is it awesome?" If the answer is yes, you're done. If the answer is no, you have work to do.

28 January 2013

Always the Last to Know: Ayasdi

"Big data" is not just about the software that manages it and runs queries against it, it's also about your methodology for analyzing that data.

Enter Ayasdi, a data analysis firm built on "topological data analysis," which physically maps complex data, allowing various types of patterns to emerge.

The goal is to quickly reach insights from the data without the intermediary step of complex queries.


25 January 2013

Friday Top 5

Quiet week here in Spark-land (guessing everyone is still recovering from Inaugural Ball hangovers and/or hunkering down because of the cold weather and threat of snow), so I had some downtime. My Top 5 Favorite Uses of Unexpected Space:
  1. Get organized! (This really is my favorite.) I've organized my paper and electronic files and updated my professional development tracking information (gotta keep track of those credits for CAE renewals). Sorting through stuff to dump what you don't need and organize what you do creates space for the new.
  2. Start/work on long-term projects. We all always have things we want to write or research or plan or design or whatever, and they always seem to end up on the bottom of the To Do list. For once, they get to move to the top.
  3. Read. Piles of New Yorkers and Technology Reviews and Harvard Business Reviews are now feeding my brain, rather than just collecting dust. Same goes double for all those great ebooks and white papers and reports and whatnot I've downloaded to read "someday."
  4. Think. One of the things we're losing in our always-connected world is uninterrupted time to ponder. It *can* feel a bit like you're not accomplishing anything, but trust me, letting your thoughts be free can have some highly productive results. Pro tip? Keep a list of things you *want* to think about the next time you have some free time.
  5. Connect. You know that colleague/friend/advisor/mentor/padawan you've been thinking about recently? Drop her a line to let her know you've been thinking about her and find out what's going on in her life.
When you get unanticipated downtime, how do you use it?

24 January 2013

Engagement: It's Not About You

There was a lot of talk about measuring and scoring member engagement at December's ASAE Technology Conference.

People talked about scoring systems. People talked about tech platforms to track and report on the scores. People talked about engagement as the key to recruitment, retention, and upselling, whether that means getting members to invest money by buying stuff or invest time by taking volunteer positions. People talked about rewards for engagement. People talked about engagement being the core of the association value proposition.

We're all on the engagement bandwagon, yes, sir, we are!

So what's the problem?

I might have missed something, but nearly all the talk about engagement I hear was about scoring, tracking, and rewarding what the association values. We value committee service, so we give it a high score. We value spending money with the association, so we give it a high score. We value getting articles written for free for our magazine, so we give it a high score.

Spot it yet?

The perspective is totally backwards. Tracking, scoring, and rewarding what the association values tells you precisely zip about what the members and other audiences (do we even consider audiences outside the membership?) value about their interactions with us.

In other words, we're focusing our resources, our attention, and ultimately, our value proposition on what the association values, not what the members value.

And then we wonder why the membership model is in trouble.

What if we changed our engagement model to start with conversations with members and other key audiences about what they value about their interactions with the association and the other members and key audiences, then based our scoring and rewards on what they value? How would that change our value proposition? The way we invest association resources, including money, staff, and time? Our organizational focus? Our members' sense of involvement in and ownership of their association?

23 January 2013

What I'm Reading

22 January 2013

Association Mavens: Content Curation and Membership Assocations

I recently had the opportunity to sit down (well, virtually, anyway) with Bryan Kelly of Association Mavens to talk about content curation and associations.

Our conversation was based on the FREE white paper I released recently, Attention Doesn't Scale.

The video is about 20 minutes long, during which Bryan and I touched on the problem of information overload and how associations are making it worse for our members, content curation as a concept and possible solution, the most common types and methods of curation, and why this is all so important for the 21st century association.

I hope you enjoy it!

18 January 2013

Friday Top 5

For the self-employed, the end of January means time to pay quarterly and annual estimated business taxes. It's a lot of somewhat confusing forms (thank goodness I followed the advice to hire an accountant, because trying to do this myself would, no doubt, have driven me around the bend). And it's easy to be grouchy about writing the checks and scheduling the electronic payments.

I've decided to take another tack. Top Five Things that are GREAT about paying my taxes:
  1. Americans are too often thought of and described as "consumers." This is part of being a citizen, which I think is much more important descriptor. 
  2. My taxes fund universal public education. Of course the education system is not perfect, but education is the number one potential equalizer in our society. I did write "potential" intentionally, because we have a long way to go before all kids get the excellent educations they deserve, but at least my tax dollars ensure that everyone gets a chance.
  3. My taxes are used for "mundane" good, like ensuring clean water and air and safe roads and bridges.
  4. My taxes are used for "big vision" good, like providing at least a minimal social safety net for people who have been less lucky in life that I have, and supporting a legal system that, for all its flaws, generally bends our moral arc toward justice.
  5. My taxes support myriad things I personally benefit from every day and don't even notice.
So instead of boo-hooing, I'm focusing on the fact that I'm proudly doing my patriotic duty as part of the larger community we call the United States.

Image credit: Wikipedia author Jnn13

17 January 2013

Association Forecast: Education to Employment

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to participate in the weekly Association Forecast broadcast on the topic of Education to Employment.

What is the Association Forecast?  It's a weekly show, hosted by Shelly Alcorn, where a panel of three guests and Shelly discuss issues of importance and interest to associations, usually based on a report, TEDtalk, current event, etc.

Yesterday's show featured Trish Hudson (of the Melos Institute), Barry Richman (of ePath Learning), and me discussing a recent report released by McKinsey, Education to Employment: Designing a System That Works.

Before viewing the video, I recommend downloading the report and reading at least the introduction and executive summary, as what we're saying will make more sense if you do.

Short short version of the report: the worldwide employment system is in a paradox. On the one hand, we have a large number of positions unfilled because of a shortage of skilled workers. On the other hand, we have unusually high rates of unemployment for young people. The report identifies disconnects between all three players: students, the educational system, and employers. It details programs that have worked on the small scale to resolve these disconnects, and considers how they might be able to be scaled up.

Shelly, Barry, Trish, and I talk about the report itself and what it means for associations, as a potential solution to fill the gap in professional development and career training.

16 January 2013

What I'm Reading

  • Jeffrey Cufaude urges us to choose to be happy.
  • If you're following his advice, there are some habits that will help you. I particularly like "assume people have good intentions."
  • CEOs think social is important, just not for them.
  • Jamie Notter points out that being clear is better than being right.
  • KiKi L'Italien encourages us to live dangerously in 2013.
  • Justin Kownacki has an amazing post full of lots of probing questions on work and motivation.
  • Jeff De Cagna poses three major design challenges for 21st century associations.
  • Jeff Hurt identifies conference trends to watch for 2013. I particularly like the new approach to sponsorship.
  • Could you intentionally set yourself up for 100 days of rejection? What would you learn from that experience?
  • Is Google+ the first step to the semantic web?
  • Marketing schaudenfreude, or even companies that can afford top-notch help make dumb mistakes (and recover from them), so what are you so worried about?
  • Leadership tips, ostensibly "for millennials," but really for all of us. Two especially good reminders: you probably take yourself too seriously and have faith that things will work out for you.
  • "Bold" marketing predictions for 2013. Vanity metrics are out - ROI is in. Can I get an "amen"?

15 January 2013

"Just Do The Next Right Thing"

January means resolution time, and whether you go the traditional self improvement route or follow my advice and take the "fun resolutions only" path, there's a good chance you've set yourself some big goals for 2013.

Which is awesome. And really daunting.

Where do you start?

At this time of year, I'm always reminded of my good friend Vinay Kumar's advice: "Just do the next right thing."

Your resolution may involve 100 steps. You don't have to know step 99 right now. All you have to know is step 1.

To quote Neo:
I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it’s going to begin.
What step will you take today to start your journey?

14 January 2013

Always the Last to Know: Curata

So if you've read my recent FREE white paper on content curation, hopefully you're all jazzed to start doing it for your members. But how?

One way is to use Curata, a tool that helps you easily find, organize, and share content on topics of your choice.

(Shout out to Ray VanHilst for the link.)

11 January 2013

Friday Top 5

Just a shout-out to five awesome things that happened this week:
  1. The #10in20 Associations 101 webinar series kicked off with Peggy Hoffman doing an amazing job laying down 10 things you need to know about volunteer management in associations. Next one is Erin Fuller on branding on February 8. Find and more and register for the FREE series at the Peach New Media site.
  2. Bryan Kelly interviewed me about the curation whitepaper for Association Mavens
  3. I enjoyed the benefits of working for myself and got to see the Roy Lichtenstein retrospective before it closed NOT on the weekend. So I actually got to enjoy the paintings.
  4. Speaking of whitepapers, I started researching the next one. Look for it to land in the February/March timeframe. 
  5. Dance classes started again for the spring trimester. 
What amazing things happened to you this week?

10 January 2013

100 Things to Watch in 2013

You're going to need to set aside some time to go through this slide deck, because it is truly 100 things. But it is definitely worth the investment.

My favorites?
  • Alternative currencies/revival of the barter economy
  • Detoxing (in the sense of cutting down on the chemicals in the products we use every day)
  • Flexible screens (think of the possibilities!)
  • JOMO
  • NFC
  • Responsive web design
  • Trade schools/apprenticeships (yes, I wrote Tuesday's post BEFORE I saw this)
What in the list fired your imagination?

09 January 2013

What I'm Reading

It's focus on the new year week!
  • Jeff De Cagna's six ideas for 2013. My favorite? SED: Serendipity, Empathy, Discovery.
  • Shelly Alcorn's five terms for 2013. My favorite? Workforce development.
  • Social media predictions for 2013 from the pros. My favorite? Marketers use fewer social sites.
  • Digital trends for 2013 that are not the same old same old. My favorite? Near Field Communications (NFC).

08 January 2013

Mastering Your Craft

This past fall, I had the opportunity to participate in a multi-day retreat with a bunch of smart people where we focused on the future of work. Talking about the future of work led us naturally into  talking about the future of getting ready to work, aka our education system.

One of the concepts that came up, tying both work and education together, was apprenticeship. 

On the education side, we are facing a crisis in higher education. It is increasingly difficult to get into college. Once there, students are having increasing trouble finishing on time, or even finishing at all. However they exit, young people and their families are incurring substantial debt burdens. And a college degree, even in a fairly "job training" focused field like business, marketing, or computer programming, is no longer a guarantee of a good job, or any job.

Meanwhile, employers complain that recent graduates lack the type of critical thinking, reasoning, and analytical skills the employers truly need in their workforce. And, in fact, the skills we need to be successful at work are changing dramatically.

Now some people - myself included - would argue that what is commonly referred to as a "traditional liberal arts education" (aka, studying impractical stuff like philosophy and literature) can, in the right circumstances, get you quite a long way towards acquiring skills like critical thinking and sense making and analysis and transdisciplinarity. But with the neighbors' kid not finding work with her shiny new engineering degree, how many parents (how many students?) are really going to be willing to take that particular risk?

Even very technical degrees, like computer programming or engineering, don't, in most cases, mean that the degree holder is ready to be a professional in that field. The degrees indicate an aptitude for the subject matter and a willingness to learn more about it, but people still need a period of mentored training to learn their craft.

"Mentored training"? Sounds a lot like apprenticeship.

For large chunks of human history, apprenticeship was the ONLY way to learn one's work. You had a family business. You joined a guild. You clerked for a lawyer on the way to becoming a lawyer. You "watched one, did one, taught one" on the way to becoming a doctor.

You can still become a lawyer through clerking and taking the bar - in some places - rather than going to law school. Many licensed trades - plumber, electrician, welder - still work through apprenticeships.

Why not office/information worker jobs?

In the current model, a young woman completes high school and, with rare exceptions (i.e., the "gap year" model), proceeds directly to college. She studies something "practical," like business, and graduates in four or five years, with an average school debt of more than $26,000. She may or may not have any real idea of what she actually wants to do, and even if she does, she may or may not be able to get a job in her chosen field.

Picture this as an alternative: a young woman completes high school. She takes a gap year to do a little looking around at the world, thinking about what she might want to do, and having adventures. At the end of that year, she gets an entry level job, but not flipping burgers or pulling espresso shots or answering phones. She gets assigned to a senior professional in a field that's of interest to her - medicine, law, carpentry, association management, whatever - and starts learning her trade on the job and while drawing a paycheck.

"But," you ask, "what happens when she realizes that she does need a class in biology (for medicine) or trigonometry (for carpentry)? And she didn't go to college!"

Enter MOOCs (massive open online courses).

Right now, MOOCs are great - take classes from an Ivy for free! - and problematic - sure, but the best you can do is a completion certificate. In other words, it's not a degree program.

But what if you just need the knowledge, and the degree doesn't matter? What if, in other words, you're an apprentice?

I'm not trying to argue that this is THE solution to all our student debt and unemployment woes. I am saying that it's an interesting potential contributor to a solution.

What do you think? Would you have skipped college to apprentice to your profession? Would you encourage your kids to consider it?

Image credit: Institute for the Future

07 January 2013

Always the Last to Know: Trello

Need to manage a project? Looking for something a little more flexible and visual than MS Project and Gantt charts? Check out Trello, a now and forever completely free (according to them) visual project management platform. 

It's laid out a bit like a card-sorting interface, but it allows you to do all kinds of cool things, like collaborate in real time with your team, share files and images, vote, track tasks and deadlines, assign tasks...

(Shout out to Maddie Grant for the 411.)

04 January 2013

Friday Top 5

My 2013 resolution is to learn to play poker. And I'm off to a good start, as dear friends hosted a poker party for me on New Year's Day. Seven of us played a full round of everyone getting shot at dealer for 7 card stud, and then two full rounds of Texas Hold 'Em. And Tim did an AMAZING job of putting together cheat sheets about the hands, the rules, the types of games, betting...basically everything you need to know to get started.

And I've already learned some things!
  1. I cannot calculate probabilities in my head on the fly. Well, at least not yet.
  2. I *can* bluff. REALLY well.
  3. If you play long enough, good hands will eventually win out over good bluffing.
  4. You do have to play for some sort of stakes, otherwise the betting gets screwy. But the stakes don't have to be cash (buy in for Monday's game was a bottle of wine per player).
  5. I am going to need more poker buddies. Interested? Ping me at ewengel@yahoo.com.
What are you going to do to push your boundaries and learn something, hopefully while also having fun, in 2013?

03 January 2013

A Year in Photos

My resolution in 2012 was to do Photo365, which I documented on a Tumblr.

I started a little before January 1, 2012 and took at least one photo nearly every day for the entire year. I know I did miss a handful of days (likely about 5, without going back to confirm), but many days I took more than one photo, resulting in 688 posts to the blog

Most of the photos were taken in and around DC, although there are also photos from New Orleans, rural Virginia, the Philadelphia area, the Jersey shore, rural Maryland, Indianapolis, Omaha, St. Louis, San Diego, Kansas City, Portland, Fort Lauderdale

I tried not to take pictures of myself (two, neither of my face) or people in general (very few), my meals (although there are food photos), or my cat (less successful there). 

So what did I learn?

I'm not much better as a photographer. But that wasn't really the point. If it had been, I wouldn't have been taking all the photos with the camera on my iPhone.

The point was to be the see-er, not the seen, and to document the world around me.

What I mostly learned was to notice things. A pretty flower. An interesting line. A great shadow. Beautiful light. Scenes from my neighborhood. The passage of time. Outlaw art. Big things. Small things. A fallen leaf. Great architecture. Stunning gardens. A funky tree. A bee. A spider. Holiday decorations. Funny signs. Sunsets. Clouds. House projects in process (everyone takes pictures when they're done). Snow. Hurricanes. Birds. Doors. Interesting things on walls and sidewalks and streets.

Mostly, it made me SLOW DOWN and PAY ATTENTION.

What will you do to remind yourself to SEE in 2013?

02 January 2013

What I'm Reading

Short list this week - lots of writers were off for the holiday.

01 January 2013

"I'm Pouring Happiness"

It's easy to forget this simple truth: enriching other people's lives enriches your own life.

So what's the secret? Stop focusing on being successful, and start focusing on being helpful.

I can scarcely imagine better advice for us as individuals and for membership associations for 2013.

Happy New Year.