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Introducing SIIA’s AM&P Network Equity Award!

SIIA and the AM&P Network’s Associations Council are committed to anti-racism and elevating equity across the organization as well as the associations and industries we represent. We are proud to introduce a new award to highlight the outstanding work of our members who share this commitment.

Here are a few ideas to help spark your thinking—we can’t wait to hear what Association Council members have been working on!

  • Anti-racism. Did you launch an organization-wide statement committing to anti-racism?
  • Elevating equity. Maybe you initiated an equity webinar or podcast series.
  • Serving your members in the area of DEI. Are you utilizing your organization’s blog to share knowledge on DEI with your members?
  • Making regular progressive change toward DEI. Do you have a new member council that addresses DEI?
  • Improving diversity and inclusion performance within your staff and volunteer leaders. How is your own organization demonstrating that a DEI commitment is essential?

The inaugural Equity Award will honor an individual or team demonstrating significant progress and identifiable achievement toward efforts related to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Consistent, progressive change is essential when making an ongoing commitment to DEI.

Nominate yourself, a colleague, or a team of colleagues making strides to elevate equity within your organization or in the community that your organization serves.

Applications are open until May 3. Learn more and nominate here. There is no fee to enter, and the winner will be announced at the June 16-17 AM&P Annual Meeting: Reset, Reinvent, Revenue.

Questions?  Reach out to excelawards@siia.net.

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‘A Good Time to Try New Things’; Audio and Other New Content Can Build Value

How many of us thought that, before all this, working from home would yield less production? Guilty. But as we’ve adapted, the opposite has been true, raising the question: How do you turn off the work valve? Similarly, innovation has not suffered either. Recognition programs, new audio and virtual event content have all stayed strong, with exciting wrinkles added in.

“A crisis is no reason to stop innovation,” wrote Gideon Spanier, UK editor-in-chief of Haymarket Media’s Campaign, in an excellent post last week titled, “What We Have Learned at Campaign in a Year Since Lockdown.”

“In fact, it’s a good time to try new things: from a vertical, scrolling digital version of the monthly magazine (we tried it in June and July) to the launch of The Knowledge, our new, premium subscription service with in-depth forecasts about advertising trends and columns, and Advertising Intelligence, a data tracker for agency new business performance.”

Spanier also emphasized our humanity. “Kindness and collaboration matter,” he wrote. “A crisis brings a team closer and encourages collaboration, including between the editorial and commercial teams of Campaign”—always a good thing in our dispense-with-silos times.

Here are three other good ideas that I’ve seen lately—effective and replicable.

Use a recognition program to create ongoing relationships. The 2020 Emerging Leaders Class for ACSD (pictured), an association of educators at all levels, bursts with esteemed superintendents, teachers, founders (one for the Minorities Achieving College Success) and senior administrators. “Elevating educational leadership is the heart of what we do at ASCD, and our emerging leaders exemplify leadership at its best,” ASCD CEO and Executive Director Ranjit Sidhu said in a September 2020 press release.

“These educators strengthen our community and our organization. We are excited to welcome our new class and look forward to working together in the years to come.” What stands out here is that this is a partnership that will continue. ASCD Emerging Leaders are enrolled in the program for two years and invited to participate in multiple opportunities, including, when circumstances allow, attending the invitation-only Leader to Leader convening, writing for ASCD publications, and hosting the ASCD podcast. There are also avenues for leadership opportunities in the association. ASCD adds that “alumni from the program have become ASCD authors, faculty members and board members.” It’s a good way to increase diversity of all types.

Let your event sessions live on! Business Valuation Resources put on a very successful Virtual Divorce Conference in the fall. To add even more value to their event and keep within a reasonable daily view time, they added bonus sessions weeks before and after the main event. And then, at the end of the year, they posted a blog titled, “Top 10 Tips From the 2020 AAML/BV Virtual Divorce Conference.” (Apparently, judging by number 8, the cat that we all think is so cute to see in our staff meetings isn’t that great when testifying online.) “If you weren’t able to attend the virtual conference, you’re in luck! You can get the training pack of the entire 2020 AAML/BVR Virtual Divorce Conference here,” they write. We had two people ask about getting our BIMS 2020 conference sessions yesterday, so it’s worth the continued shout outs.

Develop audio content just for subscribers/members. The New Yorker has started a new show just for subscribers called New Yorker Live at 6-7 pm on certain evenings. Attendees don’t need to reserve tickets or register; they just sign in to newyorker.com/live before each event to view the live stream and participate in Q&A sessions. As someone who signs up for a lot of events, I appreciate how easy they make it. Initial guests this week include poet, activist, and author Amanda Gorman, Jeremy O. Harris, a celebrated playwright and producer, and tonight Rep. Joaquin Castro and the author Karla Cornejo Villavicencio. Of course, this is consumer, but 6-7 pm or 5-6 pm can be interesting times for B2B audio as well. I see so much audio and video content taking place during the day that I don’t have the time to access.

Spanier’s ending lines really hit home. “One final measure of this last, weird 12 months. I have not seen a single member of the Campaign editorial or commercial team face to face since the start of that first lockdown. It is exciting to think what all of us can achieve when we meet again.”

Very true. Our awesome IT guy Dan met me at the old office one day in January to help load me up for home. And I met another friend/colleague for pizza on a cold outdoor terrace at our favorite restaurant. That’s it for me. Hopefully, better—and more social—days lie ahead.

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COVID Coverage May Have Brought Them; What Else Will Retain Them?

“You need to think, ‘What is it about the relationship that felt important?’” That came from Jeremy Gilbert, director of strategic initiatives for The Washington Post, when he spoke to my colleague Matt Kinsman back in May. It was in response to the new audience the Post was getting from their COVID coverage last year—and how to keep them. Here are some ideas we’ve come across.

Many of the people taking our subscription offers today are taking them on annual plan,” Gilbert said in May. “So by April of next year, we would have had to make the case to them that their subscription is still valuable, even if we are in a happier, healthier position by then. So how do we transition people? If you are one of the almost a million people who subscribed to our COVID-19 email newsletter, what are the other newsletters that may be valuable to you? What kinds of coverage did you click through from the email newsletter and how can we use those interactions with our site or native apps to get you to stay?”

The American Press Institute just came out with a report on subscriber/customer retention. Let’s take some of their suggestions and others that I’ve come across for some updated best practices.

Identify subscribers who are at risk and act on it. The Arizona Republic found that almost half of its paid digital subscribers were not visiting their website—and that group accounted for 50% of subscription stops each month. They used analytics to guide content changes that cut the share of unengaged subscribers from 42% to 26%, increasing retention as a result. “We began providing reporters with data on which stories were catching the interest of our ‘zombies,’” two editors wrote in API’s Better News. “We have to start thinking outside the box with platforms and storytelling techniques… [Instagram keeps coming up.] What initially grabbed a zombie isn’t what will bring them back. We have to prove to them that we are worth their money.” That echoes what Gilbert said.

Promote your top writers/editors on social media. Rick Berke, executive editor of Stat, the health and life sciences publication launched by The Boston Globe in 2015, credits much of their subscriber success of the last year to infectious disease reporter Helen Branswell “who’s become something of a Twitter celebrity thanks to her salty experience and deft ability to parse wonky data points into plain English,” reports NiemanLab this week. Her Twitter following went from 43,000 to 200,000 by year’s end. As Gilbert suggested, Stat will try to transition readers as it (slowly) returns to writing about cancer, neuroscience and genomics, because 8 of their top 10 stories are still COVID-related.

Improve your welcome package. Almost everyone (90%) encourages subscribers to sign up for their newsletters and 78% send a welcome email. However, only some publishers send educational information about how to use their products (46%) or send personal notes from a person in the newsroom (43%). Even fewer send subscribers personalized messages telling them more about the content and services they’re using. “It is especially important for new subscribers who start on a short-term trial and will soon have a decision to make,” API writes.

Teach, celebrate and respond. Show your newsroom/editorial people how they can track the content metrics themselves so they can focus on the most popular interests. Then celebrate weekly retention wins to give concrete examples of how those metrics are helping. Also respond to any concerns/complaints on social media.

Provide volunteer leadership and other involvement opportunities. This is especially for younger members. “When it comes to building a sense of connectivity to an [organization] among next generation leaders, incorporating volunteer opportunities into the governance of your younger member groups is crucial,” ASAE writes.

Offer quizzes or puzzles, a question of the day or some sort of gamification. With Project Habit, The Wall Street Journal studied how different reader habits affected subscriber churn. It looked into how various products and subscriber actions affected customer retention during the first 100 days after a reader had signed up. They found that “playing a puzzle had a more dramatic impact on reader retention than other actions the team had been promoting.”

Keep your newsletters strong. “The newsletter is one of those things that is going to bump [up your retention rate],” said Ed Malthouse, Spiegel’s research director. “The way someone running a newsroom should think is as follows: ‘I’m going to need to devote a reporter to create that newsletter. What’s that worth?’ There are costs associated with having that reporter. Everybody who subscribes to the newsletter—let’s say they go from having 25 to 40 future payments. You can then do the math to determine whether it is a smart thing to do.’“

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A New Benchmarking Report Urges Us to Keep on Listenin’ and Embrace the Pivot

I just got through an in-house Zoom meeting where we talked about the importance of conducting listening tours. And someone said, well, those are a thing of the past for now.
Not true really. In some respects, our remote working can be an advantage. It can be easier to reach people in our audience than it was before when everyone had busy travel schedules and internal meetings. And while Zoom fatigue is a real thing, it’s also a focused mechanism to speak one-on-one to someone. There’s no hiding or looking away.
I write this after receiving this morning a new survey report from Naylor called the 2020 Association Communications Benchmarking Report. Even though it does focus on associations, there are some good lessons here for all organizations.
We should still listen. Just over 80% of respondents believe they generally create relevant content, and 38% are conducting communication-specific surveys at least once every 12–24 months to stay on top of members’ needs. Despite this, only half believe they have a good understanding of their reader, member and advertiser needs. If we were doing more listening, we would have a better handle on that.
Do you have proper metrics? Nearly half say their inability to measure communication effectiveness is a serious or significant challenge. In this same meeting I just finished, someone raised a good point—how are we going to measure if we’re successful? Sounds simple except 49% know it isn’t. Less than 3 in 10 respondents say their organization has no process for measuring engagement.
Our mindset has to pivot as well. Even in this COVID era—the survey was done post-pandemic—live events remain the No. 1 measure of member engagement—72% of respondents agree—and 91% of respondents believe face-to-face interaction at live events is the best way to determine member needs. I came across a quote this week from Robin Thurston, CEO of Pocket Outdoor Media: “In media, one of the things that you have to do is figure out your A plan, but also your B and C plans. And your growth strategy, so you’re always ready for a pivot if needed.”
Are you involving young people internally in your outreach? Half of respondents say they struggle to engage with young professionals. Diversity takes on so many forms, and age is certainly one of them. If possible, have a range of ages represented on your important teams, young and old.
Are you being social enough? Despite social media’s effectiveness for driving traffic to organization websites—it’s number one at 90%—only 1 in 5 respondents feel strongly that their organization’s social media strategy is well defined, and only one-third strongly agree that social media is a high priority for their organization.
Consolidate your outreach. Three in 5 felt their members were “too busy” to read or interact with their organization’s communication efforts, and nearly half felt members had “too many competing sources of information” to choose from. The last thing you want is to be competing against yourself. Make every member/customer touchpoint count.
We preach data but are we doing enough with it? More than half of respondents (55%) said they need to improve their ability to “collect and use member data effectively.” They also agreed that they did not “target or segment their communications” for different member subgroups as well as they should.
So be sure to segment. While more than half of respondents reported that they customize communications for new members and student members, less than 1 in 5 are customizing their communications for other important subgroups, such as mid-career members and late-career members. In fact, only one-fourth of respondents said they bother to segment their communications for the “almost-new” members—those who’ve belonged to the organization for just 7 to 24 months.
Can you over-webinar? You can definitely over-email, but webinars are doing okay. Webinars rose from the seventh most valued communication channel in 2019 to the second most valued communication channel in 2020. Makes sense.
You can download the report here.
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Virtual and Hybrid Events Need Their Own Analytics and Designs to Work Best

We’ve talked about content metrics, and that publishers believe that feedback loops must also be part of the measurement equation. So why should events be different? Thus it was impressive to read that Reuters Events is “maniacal about analytics” and based their agenda for Reuters Next on continual polling of the needs of its audience. What else are publishers doing to amp up their virtual and hybrid events?

“This is an opportunity to see and think things differently,” reads a tagline for Reuters Next. “… This December, it is your chance to be a part of the world’s largest movement to tackle change, head on.” In October 2019, Reuters bought the British-based specialist events business FCBI. Rebranded Reuters Events, it has put on more than 60 virtual conferences and events since then.

In an article in The Drum, Josh London, chief marketing officer for Reuters, says the high level of interest in Reuters Next—which debuted in January—was a culmination of a strategy which “all stems from customer experience… Thousands of hours’ worth of research [was conducted] to understand the needs of the delegates and match that with a speaker agenda so that we can make sure that the time that they are investing is best spent.”

Here are a few other virtual and hybrid event strategies that are paying dividends:

Virtual – Sell premium perks. While registration was mostly free for Reuters Next, they  sold “professional passes” costing $699 offering a post-event report and access to a networking program which enabled one-to-one meetings with attendees and speakers. “This is something that both parties would opt into and the system would set up a time for you to connect,” says London. “It’s similar to real world [conferences] but with some advantages; so you are not standing on the outside of a circle waiting for a break in the conversation.”

Hybrid – Do what’s best for each audience. At Meeting Professionals International’s recent World Education Congress (WEC)—600 in person, 1000 virtual—virtual sessions were conducted by many of the in-person presenters but at different times and days, Informa’s Meetings Net reported. “The only in-person sessions that were livestreamed were our general sessions, and we engaged the virtual audience in real time with things like ‘fan cams’ and a European region co-host,” says Melinda Burdette, director of events for MPI. Adds James Frankis, director of product for Convene: “The key is to build in a few ‘peak moments’ that are simultaneous for both, such as keynote presentations and critical breakout sessions—opportunities for the two audiences to come together through real-time surveying that guides the direction of a session.”

Virtual – Be interactive. “Say I’ve got a half-hour experience that I’m creating—the audience is an important part of that experience,” said John Capano, SVP of Impact XM. “So yeah, I’m going to deliver some content, but in between the content, what am I going to do to get that audience engaged? And it’s just being thoughtful about that, based on what is the content? What is the event? What is the audience? And what is their appetite for that?” At Reuters Next, all delegates had access to Q&A and audience polling.

Hybrid – Be confident in your pricing and prepare your staffing. For that WEC event, MPI charged $799 for the in-person experience, which featured four concurrent sessions in each time slot; and $299 for virtual attendees who got three concurrent sessions per time slot. However, they “underestimated the number of staff needed to manage the digital experience,” said Jessie States, director of the MPI Academy. “You need a moderator for each room to monitor the chat, mute participants and generally manage the technology.”

Virtual and Hybrid – Emphasize sustainability. Almost 3/4 (74%) of their audience told Condé Nast that companies behaving more sustainably took on more importance because of coronavirus. Young people especially have indicated in surveys that it affects their decision-making. “Live events take a lot and have a big carbon footprint,” Capano said. “And so doing an event where maybe it’s a smaller live portion, but a much larger online portion, you can get the same benefit and the same engagement for a much smaller carbon footprint. And obviously, that is important and should be important to many of the folks that we work with. So this is really a ton of benefits there.”

Hybrid – Don’t let anyone feel like they’re missing out. States from MPI said that some of their “digital participants expressed interest in a few in-person sessions that were not offered virtually. Our takeaway is that we should capture those in-person sessions for on-demand viewing.” FOMO is real. While virtual cannot replicate the networking and exhibit hall, it should be able deliver on content.