TheAtlanticnewsletter

‘Reader Needs Help Me Stay Intentional’; Reasons People Join, Subscribe and Stay, Part 2

Through two years of reader research, The Atlantic determined that people who are familiar with their brand appreciate the content range that it offers. So in marketing emails to prospective subscribers, they emphasize that range. “The reader needs help me stay intentional in how we’re using our readers’ time,” said associate editor Isabel Fattal. How are using your reader needs to get more engagement? Publishers weigh in.

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Right on Q: 5 Questions With Lilia LaGesse, Strategist and Creative Director

Welcome to the second installment of our new feature: Right on Q. Today we talk to Lilia LaGesse, digital strategist, designer and creative director with a long list of association and organization experience.

AMPLIFY: What trends do you see for this year? Is sustainability becoming an issue, virtual reality? How are you looking at 2022?

Lilia: There are two main trends that I foresee in the new year, particularly as it pertains to digital design and strategy. One is the continued growth of video content. Short-form videos are still the most common marketing tool that you’re seeing, but there’s really been a growth in long-form content. Laura Porto Stockwell, a renowned strategist for global brands whom I greatly admire, recently highlighted how platforms such as TikTok, which is the fastest growing social media network ever with a mind-blowing 1 billion monthly active users, extended their video length to three minutes. So video—whether it be live action or motion graphics—will definitely start to replace static assets to become more of a brand cornerstone. You hear a lot about how our attention spans may be getting shorter, but the reality is that we just have so much more content being thrown at us. The focus for associations and publishing in 2022 should be to make sure that this new video content is relevant to and engaging for their viewers.

But before any members decide to throw up a long, unedited video monologue, please make sure that you have a production plan in place and take the time to strategically think through the content creation because it will need to be repurposed across multiple platforms—whether within a publication or onto your social media feeds. All video content should incorporate your brand—that’s where design comes in—so I encourage associations to really think about how they’d like to tell their brand story in this medium in the new year.

AMPLIFY: And the second trend?

Lilia: It’s a little bit further out, but I’m very excited about the metaverse. Although still very much in its infancy and admittedly a bit clunky, you see how many tech companies—whether it’s Facebook, now known as Meta, or Microsoft, which just acquired Activision Blizzard for $69 billion—and game makers are investing in this. So much of our association revenue is focused on these big annual conferences, and we had to switch to virtual or hybrid options during the pandemic. It’s great that we’re getting to meet in person now, but in the years ahead, I anticipate that we will find new ways to re-envision this key aspect of member engagement. The metaverse will most likely be a part of that.

For association publishing, the importance of creating an interactive and engaging experience that is tailored to your readers’ needs will continue to be great. Thinking through how that reading experience translates to the metaverse is exciting.  A lot comes back to immersive storytelling and making sure that you have the systems and processes in place to support this growth in content creation.

AMPLIFY: I need to read up more on that, especially hearing you now.

LILIA: It’s been fascinating to see companies such as Nike and some luxury brands get involved. So thinking through how you might build your virtual presence matters, and if we look at the video gaming space and how people engaged in that realm even before but especially during the pandemic, they’re really ahead of the curve. I’m curious to see how all this might translate to association engagement with our members. It could certainly expand our reach.

AMPLIFY: Given all this “meta-ology,” we know that associations still rely on print, so how does that enter into the equation?

Lilia: Oh, it’s definitely still there. I’m a firm believer that print is not dead, and I think that screen fatigue is real. What has changed is how we utilize print as a tool in our overall marketing and outreach efforts as associations. Print is now just one of many extensions of your association brand. You touched on sustainability earlier, and there is an expectation, particularly among younger demographics, that brands and organizations will integrate, if not lead the way on, sustainability efforts. There are so many great, high-quality recycled paper options out there right now. Having been a designer for many years, I’ve seen how much these papers have improved. Using eco-friendly packaging for items such as conference- or member-welcome packages is one way to engage with your members. And direct-mail postcards and brochures—printed on recycled paper—remain very useful tools to reach members. Perhaps we’re not printing the huge reports or magazines of years past, but we can certainly still create direct-mail pieces that highlight key data points or compelling quotes from these publications and then direct readers to access the full version online.

AMPLIFY: It’s also important for associations to let members know that they are acting on these efforts.

Lilia: Yes, one can note that these pieces are printed on recycled content, but sustainability should also be integrated into your value proposition. You need to let members know that you care about the planet. Print is an important way to give us a break from screens (just make sure that you have your members’ preferred mailing addresses in this age of hybrid work!). When you receive something tactile that looks beautiful and has compelling content, it can have a huge impact.

AMPLIFY: What is your wish list when you when you start working with a client—the most important factors to ensure a successful outcome?

Lilia: First and foremost, I am actively listening and trying to understand what the problem or pain point is that I’m being brought on to address. There should also be a willingness to thoughtfully question and reconsider how things have been done in the past. You want to get everyone on the same page, manage expectations, and provide an opportunity to generate new ideas. Sometimes people disagree about the problem we’re trying to solve, so it’s really important to make sure that everyone is in alignment. My final wish list item would be collaboration. One idea that’s driven my creative decisions is the concept of designing with rather than designing for people. An aspect that I’ve loved about my career, particularly as it shifted from design to more strategic and creative leadership roles, is the opportunity to work with individuals from a variety of backgrounds. I appreciate the diversity of ideas and learning something new along the way.

AMPLIFY: Okay, last question. We’re living in such a different world from two years ago. How has that impacted the way you think?

Lilia: I do miss seeing people more regularly and having those networking opportunities, but I’m excited by the changes I’ve seen over the past two years. We’re living through a transformative moment, not just for our country, but for the globe—between the pandemic and the political, environmental and societal changes. Burnout is real—self-care is so important—but I truly believe that this period has helped many people rethink how they do things not just professionally, but personally. I really appreciate how the tech journalist Kara Swisher framed this moment as the Great Reassessment (as opposed to the Great Resignation). Inherent to this concept of reassessment is a greater willingness to try new ways of doing things. So as a strategist and creative director, what’s not to love about helping others re-envision how they might approach their communication projects?

Lilia can be reached at lilia.lagesse@gmail.com. She also wants to remind our readers of the upcoming event: Speed Networking: Meet your Freelancing Match (Virtual Event), Feb. 9 at 4 pm. You can register here.

ChristineVsWork

‘Meet Our Audience Where They Are’; Publishers Take Video to New Places

Watching Harvard Business Review’s Christine vs Work episode on How to Find a Mentor, I see why Liu is so popular. She’s smart, has fun and says what others just think—“Am I too old to have a mentor?” They must have “way more things on their plate.” Publishers are branching out with video, using it not only to build audience but to inform other products.

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CODiESVideo (2)

‘We Still Need That Connection’; How Authentic, User-Generated Video Content Powered by Gather Voices Maximized Engagement at Virtual 2021 CODiE Awards 

The CODiE Awards has been honoring excellence in education and business technology for more than 35 years, recognizing thousands of technology products that have been changing the way we live our lives and conduct our businesses. 

Typically, the CODiE Awards winner announcements happen live in San Francisco, bringing people together for a dinner and celebration. But during the Covid-19 pandemic, the CODiE Awards ceremonies were held virtually. That’s why, for the 2021 CODiE Awards, the team understood that they had to make the winner announcements extra special. 

One approach they took was to incorporate user-generated video content before, during and after the winner announcement ceremony. For example, instead of simply showing photos of the winners as they were being recognized, 2021 CODiE Awards winners recorded acceptance speeches that were played during the event. (The example here is 2021 CODiE winner: Rethink Ed Social and Emotional Learning and Mental Health.)

Using Gather Voices, a technology company that automates the creation, management and publishing of video content, the team secured more than 220 authentic videos from people across the country, including acceptance speeches, testimonials, and speaker remarks, in just 5 weeks.

“The participants really liked the experience and seeing their friends and peers on screen,” said Jenny Baranowski, managing director of the CODiE Awards. “Gather Voices made the video capture and recording option simple and straightforward, even for the most camera-shy individuals. Everyone looked and sounded great.”

The personal and heartfelt video touches combined with the suspense and CODiE Awards gravitas provided the virtual audience with many reasons to watch and stay. Chad Alger-Hardt, vice president of marketing at Gather Voices, shares key insights and best practices for organizations who are looking to include more video components into their strategy. 

Why is user-generated video critical to creating more engagement at virtual events? 

“When putting on a virtual event, you have to find a way to make the event engaging and exciting. User-generated video is one of those ways,” said Alger-Hardt. “For example, during the 2021 CODiE Awards winner announcement, we offered a ‘virtual video kiosk’ within the platform, where attendees answered questions about what the CODiE Awards means to them.” 

This approach made virtual event attendees active participants in the event, instead of passive consumers of content, which is a much more engaging experience. And, the content can continue to be used to drive impact even after the event is over. “After the show, the content was combined into a hive and repurposed to help promote the awards next year,” said Alger-Hardt. “It’s also just fun, good content to use throughout the year.”

What kind of video content should I ask people to create? 

When considering prompts for user-generated video content, Alger-Hardt recommends that organizations stay insight driven. This produces content pieces that are not only valuable promotional assets, but that give the organization into how it can best meet the needs of its community. 

“For example, what is the best accomplishment from 2021 that you’ve achieved and how is that impacting what you’re going to be doing in 2022?” Alger-Hardt said. “What are your biggest business hurdles for 2022? That sort of insight and content is relevant because it enables the organization to react to it and then you can also share it with the rest of the membership and your community—and build on top of that. It keeps you really relevant.”

How can I encourage more people to co-create video content with my organization?

“The simplest way to encourage more people to co-create video content with your organization is to embed the request for video content into your existing workflows,” said Alger-Hardt. “Gather Voices clients have found success by encouraging people to submit videos along with their nomination for an award and including a direct link to record a testimonial video in their event wrap-up emails.

“The other way is through direct, personal outreach. Every organization has thought leaders, influencers and rising stars within their community who are eager to share their ideas. Simply picking up the phone and inviting them to co-create content with you is a great way to gather impactful content and create more engagement.”

What new ways will video be incorporated into the 2022 CODiE Awards?

Even as in-person meetings resume, authentic, user-generated video content offers a unique and engaging way to humanize awards and recognition programs. That’s why the CODiE Awards team plans to follow the blueprint established in 2021 in the years ahead. 

“One of the things I’m most excited about is that, as a part of the nomination process, entrants are being asked to make a video to talk about why they are nominating the organization and how the organization excels within its category,” Alger-Hardt said. “That additional content is going to be really helpful, not only for the judges in reviewing the entries—they’ll be able to hear nominees’ words in a more three-dimensional way—but it’s also great content that can be shared and created into something for later. I’m excited to see what we build.”

MarioBoone

‘Right on Q’: 5 Questions With Mario Boone from American Physiological Society

We kick off a new Associations, Media & Publishing Network feature with Mario Boone, media relations specialist for the American Physiological Society. He came to APS after many years as a TV reporter for stations in Connecticut, North Carolina and Florida to name some.

What are your main responsibilities at APS?
I handle all things press related here, writing releases, pitching stories, etc. There are also extra duties that I’ve picked up along the way, like video editing for new projects where we might incorporate a video interview—something that wasn’t being done before I arrived—and highlighting research. I also help to build our email lists of media professionals when we’re sending information out so we can target where it goes. It’s a lot of pitching stories to our local and national media about some of the research that we’re all a part of.

Can you explain a little more how that outreach works?
Every month we put out a list of APS select research articles. Those are our best of the best. And we have a team of people who review and select the best APS articles, then we do video interviews with the authors of those particular research papers and articles—putting those out as part of the digital press release package. Then, we’ll decide which of those articles have the broadest appeal to the general public—and which articles people will find most interesting to write about, read or watch on TV. Those will also have a video component.

Did your experience in front of the camera and behind the scenes at TV stations have a lot to do with your being hired?
I believe so. Stacy Brooks [APS marketing and communications director and editor in chief of The Physiologist Magazine] told me that was the reason—I don’t think she used the term took a chance, but that’s how I saw it when she brought me on board. Because my background was not in science, but in TV and interviewing. And all of those other experiences I had that could really help them move their media relations machinery to the next level—which it has. They wanted to play off the skills that I bring to bear from a TV news perspective to promote us here.

How have you adapted to being a “science person”?
It’s better in some ways that I don’t talk in that science language because I can help lay people understand it. When you’re not inside that bubble, people understand that you have to drop the jargon of the industry—any industry—and just talk in plain speak. So that’s what I’m able to do. Though it has been a steep learning curve, it’s been fun and interesting because we’re learning physiology—so it’s all about the body and health, which is the backbone of all science really. Being able to learn this can really help you, especially when you’re talking about stuff like renal disease, kidney trouble, diabetes—all of those things permeate through my family. I’m learning how I can alter my behavior to avoid some of those problems.

I read this one blog post you wrote about DEI problems in U.S. research and clinical trials. It was really powerful. “A serious effort to recognize and tackle these issues head-on is necessary to bring about meaningful change.”
Something that we’re really pushing right now is to expand our diversity. I am always looking for that element when I’m trying to figure out what to write about, who to talk to, and what subjects we’re going to research and highlight—things of that nature.