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EXCEL Award Finalists Offer Replicable and Powerful Examples for Other Association Publishers

With the EXCEL Awards celebration set for 4 pm, Wednesday, June 16, I looked through the finalists to see what interesting ideas work on multiple levels and are replicable. Well, this might just have to become a series with all of the innovative and exciting work that we’re honoring. It will definitely be worth your valuable while to attend the presentation.

Besides seeing the incredible work that your association colleagues are doing, there will be myriad ways to connect at the EXCEL Awards, be it networking, staff gatherings or just to cheer on your favorite finalists and winners.

Register for the celebration here. Attendance is free. See all the finalists here. Here are some replicable and effective ideas from a few of the finalists:

Amplify important and lesser-known stories. For Best Microsite, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is a finalist for its Rising Up microsite focusing on women scientists—“Trailblazing scientists tell their stories.” It leads with an inspiring tic-tac-toe board of scientists and then goes into their amazing stories with engaging intros. “If someone tells you that you can’t do something, then that probably means that you should go and do it. Don’t let other people hold you back.” Andrea Dutton, a geologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, studies ancient coral reefs to understand what’s in store for Earth’s coastlines as sea levels rise. Read more about Dutton.  And this: “Racial bias is something that’s difficult for many people to see and to talk about. I’m looking at something that’s everywhere, yet it’s invisible at the same time.” Jennifer Eberhardt studies unconscious psychological biases at Stanford University, and her findings have been used to reform police departments and challenge the constitutionality of death sentences. Read more about Jennifer Eberhardt.

Use more video. Oh do we love to push that magic play arrow, especially when it’s a well-done video. Apparently, nobody does it better than the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association because they have three finalists in the Video – Single Entry (Education) category for their AOPA Air Safety Institute. “Reality Check: What Are the Costliest Insurance Claims?” is a straightforward, professionally done video with a polished spokesman. It’s all easy on the eyes and ears, especially compared to what an article telling us this inside-baseball info would be. And it has a sponsor—AssuredPartners Aerospace—always a good thing.

Go big on your blog. For Best Blog Site (Overall), the Air Conditioning Contractors of America’s HVAC Blog is a well-deserved finalist. Some of their posts are in front of the paywall, and some are “member exclusive.” There’s one post that especially caught my eye: How Do I Promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion? Beyond just making a statement, the article interviews people in the field who are making a difference: “According to Jennifer Pierce, general manager of Clay’s Climate Control located in Linwood, N.J., DEI training is the key to identifying your unconscious biases… For example, a ‘Culture Day’ is created at Clay’s Climate Control where staff members are encouraged to celebrate their differences.”

Branch out on special issues. In the Best Single Topic Issue, it’s good to see a range of topics among the finalists: climate change (Project Management Institute); inspiration (Council for Advancement and Support of Education); artificial intelligence (National Investor Relations Institute); mental health (ASCD); civic engagement (American Alliance of Museums); and, of course, DEI (International City/County Management Association). One tip that I’ve heard repeated is to try to integrate these key topics into many issues. For instance, diversifying your sources and writers in every issue can’t be overemphasized. Similarly, AI—while making for a great issue—is such a huge topic going forward now that it needs to be discussed in respect to many topics.

Create a book for a big occasion. In discussing why the Federal Bar Association decided to put together a most impressive, coffee-table book to be the centerpiece of their centennial anniversary last year, executive director Stacy King flashed a better-days-are-ahead smile. “Attorneys love books. They really do. Since we’ve been doing all these Zoom calls, I never realized how many of my leadership has just books on books behind them. Everyone has that prestigious bookcase with all of their books. The other [reason] was that when the [centennial] was over, we really wanted to make sure we had something to celebrate, something about the bar for years to come. We also wanted it as a marketing tool to raise our profile.” Every association has anniversaries, and they mean more than a date on the calendar. Plan now for an anniversary coming up in the next five years.

Find the social media that your audience engages most with. You might not associate the Military Officers Association of America with great social media, but there they are as a finalist for Best Social Media Feed. Their latest Instagram post flashes a wonderful collage of recent covers with this copy: “The June issue of our award-winning monthly magazine is coming soon to your mailbox! Are you excited to dive in? Members can also access it online through the link in our bio.” By the way, in a Sidebar poll last week, Instagram was named by the most respondents as the platform that the biggest majority of their audience engages with them on.

Again, register here for the June 16 EXCEL Awards celebration to see more innovation and ideas.