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Goodwill efforts, global audiences, information hubs, audio and… wine? What we’ll try to keep

“We struggled with our education offerings,” Scott Stuart, CEO of the Turnaround Management Association, recalled recently from the early days of the pandemic. “So we formed a subcommittee, and they [developed] 24 webinar opportunities for members between March and September. It was a pivot for our visibility [and a huge success], and now it’s a staple for our education. Crisis brings clarity.”

Crisis also bring innovation. Last week, The Washington Post published a story for their Outlook section titled What We’ll Keep. “The pandemic made us change our lives. Here are 11 ways we won’t change back.” Those ways include soft pants, spending time with pets, online ordering at in-person restaurants, appreciating essential workers, spending time outdoors, telecommuting and better home cooking.

Stuart, who will be a keynote speaker at our upcoming Reset, Reinvent, Revenue 2021 virtual event, June 16-17, gave a perfect example of an initiative that will be kept well after the crisis recedes. (Denise Burrell-Stinson, head of WP Creative Team in the Creative Group at The Washington Post, is the other keynote.) Here are a few other probable “keepsakes,” with the best saved for last.

Keep global audiences. Stuart also spoke about their new global audience. “We have had a value proposition—with our 54 chapters and more than 10,000 global members—that as a member you can avail yourself of any program that a chapter has at the member rate,” he said. “I’ve been hammering at that for a while. In the virtual atmosphere, people saw it, and it became a reality. So a member from a chapter in the UK and one in Toronto [will now attend each other’s events]. When people see that global reality, it gives them pride about the association. They now see the value of the greater organization that they’re a part of. And that pride cascades to everyone in the organization.” Welcoming a global audience for virtual events will continue. Said Orson Francescone, head of the Financial Times’ FT Live: “[In 2019] we had 24,000 delegates at our conferences. [In 2020] with 223 online events—that’s webinars, conferences and award shows—we’ve had 160,000 ‘digital delegates.’ So suddenly those numbers are kind of blowing our model out of the water…”

Build more hubs. Coronavirus news hubs brought large new audiences to publishers. “We knew commercial impact was ripe for impact from this… and we knew this was something we had to address quickly,” said Kathryn Hamilton, vice president for marketing and communication at NAIOP (the Commercial Real Estate Development Association). “From a communications perspective, my biggest takeaway [from an initial call with our leaders] was that we… needed to create a microsite where all this content could be easily found. Thus the COVID-19 site was born and visited, again and again.” Does the idea of a hub for expanded coverage only have to be around COVID? A temporary hub on another vital topic could work well for your industry niche.

Earn goodwill. We like uplifting stories, so why stop when the pandemic ends? “We know that a lot of our members are doing good things,” Hamilton said last year, mentioning Delta airlines relocating a work site in less than 48 hours to accommodate workers. “So we’ve invited our members to share their good works with us.” Alicia Evanko Lewis of Northstar Travel Group told us that she created a Silver Lining Social campaign that engaged industry members to share their positive stories amidst the upheaval. It has been a huge success. Marlene Hendrickson, senior director, publishing and marketing, American Staffing Association, suggested lifting your log-in requirements for your COVID resources. There might be other important events—good and bad—that come up where easy access could enable good feelings,

Offer more audio. Text to audio has accelerated during the crisis. Dutch news website The Correspondent recently launched a new audio app for members. “We were a text-based site mostly, and our members asked us if we could also provide audio, because it’s easier to combine it with different activities like traveling or working out,” CEO Ernst-Jan Pfauth said. “We figured, well, it’s not our mission to provide text. It’s our mission to be a daily antidote to the news grind, to give an insight into how the world works. The medium isn’t that important, so if voice works better, let’s introduce that.”

Commit to more digital resources. While print is still important for most associations, the last 12 months has required a bigger commitment to digital. “We had to make sure that [our members] were aware that their print issues were being reduced, but at the same time, they weren’t really losing anything from their membership,” said Nicole Racadag, managing editor at the American College of Radiology. “Instead this whole digital publishing model was going to be a value-add for them. They were going to get more content more frequently. We worked with the marketing team to make sure our table of contents was being sent to all members so that way they knew they could access the content online, even though the main June issues, for example, were not going to be printed. Our early web statistics show that users were going to acr.org/bulletin to browse content.” The potential here is enormous.

Double down on content. When the pandemic hit, Morning Brew launched a guide telling readers how best to work from home. It quickly became a pop-up, three-days-a-week newsletter, The Essentials, with tips on how to be active, healthy and happy during quarantine.” It attracted more than 75,000 subscribers in the first three days. In November, after 80+ issues of The Essentials, the newsletter got a makeover to become Sidekick. Looks like it’s still going strong. “Another example of our mission and how we’re being a resource to readers…,” said Alex Lieberman, CEO and co-founder. “We are thinking differently about the media landscape.”

Use sommeliers. One of the most reliable moving parts of virtual conferences is wine tastings. It seemed to check a lot of boxes for the last year: networking, joy, learning, diversity. So why stop? In-person events can easily kick off a networking happy hour with a 20-minute talk from a local sommelier about what we might be drinking tonight. For hybrid events, could be a way to give both audiences a similar experience and would be nice to have her or him around as a resource.

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Reset, Reinvent, Revenue 2021 Virtual Event Takes the Challenges of 2020 Head on

Publishing during a pandemic has brought more than its share of changes and challenges. Reset, Reinvent, Revenue 2021 is primed to help you blaze a brighter, more successful path into the future. The conference features two days of inspiration, motivation and practical know-how to help you emerge from the challenges of 2020 and face 2021 with a reinvigorated mindset. We recently spoke with two of the conference’s keynote speakers.

Denise Burrell-Stinson, head of WP Creative Team in the Creative Group at The Washington Post, and Scott Stuart, CEO, Turnaround Management Association, both emanate excitement for the opportunity to impart their wisdom to the association publication professional audience.

“One of the things we learned at the Post in 2020 is that there’s still an appetite for marketing content,” Burrell-Stinson said. “But it had to be done a specific way. One of the ways that we were able to get through that time and 2020 was by being in constant conversation with our audience. ‘What’s the best way to reach you? What’s the type of messaging that you want to know about? What do you believe has value?’

“They were like, ‘You know what, we still want to know about brands, but only if they’re helping people. We want to know that the brands that you’re working with have a POV on social justice.’ They want gender equity and racial parity all the way across the organization.”

Listen here as Burrell-Stinson discusses the challenges and opportunities brought by the current publishing climate.

For Stuart, a light went on about the way they were reaching out to members. “I learned more about human behavior in the last year than I ever put thought to,” he said. “Most people in the world are introverted extraverts… We learned in the virtual environment that we need to be more focused on that personality attribute.”

Basically, he said that few of us are comfortable walking into a room of 500 just knowing a few people. The virtual environment has given those people a kind of pass and comfort level to pursue more of what associations offer. We need to continue to give them that pathway.

“We have had a value proposition—with our 54 chapters and more than 10,000 global members—that as a member you can avail yourself of any program that a chapter has at the member rate,” Stuart said. “I’ve been hammering at that for a while. In the virtual atmosphere, people saw it, and it became a reality… They now see the value of the greater organization that they’re a part of. And that pride cascades to everyone in the organization.”

Listen here to more of our conversation with Scott Stuart on how he’s led his organization through this pivot.

Save the date for Reset, Reinvent, Revenue 2021, June 16-17. Sign up for regular updates here.

 

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As keynotes for Reset, Reinvent, Revenue 2021, Burrell-Stinson and Stuart will share their crisis learnings

For the two keynote speakers for Reset, Reinvent, Revenue 2021, June 16-17, the clear common denominator is how much each of them learned during the pandemic and can apply now to make her or his organization better.

Denise Burrell-Stinson, head of WP Creative Team in the Creative Group at The Washington Post, and Scott Stuart, CEO, Turnaround Management Association, both emanate excitement for the opportunity to impart their wisdom to the association publication professional audience.

“One of the things we learned at the Post in 2020 is that there’s still an appetite for marketing content,” Burrell-Stinson said. “But it had to be done a specific way. One of the ways that we were able to get through that time and 2020 was by being in constant conversation with our audience. ‘What’s the best way to reach you? What’s the type of messaging that you want to know about? What do you believe has value?’

“They were like, ‘You know what, we still want to know about brands, but only if they’re helping people. We want to know that the brands that you’re working with have a POV on social justice.’ They want gender equity and racial parity all the way across the organization.”

For Stuart, a light went on about the way they were reaching out to members. “I learned more about human behavior in the last year than I ever put thought to,” he said. “Most people in the world are introverted extraverts… We learned in the virtual environment that we need to be more focused on that personality attribute.”

Basically, he said that few of us are comfortable walking into a room of 500 just knowing a few people. The virtual environment has given those people a kind of pass and comfort level to pursue more of what associations offer. We need to continue to give them that pathway.

“We have had a value proposition—with our 54 chapters and more than 10,000 global members—that as a member you can avail yourself of any program that a chapter has at the member rate,” Stuart said. “I’ve been hammering at that for a while. In the virtual atmosphere, people saw it, and it became a reality. So a member from a chapter in the UK and one in Toronto [will now attend each other’s events]. When people see that global reality, it gives them pride about the association. They now see the value of the greater organization that they’re a part of. And that pride cascades to everyone in the organization.”

Burrell-Stinson also believes in that pride and how that transcends internally as well to staff. “No one should ever feel that their sphere of influence is too small to make change,” she said. “If you’re working for a platform, a content creator, a digital magazine, the everyday results of your job are a contribution that ladders up to what the overall goals are.” Even in her days of fact-checking, she felt she was making a big contribution to the publication.

They both also mentioned the importance of creativity, not the first characteristic you think of for CEOs and brand marketers. “We’re looking to see how our creativity and ideas and how we reach audiences can be a driver of revenue,” Burrell-Stinson said. “When that’s done well, it’s a good marriage of business and creativity. We used to think that they have to live very separately, The person who was the creative mind was not the business mind, and the person who was the business mind could not be counted on to be creative. I’ve found that as absolutely not true. Everyone can embrace [those two attributes].”

Asked how the Turnaround Management Association was able to pivot so well to put on a successful virtual event, Stuart simply said, “Creativity. We know that a certain percentage will come [to an event] for education. We also know that people are Zoomed out.” They also want to have some fun; they’re used to going to Las Vegas for a TMA event.

“How can I give them a feeling that they’re not just stuck on Zoom,” Stuart asked. “We created 24 [short, interactive] sessions on industry topics, built a networking room, covered DEI. We had Colonel [Robert J.] Darling who was in a bunker with Dick Cheney on 9/11. We added a casino experience and dueling pianos, had an illustrator doing drawings while sessions were going on.

“We created variety and”—Stuart slowed down here to accentuate—“actionable optionality. [We brought] you as close to in-person networking as you could ever imagine. Sponsors saw they got value out of it. The only downside was that because people expected the ‘same old,’ it caused us to market louder to get the message out. But once people saw it, they were our great evangelizers.”

That’s something all of us strive for. How much better is it when someone else talks you up, especially a member? That connection to the audience is something Burrell-Stinson came back to time and again during her interview. Before reaching out, she said it’s important—especially during these times—for staff to feel aligned with the organization’s message.

During the early stages of the pandemic, “I was one of those people showing up and asking, ‘What is my job right now?’ I can’t sit here selling. I really wanted to know that I felt right about what my job was.” Fortunately, the Post felt the same. “Let’s talk to our audience and see what they need right now,” she said.

“We did this deep, intentional engaging of the audience. ‘Tell us what it is you need to know. Tell us what’s helpful. Tell us what’s respectful. Tell us what empowers you.’ And they did. And when we listened to the audience we had our North Star. They told us what was going to work. When we had that information, we were actually able to take it to brands and say we’ve heard from this audience, they’re vocal, they’re smart and let’s do more than just market to them. Let’s really engage them on their terms.”

You will want to engage with Burrell-Stinson and Stuart on June 16-17 and hear more of what we can take out of the pandemic to help our organizations to Reset, Reinvent (and grow) Revenue.

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Triple Down on Data, Expand Your Digital, Change Your Culture; Use This Time to Reset and Grow, Kueng Says

“It did take time to get the approval to get a new website. We had focus groups and a wide variety of perspectives. But I’m so glad MOAA did it.” said Yumi Belanga (pictured), senior director, digital programs, office of the CIO, Military Officers Association, in an excellent session with Mark DeVito, president, Beyond Definition, titled The 2020 Association Brand Experience at AMP 2020 last fall.

We started to understand our members more and how important data is in making these decisions. ‘Do we have data to probe that will be beneficial?’… We also learned a lot more about what everyone’s individual goal was. Sometimes we don’t listen. Listening and not just hearing gets to true collaboration. Step outside yourself to put yourself in their shoes.”

Belanga’s comments evoke one of the priorities—to triple down on data—of a terrific ebook published last year by Lucy Kueng, an internationally renowned expert on digital disruption, titled Transformation Manifesto: 9 Priorities for Now. It delves into how publications professionals can change for the better in the aftermath of the pandemic. She wants us to “seize the opportunities presented by the undeniable crisis we face, because those opportunities are truly huge.”

About data, she writes: “You can’t move from want to need on guesswork. You can only shift… by diving deeply into understanding customers and how you can become more important to them… Triple down on data, not just on the volume flowing into the organization but on the caliber of discussions around that data, on the insights derived from it, the hypotheses you develop and test.”

Let’s look at five more of these priorities, with some AMPlification.

1. Growth will be all about digital. “Organizations that have procrastinated on digital are in a tough place,” writes Kueng. “Their transformation runway is suddenly much shorter. They need to pull off a fast pivot—to traverse what disruption specialists call the ‘valley of death’ where [organizations] that fail to reinvent themselves for a digital world get consigned to a slow death—without the substantial legacy revenues that early movers have used to finance this transition. These ‘digital laggards’ are the ones in survival mode, facing difficult decisions.”

I was speaking this week with Lilia LaGesse, an association publishing strategist and frequent speaker for AM&P. Her exceptional presentation at a Lunch & Learn last year highlighted the three main ways that a magazine can be digital: a page-turner, web-based and immersive. She said that while the page-turner can look pretty cool and maintain existing print production process, its user experience, single level of engagement and sharability are much less than the immersive model. As Keung writes, now is a great time to play digital catch-up. Expand your presence. “Find out where your audiences are in the social media eco-system and get your content out to them there.”

2. Seize the moment to do clean-up work that’s overdue. In the same way we have been cleaning out our homes, Kueng wants us to do that with our business—and stop doing things that aren’t successful. “We have been very good at starting things but terrible at stopping them,” she writes. Look at your legacy products. Are they “hangovers from a previous era but still resourced at glory day levels”? She also wants us to pivot in the way we do age-old processes. “Remote working clearly offers opportunities to rebalance fixed costs.”

“I think what happens a lot is that you say these things are important, but you aren’t really following it in leadership with your actions,” said Anita Zielina, director of news innovation and leadership at CUNY’s Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. “Then you have to really be willing to invest or shift money into building a product team. So it’s really kind of a transformation process than anything else, unless you’re building as a start-up. Of this means you ask yourself, ‘What can I stop doing to shift those resources into something else?’”

3. Your culture is unfrozen. There will never be a better time to change it. “Culture is incredibly efficient—it works as an internal protocol that silently influences actions and decisions,” Kueng writes. “Ensure digital voices (often younger and more diverse) have equivalent ‘voice time’ and that they are heard first… The pandemic has broken cultural inertia. Habits have been unbroken. People are expecting things to be different. This is really rare. Now is the time to make your culture into what you want it to be. The trick is to layer culture change objectives into everything else you are doing,”

This will take direct involvement from all staff, especially leaders. At AM&P 2020, keynote speaker Leslie Mac told a great story about a university where she helped conduct some diversity workshops. The heads of the department told her, “We want to spend time with you.” And she said, “That’s great, we’re all going to the workshop.” That was not in the department heads’ plans. “I stopped them,” she said. “’You have to come to the workshop, too.’ They looked at me with [deer-in-the-headlights] eyes. ‘There’s no way unless you come. You need to be there, you need to participate.’ They were really afraid of saying the wrong thing, of being uncomfortable. They came up to me after: ‘I never had this kind of conversation with staff and graduate students. The walls came down. Thank you.’ We can’t silo this kind of work.”

4. Take extravagant care of your teams. “Remote working is often a boon for productivity when tasks are known. [But] it is bad for innovation and setting up new things (and finding a workaround for this is the challenge right now)… Ramp up communication as much as possible. Gather everyone together more often. Remind them that they are part of a cohesive organization.”

Early on in the pandemic, Dan Fink, managing director of Money-Media, told me something that turned out to be prescient. “Since the pandemic isn’t expected to end anytime soon, we have ordered kits for a number of staff who were having difficulty being efficient in their home work space; things like a mouse, keyboard, monitor, office chair, etc. Most of these items are pretty inexpensive on amazon.com but go a long way to helping staff be productive and letting people know how much we appreciate their hard work during this crisis.”

5. Timing is the rarest of strategic skills. Now is the time. “Agility, innovation, optimism—these were the most critical traits for now, according to 22 CEOs surveyed in September 2020. This is a rare reset moment. COVID-19 has been a crisis on so many levels but it is also a huge opportunity: to rethink, to innovate, to shed things that need to be let go of, and to build for the future.”