AM&P 360 Keynote Preview: Jean Ellen Cowgill

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Much of the AM&P 360 buzz this year is coming from three extraordinary keynotes. Check out a preview of what’s to come at this year’s Annual Meeting.

By Richard Papale



Jean Ellen Cowgill is not only making the news, she’s reimagining it for the next generation of decision makers around the world who are social, mobile, and digital, and engaging with content on the move. Cowgill is former president of Atlantic 57, the consulting and creative division of The Atlantic where she helped clients transform and adapt to the modern world, using lessons from The Atlantic’s own transformation from print magazine to multi-platform pioneer. Now global head of digital strategy and business development for Bloomberg Media and general manager of TicToc by Bloomberg, Cowgill’s work at TicToc dovetails into what she’s learning that’s useful for the association community.


On speaking to the new guard — the new generation of decision makers around the world


Cowgill: Whatever industry you cover, the future of your membership is based in these individuals in the age range of 20 – 40, who are only going to continue to rise in their influence and their leadership and are already leading teams, businesses, and budgets. If associations want to continue to be relevant to this new guard of leadership that represents the future, they need to understand what the media picture looks like for this group, what are their fundamental expectations from any content provider, and what might it look like to be a true partner to them in their work, careers, and goals.


People are hungry for unbiased, fact-based information. On the one hand, you’ll hear this group talk about the frustration with bias, but you also can see in the analytics that just straight-up facts are not enough. What they say they want is unbiased analysis. This generation is demanding a more narrative-driven, story-telling-driven approach that gives them the facts in a story. But they also say, “Help me make sense of it. Give me a kind of explainer, and give it to me in a way that is engaging, that fits into my life, that is quick, that I can check on my phone, and if it’s a video, I can watch in 30 seconds to a minute but I come away feeling smarter…with a narrative that helps me make sense and contextualize what’s going on.”



On associations growing their product portfolios in a digital world on shoestring budgets


Cowgill: Prior to being at Bloomberg, I branded the consulting arm of The Atlantic and had many clients who were associations. One of biggest trends that I saw is the undervaluing and an underinvestment — no matter the size of the organization — in thinking about content packaging and content delivery. If you only have 100 pennies to work with, putting 99 of them toward content creation and one toward thinking about how you package and deliver it is not a smart strategy, especially for organizations with smaller budgets.


Think about how to take those biggest pieces of intellectual property and reuse them, recycle them, repackage them at the moment when they’re most relevant. It sounds obvious, perhaps, but so many organizations barely do it, and there’s so much more they can get out of the work they already invested in.


On shifting engagement from source to decision-making information


Cowgill: Part of the answer here is to start to think about how to repackage information or break that information apart into the kind of bite-size pieces that are lifted up into a broader ecosystem, are easier to digest, and can fit into someone’s day. My former colleague used to say that researchers think that everything is interesting, and journalists think that only a few things are interesting, and so you have to train the association to think like journalists and really recognize that only some things are interesting at any one time.


The other place where organizations can go wrong is when they start to break it apart and share the charts and things, and actually don’t provide quite enough context, they don’t connect the dots as to how this information could be used at a given moment.


On diversifying revenue beyond advertising


Cowgill: There’s a nice dialog that can begin to happen between the association world and media world, as we’re all facing the same challenges with advertising and we’re all looking for ways to diversify our revenue.


How you think about driving value digitally for different groups in such a way that you can charge them for it — and they find enough value in it to pay for it — can help sustain the value of the core membership but it also presents associations with very interesting opportunities to create offshoot products, offshoot digital subscriptions, offshoot digital products, and offshoot membership that draw from the same expertise and the same fundamental information but that serve different audiences within the membership.


Richard Papale is senior director, strategic communications, for NAFSA: Association for International Educators, and a member of the Association Media & Publishing board of directors


For More Information

Check out the entire AM&P 360 2019 Annual Meeting program and register at


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