2020 EXCEL Winners Exhibit Ways That Associations Can Amplify Value and Showcase Members

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons won a 2020 EXCEL Award for an incredibly moving feature article by Kendra Mims titled The PSF Past President Helps Young Author Find ‘A Brave Face,’ about an Iraqi girl brought to the United States to be treated for severe burns. “After a year-long process of hurdles, prayers, phone calls and media outreach, Teeba finally arrived in Cleveland with her grandmother, and the Marlowes offered them a home. She received treatment under the care of the Plastic Surgery Foundation immediate-past President Arun Gosain, MD…” In March of 2019, 17 year-old Teeba released a book, “A Brave Face,” that discusses her journey through reconstructive surgery. She credits Dr. Gosain (pictured here with Teeba Furat Marlowe) for helping her improve her confidence through the years by reducing scarring and restoring facial function.

What a wonderful story! And a great way to spotlight a member of the ASPS and the special work that he’s doing. And we wouldn’t have known about it without the EXCEL Awards. Hollywood may have their Oscars and they’re up to year 93 for the presentation in April, but the EXCEL Awards has an amazing history of its own—these are the 41st EXCELs this year. And we want to know your stories so we can add to the great lore.

Today, Friday, Feb. 12, is the final day to get the early-bird rate for your 2021 EXCEL Awards entries. Check out all the categories here. But by no means is this the final day to enter. The regular nominations go to Feb. 28 and the extended deadline is March 7. We hope you let us in on the great work that you did in 2020, when we all worked so hard to bring some normalcy, excitement and value to a most abnormal year. It’s time for some recognition!

The above story conveys just one way how an association or society can showcase its members. Here are four more ways that 2020 EXCEL Award winners accomplished a task that amplifies the value of the association:

Convey information.
The Southern California Golf Association won a 2020 Gold EXCEL Award for their SCGA Rules Crew videos. These are two-minute, slickly done videos that portray a rule on the golf course. The one I’m watching now is called Time’s Up! ”The SCGA Rules Crew explains the new Rules regarding time for search outlined in Rule 18.2a.” A woman hits a ball into the trees, and her playing partner says, “Remember, we only have three minutes to find your ball.” “Three minutes?” the woman who hit it says. “I thought it was five.” No, it’s definitely three.” “That doesn’t make any sense—what can you possibly do in three minutes?” “I’ll show you.” And she goes about picnicking, reading the local paper, talking to her mom, and go on the SCGA site to find a new partner. Then their slogan comes, “Your passion. Our purpose.” There are 10 of these now on the site.

Show the power of an infographic.
The Casualty Actuarial Society won a 2020 EXCEL Award for their CAS Student Central Infographic. In a recent report, infographics scored incredibly high for click-to-open rates when included in an email. People respond to them. In this particular one, CAS is able to convey a wealth of information in a very palatable way. It shows what CAS does, the difference it makes in a career and in salary and gives advice what to focus on now. “In the U.S., college graduates on the casualty actuarial track start out earning significantly more than the average college graduate.” This was a great way to reach students who probably pay more attention to this than to, say, a regular article or photo.

Promote your association in a fun way.
One look at the homepage for the 2020 Gold EXCEL Award-winning I Spy Physiology Blog: Spotting Physiology in Everyday Life from the American Physiological Society suggests this is a very cool place. A woman hiker is ascending a mountain with a gorgeous green backdrop behind her. The blog has several sections—Diet & Nutrition, Exercise & Fitness, Most Popular, Contributors, COVID-19. One blog that jumps out is headlined Horror-ibly Wrong Physiology in Scary Movies. “Unrealistic Blood: On the screen, blood is a bright red liquid that squirts out of wounds when a character is killed. Blood gets its red color from red blood cells that are filled with oxygen. But without oxygen—such as when someone dies—it changes to a dark reddish-purple hue. Also, when exposed to air, blood will also start to thicken into a gel-like substance, unlike the watery blood seen in movies.”

Give voices to members.
The Rotarian Magazine won a 2020 EXCEL Award for a column titled, How I Met My Sister. “One morning, I got a text message from my brother, asking me to call him before work,” Sarah Long’s story begins. “I asked if he was OK. Fine, he assured me. ‘So, I have this Ancestry account,’ he said.” At times, we can do well by writing member spotlights, but there are other times when it’s better to let our members tell their own stories. We can also look to add more diversity in this way. “Being found by a sibling highlighted what I didn’t know about my family, but it also reminded me of what I had always been lucky to have,” Long writes. “Stories. Photo albums. Letters from my grandfather…” This column really humanizes the magazine for its readers.

‘You Can Plan for the Unplanned’; Processes and Audience Outreach Give Industry Dive a Content Blueprint to Follow


Back in late October, we asked readers if they had finished their 2021 editorial calendar. While 67% responded, “Yes, though we have left some room for flexibility,” 33% checked, “No, things are just too fluid.”

Having an editorial calendar is well and good until a pandemic hits,” said Robin Re in a webinar this week titled Why You Need to Operate Like a Newsroom in 2021. She is the VP of marketing for Industry Dive, a B2B publisher that in this time of shrinking editorial staffs in many places, has been consistently adding to its reporting staff. They now have more than 80 reporters working on 23 newsletters in 20 verticals.

While the webinar was geared to marketers—the idea being that the way the Industry Dive newsroom gets to know its audience is a worthy blueprint for marketing—it also gave us an inside look at a growing and successful publisher and the insights of its editor-in-chief, Davide Savenije. The five keys that Re and fellow presenter Lieu Pham, Industry Dive’s VP global head of strategy, offered came straight from Savenije as did a few mantras along the way.

When it comes to editorial calendars and other publishing issues that can be put in flux by outside conditions, Re emphasized the need for processes. “What’s your process for dealing with unexpected things in real time?” she asked. “What format can we use to get information out and then update? Pushes? Articles? Interviews? Podcasts? What are the next developments that can then spawn from this? People want to consume quick insight and analysis. By coming out quickly, we give ourselves time to develop the deep-dive story.”

Pham added that in today’s market, brands need a plan for all types of events, kind of a marketing version of a SWAT team. Know how production will be accelerated and where you can take shortcuts to get content out fast. Ensure everyone understands their roles. “You can plan for the unplanned,” she said.

“When we talk about having a newsroom mindset, it’s not just about serving our audience,” said Pham. “It’s about having a plan in place for keeping your audience in the know and helping them plan as much as possible for the future. In other words, it’s about being ready for anything. The world turns in ways that no one can predict. Know who you are, who you serve, and plan for everything: the known, anticipated and unknown.”

While Industry Dive has grown, Pham was quick to point out when asked that smaller editorial departments actually have distinct advantages. “You can be more nimble, act like a startup,” she said. “You can really experiment and refine your approach. Just set up really solid processes than can scale… You may not be able to compete on breaking news, but you can provide more thoughtful follow-up and analysis.”

Having processes in place and being ready to pivot are part of number 3 for Industry Dive: Stay Agile. Let’s go through the other four:

Know your audience.

“We have an entire team dedicated to audience,” Re said. “Who is our target reader? What’s keeping them up at night? [Questions like these] allow our reporters to jump on the headlines and events that our readers actually care about. The audience doesn’t stay static, and neither do our efforts to understand them.”

She said that midway through 2020, they surveyed their readers and found that a quarter believed that their job had significantly changed during the pandemic. “That meant our reporters needed to pivot to stories of transition, increased responsibility, workplace alternatives and continuity solutions,” Re said.

Pham recommended these activities for your publications department: Customer interviews – up to five customers per audience segment. Stakeholder interviews, especially those who are customer facing. Who at your association deals directly with your audience?) Social listening. Don’t go crazy with this, Pham advised. Focus on the key threads to help develop the story angle. Keyword research. “That’s critical to establish authority or own a key conversation.” Analytics. What topics are resonating? Alerts. Competitor mentions, industry trends.

This as an ongoing process, Pham said. “So stay attentive, monitor and listen to make sure you’re investing in the right topics.”

Choose your coverage, keeping your goals, brand promise and audience in mind.

“Focus on what will impact [your audience’s] lives today, tomorrow and 10 years from now,” Re said. ”A story should also correlate back to a trend that says something larger about the target reader’s profession. Our reporters take a backroads view of what will change in the next 10 years and then tell the day-to-day stories that help readers get there.”

She said that choosing what not to cover can be just as important. Every story idea at Industry Dive must go through a series of questions all mostly related to the value the story has for the audience. She quoted Savenije: “You can’t be an expert on everything, so be an expert on the most important things.”

“What topics do you want to be known for that you have expertise and authority to own?” Pham asked. Make sure those topics make sense for your business. “Check out the competition; what are they doing well or failing at? Remember, you’re competing with everyone who has content. That’s not just traditional competitors anymore.

“Be really intentional,” Pham advised, whether that’s “meeting a gap in the market or simply creating high-quality journalistic content. In a world where content is highly commoditized, investing in quality could be all you need to take the lead.

Prioritize substance over clickbait.

“Readers trust us to take a deeper analysis beyond any other business publications,” Re said. “So we need to provide depth.” They discovered that 82% of their audience feel that quality of analysis is something they look for in a news source. So their headlines are active, informative, succinct and engaging, but don’t oversell. “Your teaser text should drive the headline,” she said. “Also try to be economical with words. And compel the reader to take action.” Create a curiosity gap that leaves the reader wondering.

Pham wants to see a diverse range of experts, inside and outside of your organization, leveraged, and for you not to make format assumptions. Narrow your coverage, she advised and double down on the why’s—thought leadership, big ideas—and hows—resources, templates, guidance and how-tos.

Listen. Measure. Learn.

“We want to build a relationship [with the audience] based on trust and credibility,” Re said. So page views are nice but they’re too soft a measurement tool. They prefer time spent on page, engagement rate and shares. “We use content that engages our target reader as fuel for our next story. Why waste time on a topic that the audience has shown little interest in in the past?

“We’ve built out dashboards that help show our newsroom the engagement behavior of our most valued targeted readers. Which stories are they reading? Which ones are they sharing? That tells where we go next?”

“It’s really good practice to adopt an evolutionary approach to content,” said Pham. “We constantly monitor performance and… the topics not working, and double down on the topics that are performing well. It’s a form of content Darwinism; it’s literally survival of the content fittest.”

The webinar can be watched in full here. There is also an accompanying free report titled 2020 Audience Insights for B2B Marketing in the Year of Disruption that you can read here.


Connectiv To Merge With Major B2B Publishing Associations

Editor’s note: The following is an announcement from Jeff Joseph, President of Connectiv parent SIIA; Meg Hargreaves, SIIA Board Chair; and Kevin Novak, Connectiv Board Chair. 

We hope that this email finds you and your organization in good health and steering to solid ground during this time of upheaval and transformation. We have seen Connectiv members move with impressive agility and originality in accelerating and shifting strategies and operations and we have been pleased to see strong response to Connectiv programs designed to help you navigate these turbulent times.

We are excited to announce change is coming to Connectiv as well. SIIA, the parent association of Connectiv, is pleased to announce the consolidation of ConnectivAssociation Media and Publishing and the Specialized Information Publishers Association into one newly branded association, designed to bring greater value to your membership while retaining the high value programming, content and networking opportunities that have long been hallmarks of each division. This change follows a vote and passage by the SIIA board of a streamlined FY21 budget (effective July 1) and a strategic plan framework that included both this merger and the elimination of two other separate divisions, ETIN and SSD.

The board moved with both strategic and financial considerations in mind as the organization seeks to shape a compelling future-focused value proposition, retain popular programs and conserve resources under a single leader, unified brand and updated website. These efforts were obviously accelerated following COVID-19, which has dealt the Association as well as our members difficult challenges around live events. We are confident this new streamlined and consolidated membership group will be the premier membership organization for the specialized publishing, content, and media community, as we convene, develop, educate and advocate for current and emerging leaders of an industry undergoing rapid and continuous change.

This important effort is not taking place in a vacuum. We have convened a working group consisting of board members and representatives from the three associations to help develop value-added programming, content and a governance and operating structure that provides myriad volunteer opportunities. As we move forward, your interests will continue to be well represented via a new advisory board, which we expect to announce in the coming weeks – along with the new association’s branding, staff leadership and additional volunteer opportunities for you.

Of course, we need and desire current and recent member input as we take the next steps toward building the new organization. To that end, we are working with Readex Research to conduct an online survey designed to probe on membership benefits, service gaps and needs. The insights gained from your survey participation will help ensure that SIIA continues to serve as a valuable resource to you and others in the media, content and publishing industry.

Kindly be on the lookout for a survey link from Readex this Thursday, August 13. The short survey can be completed in about 10-12 minutes, and your participation is greatly appreciated.

This letter is the first of regular updates you will receive throughout August discussing the changes and our new path forward. On August 31, we will hold a live webinar providing an update, further describing the rationale and strategy, and taking your questions. FAQs, which may answer other questions, are now available on the SIIA website.

As our members have long recognized, SIIA operates at a pivotal and difficult juncture for trade associations, exacerbated by the pandemic. We believe this consolidated approach sets a strong foundation to launch a new division, poised for the growth, serving both for-profit and non-profit entities. We hope you will share our excitement as the vision takes shape.

Please feel free to reach out to Jeff or SIIA staff with your questions, comments, or concerns. We greatly welcome and value your input as we move forward. And please let us know if you wish to opt out of future communications on this matter.

Jeff Joseph

Meg Hargreaves

Kevin Novak