AlexisRedmond

With Right Content and Offerings, ASHA Shows That a Career Portal Can Deliver Big Member Value and $$$

“If you can get [students] engaged and feeling really tied to a community that supports them, they’re going to be around…”

Alexis Redmond, director, career management resources, for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), pauses briefly and then lets out a wonderful laugh before saying “for ever.” It’s a natural joyfulness that comes from someone who is helping members at all levels achieve their goals and giving her association a sensational resource—the ASHA career portal—that drives engagement and brings in revenue, especially important in these virtual times.

Redmond continues. “I annually do a presentation to our [National Student Speech Language Hearing Association] executive committee, and I always offer them free resume review. And in that process it’s kind of funny there was one [person] that came in and said, ‘I really don’t need this, I’m pretty well connected.’ And I said, ‘Well, let’s talk about LinkedIn and what you can do with LinkedIn,’ and he was like, ‘Okay.’

“Now that was two years ago, and I got invited to a panel for NSSLHA this year and we were both on a panel, and he was like”—again, Redmond’s face lights up all over our Zoom call—“’Alexis, I’m so excited to see you!’ And I was like, ‘Good to see you too. What’s up?’ ‘You told me something that, at first, I was like, who is this lady and [why should I] listen to her? You told me something about LinkedIn that I never thought about and I used it. Where I’m working now it’s because I posted an article that someone [there] saw.’

“’That has now turned into a faculty role, and I’m running a clinic.’ He’s doing early childhood hearing screenings for one of the major hospitals in Utah. He said, ‘I didn’t think that was going to be possible.’”

If there could be such a thing as a career portal rock star, then Redmond would be it. She balances joy, intelligence and hard work so well that you want to listen to her… for ever.

But alas, given Zoom fatigue, we did pretty well for 45 minutes or so.

“An organization may have a hard time hiring because, for us, it’s a lot of rural clinics, and if they’re able to get a voice and share the benefits of working there, they can get really good candidates. So it’s really helpful once everyone gets to the table and shares those insights and those dialogues and they turn into opportunity.”

That’s a success story that Redmond shared that didn’t even get into the incredible architecture and moving parts of the career portal she has shepherded into fruition. Glance at that portal homepage and you’ll see these headings: GETTING STARTED, GETTING THE JOB, ON THE JOB, LEADERSHIP & SUPERVISION and PRIVATE PRACTICE. There’s quite a lot here.

‘Pulling All This Together’

In this story of career portal creation, Redmond conveys that it’s not easy and takes time to get right, but the rewards can be huge.

She started at ASHA in 2015 as a manager of mailing list sales on the sales team. “We had a separate recruitment advertising team. They had the initial assessment, and they brought us all in to pore over the findings. I’m one of those people that has a weird Jackie-of-all-trades background, so I’m an attorney by training, but my bachelor’s is in sociology and anthropology, so I just have a fascination with people in society and how things work and what makes people tick.

“I’m always that person who gets pulled in on projects because I see the stuff that people don’t see. ‘What about this? How does this play with this?’ When they got the feedback back, [the supervisor said] you need to make the job board a career step’ [place]. A lot of people in our office weren’t really looking at LinkedIn or other platforms or even at Instagram where people are sharing professional information and resume tips and interview tips. That wasn’t the goal here [at the time].”

Redmond was assigned with “pulling all this together.” For a long time, the job board was supported by a sales director who would do some programming and an occasional article, “but the focus really wasn’t on enriching the member experience,” Redmond says. She took the new role in 2017 and right away the sales functions went to the sales team, the content functions to editorial, member experience became a real thing and it all became a full-fledged process.

First up, a full content audit. “They had had various articles [posted] throughout the years, and so the challenge was that it wasn’t always a time when people were job searching or transitioning careers,” she says. “Maybe somebody wrote something cool and posted it, but there was not that kind of centralized place to find the information.” Staff could perhaps find the relevant job articles, but not members.

Slowly, they started the maturation process and figuring out the content gaps. “One of the cool things we did was go through a persona development process and brought in our practices teams, our research team, and looked at all of our surveys from the last decade or so. We mapped everything we knew about members—if they were students transitioning to professional, or mid-career looking to advance [or] an audiologist working in an ENT clinic…” Redmond recalls.

“We mapped out what resources we have for them, what’s keeping them up at night. What questions do they have when they experience going through career transition and then what content we could create. So that drove our marketing strategy because we knew the cadence of when they’re searching, when we had peak volumes of those job postings. Then we either curated content we already had or [developed] new content, so within the first year of the site made 30 pieces of content.”

Redmond says that they faced particular challenges in creating a comprehensive portal because their members can work in such a variety of settings and situations. In the past, she said, there had been too much of a “Pollyanna” approach—just go do your work and good things will come—rather than any real self-advocacy or personal brand-building lessons.

“We tried to always add a layer of that self-advocacy, making sure you’re being transparent, so that people understand what you do,” she says. “It makes them feel more empowered. So we were just trying to layer these things so that it wasn’t just like, ‘Here’s a job board, go there when you have a need,’ instead of, ‘Here, we’re always typing out information that is going to help you in your day-to-day.  Then, when you need to find a job, you will actually come to us.”

‘More Innovative’

“We knew that we needed to be more innovative with how we present information,” Redmond says. That turned into building their own improved brand voice, “more like, ‘we’re in this with you, we’re together, we’re aligned,’” she adds. That allowed them to soften their language a bit and become more approachable.

Not only did the career portal reflect that new brand voice, but the strategy became more deliberate and mobile-focused. “Instead of having like 2000- or 3000-word resources, it was like, ‘Let’s do what’s scalable from a phone,’” Redmond said. “What’s going to be something that someone can do for just a few minutes and feel that they left with a nugget that was valuable?

“Our members have heavy workloads; they don’t have time to always read a treatise, so it was really about thinking what does somebody need to know in this moment, based on the certain experience that they’re having. How can they feel more comfortable and confident in their newness?”

At that point staff listened. They knew it was about developing value, so surveys were conducted and focus groups brought in to talk about the skills members needed. At this point ASHA also discovered the value of sponsored content marketing packages, where “inside information” and “behind-the-scenes insights” could be conveyed to “help candidates stand out in their jobs and offices… from the people actually doing the hiring.”

And that meant revenue. It was a win-win situation.

“We can give tips and resources, but [it’s better to] go to the horse’s mouth and ask, ‘What are you really looking for?’” Redmond said. “We know what the job posting says, but when you’re in that interview, what are those things that are going to really make a candidate stand out?”

They created a series on Instagram and brought in members to do interviews and talk about career advancement or mentoring. They invited sponsors to talk about salary negotiation like when you get to the offer stage, what are some things that someone could say that would “move them this way or that way on the pay scale.

“For us it was a matter of going to the sponsors and saying, ‘Our members have this need. How can we partner with you to fill that need and get you some exposure in the process?’” Redmond said. “Because right now, with not being able to do a lot of in-person stuff, people are looking for thought leadership opportunities. So if you can make it really impactful [and something that] members can enjoy, [sponsors will] get their return investment.”

Redmond has worked with the sales team to develop a sponsor strategy that’s more of a partnership. “For recruitment advertising sales, that’s meant a lot of time nurturing those relationships,” she says. “We know that they have different needs and want more exposure and engagement. Our student organization has done networking events where the sponsor could come and present about what’s happening in the industry”—again, giving that inside view.

Redmond’s role has remained in the marketing and sales team. “So everything organically has that duality of understanding that there has to be a B2B aspect or a vendor aspect, whatever we’re doing on the B2C side,” she says. “So it’s really about finding those opportunities to add value. Once you know what the pain points are or where there’s gaps or need on either side, that’s when you can get anything.

“I think about little ways to bridge that gap and start with dialogue between the job seekers and employers so that’s where we either issue new content or have an event or we’ve done some things like social media stories or reached out to the podcasts,” Redmond adds.

After trial and error, Instagram, not the more expected Facebook, has become the go-to for the career portal—a career fair on Wednesday was well-advertised there. “When you’re going the route of career development content you have to know where the places are that they’re really making their decisions about their career stuff vs. just consuming content,” Redmond says. “So you can’t treat every channel the same.”

Again, she says, a key is to listen and not always joining the conversation. “Just being in the space and observing what’s happening can be really helpful to keep your content grounded. Sometimes we can get very internalized and work with our head down.”

‘User Experience Team’

They realized pretty quickly that the career journey has to be center stage, rather than all the possible topics and subsets members could get involved in. “We have a user experience team in-house that helped us do a card sort and to do some kind of journey mapping, to make sure that, as a person went from content piece” forward, it made sense, Redmond says.

“We also include feeds and all of our e-newsletters, so we needed a system that would support that. Because it’s one thing to create the content and make it appealing, but if we didn’t have vehicles to get it out there, then we created a party for ourselves and didn’t send invitations.”

It’s really about thinking through all the touch points, she adds, and all the areas that people may be engaging that could be an opportunity to get in front of them. Sponsors now come to them on a “pretty regular basis. The other thing is that we’re always being innovative,” Redmond says. “What new ways of presenting content are out there? Let’s see if this is of interest to the members.”

And that’s what it comes down to—member value. “How do they just navigate the space as an individual—that was where we had to make our pivot because we were getting beat all over the place by big-box job boards,” Redmond says. “We knew we had to do this better because they can be nimble and focused and we’re doing so much stuff. But we [knew] that if we didn’t really focus on it and figure it out, it’s going to take us years to catch up.”

EATrightonabudget

Not Being One-Size-Fits-All, Social Media Campaigns Benefit From Finding Their Best Platform and Voice

“Hi, I’m Sandra Arevalo,” “and I’m Rahaf Al Bochi, and we’re registered dietitians/nutritionists for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to break the bank. There are plenty of ways to eat right on a budget. Many people overspend by wandering aimlessly through the grocery store…”

This is the beginning of a powerful two-minute video from the Academy titled Eat Right on a Budget. It was part of their 2021 annual March National Nutrition Month campaign. Their 2019 efforts won a coveted Gold EXCEL Award for Social Media Campaign (Educational). It’s easy to see why after looking at how comprehensive—and diverse—their campaign is.

The Academy offered a campaign Toolkit with tip sheets and handouts, games and activities, PowerPoint presentations and select content available in six languages—English, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Hindi and Filipino. And just as importantly, they offered their audience a choice for which social media platforms to engage with. There were weekly Twitter Chats and images to tweet out; slogans like “Learn culinary skills” and “An RDN can help you meet health goals” to post on Facebook timelines; hashtags and slogans to share on LinkedIn; and a slew of Instagram assets to post.

The theme was Personalize Your Plate. “There is no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition and health. We are all unique with different bodies, goals, backgrounds and tastes! And a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist can tailor a healthful eating plan that is as special as you are.”

Similarly, there is no one-size-fits-all approach in social media campaigns as well. In the Feb. 5 issue of Sidebar, we asked, “What is the social media platform that your membership most engages with you on?” Instagram came out on top at 30%, followed by Facebook at 22%, Twitter at 17%, YouTube at 9%, and Pinterest and LinkedIn at 4%. (“Other” accounted for 13%, and I regret not asking folks to specify that.)

That’s quite a range of preferences. The Academy’s strategy of showing short two-minute videos falls right in line with most advice. “How does an association use social media as a jumping off point to pull people into their content, particularly paid offerings?” Rasheeda Childress asked in Associations Now article last year.

Dan Stevens, president of WorkerBee.TV, Inc., “recommends a drip approach,” she wrote, “where you offer a tiny snippet—micromarketing—to pull people to your site… and into the full story on your ecosystem and your brand, where you can monetize with advertising or pay per view. Whatever mix you use on social media, the key is to make sure that it makes sense from a revenue-generating perspective.”

Here are five social media campaign strategies from Ben Kerr, chief strategy officer for Somethin’ Else—with some AM&Plification added in to personalize.

1. Take a long-term view. “Advertising is all about bursts of activity, but social strategies should be at least 12-months long…” In an Instagram post three weeks ago, the League of American Orchestras put together an attractive multi-image page that looked like a magazine cover with a “Join Our Team” banner added: “Be a part of the award-winning Symphony magazine team! The League is looking for a Production and Design Manager, who will also support The Hub and marketing needs; link in bio. #TeamOrchestra.” In their most recent post, they quoted the late Rep. Elijah Cummings, who spoke at their 2016 conference: “Diversity is not our problem, it’s our promise.” This organization also won an EXCEL social media award last year for their Giving Day.

2. Build momentum. “To build momentum you always need to be offering some kind of new news—in the broadest sense of the word. You should be presenting an idea differently and trying to make that appeal to your audience.”

In its award-winning website redesign, OPIS made social media a big part of its awareness campaign. “Social media is becoming [a major] part of Google rankings,” said Ashlee Bovello, marketing programs principal at OPIS’ parent, IHS Markit. “Be sure to link back to your site [in your social postings]. Put social media icons in your footer not header. If it’s in the header, it’s easy for them to go off into social media land and forget why they’re on your website to begin with.”

3. Treat influencers with care. “Write them a brief and collaborate with them, but don’t create the content yourself. Let them do their thing.” Micro-influencers can be valuable ambassadors who can create and inspire authentic passion for a brand. So brands should systematize their use of influencers… Tomorrow’s influencers will be more segmented, a trend that would benefit AM&P members. In a recent study, more than 50% of people 35 and under said they are influenced in their purchases by bloggers and vloggers (video bloggers).

4. Strike a balance between creation and amplification. “It’s important to consider your ratio of budget spent on these two elements on a case-by-case basis. Too often, brands have a blanket rule that they will spend 15% to 20% on the creative and 80% to 85% on the distribution.”

In increasing a webinar’s revenue by 40%, the Association of Clinical Documentation Integrity Specialists ran photos of their Meet the Dream Team on Facebook posts. On the day of the webinar, Melissa Varnavas, editorial director, events and education, posted a photo on Facebook of her and colleague Mary Ann Genovese, headphones on, ready to go. They also used Twitter to get their message out: “Learning to target metrics to move #outpatient #CDI efforts forward with @ACDIS Live!”

5. Consider the value of complementary channels. The Casualty Actuarial Society won a gold EXCEL award two years ago for a campaign titled Actuaries in Pop Culture. (Last year they won for #ActuariesinMUSIC.) In a Twitter loop, they pointed to an actuary in the opening scene of Zootopia. “I can hunt for tax exemptions! I can be an actuary!” And in Along Came Polly, Ben Stiller played a risk assessment expert who falls in love with the titular Polly, played by Jennifer Aniston. And an actuary even won on Jeopardy that year!

If you can reference Jeopardy, you’re a winner in any book.

Get Buy-in Socialize Introduce Project Tracking Chart 3d Illustration

Be Courageous, Get Feedback, Secure Allies, Publicize. Want to Make a Change? Seek Buy-in; You’ll Need It!

This article was written by Tatia Gordon-Troy, Esq. (pictured) as a special contributor.

The membership of some associations isn’t always quick to embrace change, and in my experience, attorneys especially tend to move pretty slowly when it comes to embracing the inevitable. For example, my association accepted submissions for our member magazine in both Word and WordPerfect for several years; we simply chalked it up to the nature of the publishing business and our slow-to-change members—immigration attorneys. Eventually, WordPerfect was phased out in most of our members’ firms, but it seemed like an eternity.

A similar, albeit slow, change occurred when our members began to move away from the use of Blackberries in favor of iPhones. There were some growing pains and complaints even among staff when the association directors were forced to turn in their Blackberries.

But change can prove to be a good thing. Using iPhones for us was less expensive than maintaining an email server dedicated to our Blackberries. Besides the cost savings, we realized we could do so much more with our new phones, which brought forth a floodgate of ideas. Video capability, audio recording and especially picture taking allowed us to engage more with our members on-site, capture moments in time, and add new content to our news vehicles.

But the one thing that made the difference was the IT director’s quest to gain buy-in from the directors before forcing the change on us. He explained to us the benefits of switching from Blackberry to iPhone—for us and for the association. By the end of his presentation, he had accomplished his objective.

During my nine years as director of publications, there were several instances whereby I needed to gain buy-in for a necessary change. One in particular involved sunsetting an annual publication that had run its course after eight, very lucrative years. I had noticed a steady decline in revenue from year to year as well as changes in technology that were directly impacting the usefulness of the publication. My plan was to replace it with one better-suited to the times.

Introducing change to a product or process to which people have become accustomed is a difficult and, in some cases, courageous act. In this case, the task was even more herculean as it involved a very loyal and reliable cadre of authors and editors—106 to be exact. All the more reason why getting the right people’s buy-in can help you succeed; and the more people impacted by the change the more buy-in is needed. The following steps are actions I took to implement this much-needed change:

Ensure the change aligns with your mission. Make sure you’re on the right track by questioning how your members and staff will benefit from this change:

  • Will this change benefit the association?
  • Will this change bring forth greater efficiencies or streamline certain activities to allow staff to better focus their time?
  • Will its return on investment eventually be greater than its cost?
  • Will the new idea appeal to a broader audience so that there are more marketing opportunities, thereby translating to more revenue?
  • Will it benefit the members or end users?
  • Will the change offer greater accessibility and more convenience?
  • Will the members realize a cost savings?
  • Will there be access to more information than before?

Gather feedback from members. Next, build a foundation by laying the groundwork for your idea. If the change will affect your membership, then feedback from members is crucial. Try all the ways you can think of to gather member feedback to help you decide if the idea is worth advocating for. Start with a survey:

  • Get some quick answers by posting a question on your website for an easy yes or no.
  • Take a more detailed approach to garner your audience’s needs or thoughts by sending an all-member email with an incentive to respond. (Offer a discount on a product or conference fee, maybe even a free item.)
  • Use face-to-face communication (when in-person events return): Take advantage of lunch breaks between conference sessions to pose questions to the attendees; attend a board meeting and throw out questions to your association leaders; try one-on-one informal surveys in the exhibit hall during annual meetings.

Generally, surveys are answered by 10% or less of the membership, hence the reason why an incentive can and should be used to entice more folks to engage. But keep the survey to five minutes or less and structure the questions to get the answers you need, not just the answers you want. In other words, don’t tailor the questions to make your case; always go for honest responses.

Recruit supporters and allies. Third, get buy-in from key people within the membership who can help you spread news about the benefits and assuage people’s fears. You also need to seek buy-in from others among the executive staff and not just the executive director. Remember, your department doesn’t operate in a vacuum—you’ll need to sell your idea to the membership director, the marketing director, the communications director, even the finance director.

Big changes almost always impact more than just one department—as well as the budget—so creating an atmosphere of inclusion makes sense from the outset. Changes might mean more work for them and their staff, so be clear on how this benefits the association and eventually, them. When people understand the meaning behind the change, they’re more inclined to work harder to achieve the goal, especially if they feel part of the overall equation. Maybe even develop a team of staff from your departments who can help you plot the course and offer support when needed.

With any change, expect growing pains no matter how much support you think you have from leadership or the rank and file. Change can sometimes garner a “giveth and taketh away” scenario, depending on what the change is. Some will see the benefits, others may not, and they will be quite vocal about it.

Be prepared to take the heat from those who disagree with your actions but remain professional in your responses. In fact, have several canned responses prepared in advance of the change, and encourage the members who agree with you to be vocal in order to maintain balance in the discussion. Plus, members respect the opinions of other members whom they know, so having a respected member in your corner can aid in advancing your agenda.

Be inclusive and over-communicate. Next, consider inviting the naysayers to participate in the process. Use them as a beta test group or invite them to serve on a taskforce. Being part of the process could calm the angry lion within your most intolerable member. As part of the sunset process, I quickly went to work on developing a new publication and invited many of the naysayers and others to write chapters and participate as editors. Inclusion can help bring even the most ardent naysayer on board.

Finally, regularly publicize the impending change in as many vehicles as you have at your disposal. Begin this several months before unleashing the change upon your members. This not only acts as advance notice to the membership, but it can help you with “covering your assets” when the inevitable calls or emails start arriving from members accusing the association of a lack of transparency. It can happen; in fact, it has happened many times.

Within a four-year period, my association introduced significant modifications to certain member benefits and services, which taught us many hard lessons about how best to effect change within our membership. We made some mistakes along the way, and some of us still bear the scars of battle. But we emerged stronger than ever. Change can be painful; but with proper planning and buy-in, your association can successfully move your membership into the future.

Tatia Gordon-Troy, Esq., owner of Ramses House Publishing LLC and a 15-year veteran of association publishing, helps small– to medium-sized associations build sustainable sources of non-dues revenue while instructing them on how to recycle, reuse and repurpose their content. She can be contacted at tatiatroy@ramseshp.com.