Thursday, February 16, 2012

Nearly 80% of Association Members Use Smartphones for Business

by Melynn Sight 

Are you reaching that 80% of your members through mobile technology?

Advertising pro Sam Meers defines digital velocity as “the seemingly unstoppable phenomenon of digital communications growing at an increasing rate.” This insatiable desire for information has most associations embracing mobile technology as their means for staying in the game. The rationale is in the numbers. A 2010 survey conducted by the Realtor® association’s center for REALTOR® technology revealed:                                               
  • Nearly 80% of REALTORS® across the association use smartphones for business
  • 68% use their phone to access productivity tools
  • 33% use their phone to access news from the association’s magazine
An Instantaneous Future

So how do you use technology to become a critical part of the way a member does business?

Karen Gehle, CEO of KAR (Kansas) says, “While e-mail is a more frequent communications channel, it is not as effective as it once was. So we are pursuing new methods of communication for one main reason. We want KAR to be within a touch of a button for our members.

Our mobile app will give member easy access to the information they say they need the most: Education, Legislative updates, and Market Data. If we make it easy for members to access information, we deliver on our brand promise to deliver new knowledge in every member interaction. We believe we can accelerate the engagement curve of the new and other members segments by delivering on our commitment through mobile communications.”

An Evolving Tool

So what exactly does “mobile” include? The definition grows every day. Associations are incorporating mobile phone applications, USB flash drives, streaming video, text, QR codes and the mobile web into their technology offerings.

“We are stepping into mobile apps and texting for one very prominent reason: it’s where our members are," says Dawn Kennedy, CEO in Oklahoma City. “Members are relying on their smartphones more and more to access MLS, to email documents from Transaction Desk and to communicate with clients. Our leadership believes the use of mobile technologies will increase dramatically as GEN Y and the millennials become the primary buying segment. We want to be able to deliver member services in whatever media they choose, and our survey data verifies they are choosing smart phones.”

As you consider your mobile possibilities, remember this: knowing what is valuable to your members allows you to be relevant to them. Seek their input. They’ll help you validate the right direction for your mobile strategy.

Monday, February 13, 2012

nSight Marketing's Survey to Association Executives

by Melynn Sight

Thank you, busy association executives. For taking time to answer 8 questions that will shape nSight Marketing's communications with you in 2012.

Your key messages:

1. Keep other association examples and promising practices coming
2. Relevant examples and data (statistics) are both important
3. Send communications tips, techniques and creative approaches to help make for more efficient and effective communications
4. Offer tactical advice like communicating via social media, leader communications, and creative newsletter headlines
5. Help with the ever elusive value proposition

Your feedback will feed my editorial calendar. Yes, I will do something constructive with the results. I listened with interest. I hear you.

Thank you!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Association Execs + Volunteers talk Value and Commitment to Members

It's traditional to kick off an association's year with a meeting.

Vision Quest is NCARs way of collaborating with staff and volunteer leaders on the most relevant and important issues for the association.

160 volunteers, 3 days, numerous legislative updates, along with an explosion of inspiration (by Richard Mendenhall), sharing a reference to "545 people" and relating the responsibility of all of the leaders in the room to 100 senators, 435 congressmen, one president and nine Supreme Court Justices of the United States. "545 human beings out of the 235 million are directly, legally, morally and individually responsible" for the promise of our country (taken from an Orlando Sentinel article, the last column written by Charley Reese.)

Andrea Bushnell, CEO,  and President Joe Baldwin wanted leaders to leave the meeting with inspiration and ideas for adding value in 2012. So two sessions led them though clarifying their value, creating their proposition, and generating ideas on how to communicate it to members in associations across the state.

The how-to sessions needed to be scalable for the smallest North Carolina association as well as a big Charlotte association; concepts that leaders and staff could  take back home and work together.

Kudos to an engaged, attentive group who showed that:

1. They "get it" and believe they can create a value proposition that is unique to them
2. Its possible to follow specific steps to complete the three legged stool of value
3. It's not up to staff
4. They are ready to get to work!

Presidents and AEs, sitting side by side, huddling, talking, and debating which member issues were high value benefits (important enough to include in a value proposition).

It's the kind of work that makes these meetings pay off. "Leaders in the arena" was a fitting theme. Elected and staff leaders are all in the arena, if only in their minds, thinking about what's really most important to their most important audience - their members.

Monday, January 23, 2012

How Do You Know If You Are Doing a Good Job?

by Melynn Sight

Association communications are, without question, a challenging and ever-changing field. But it’s still very much a young field. There is no single job description for an association communicator. I have one, but I’m not sure it would hit the mark in your association. Every association’s job description is unique.

In our Build a Plan workshop we talk about measurements. Sometimes they are numbers. Other times, you have to ask yourself a few questions to gauge how well you are doing.

Are you any good at this? If you really want to measure your success, you have to patch together a performance review that matches your sometimes-patched-together and often changing job description.

While it’s fairly easy to measure the effectiveness of many of the tactics that you document in your communications plan, it’s harder to measure some of the big picture changes you want to see. You communicate individual programs and services, but to what end?

As you sit back and look at your communications program as a whole and evaluate your own performance as an association communicator, consider these questions:

How does your communications strategy make you stand out from your competition and overcome member distractions? Are you conveying what is unique, and valuable, and significant to your members? Is it clear to the people who matter most to your success what you offer them? Does it have appeal? Is it exclusive? Is it credible? Are your communications different enough from your state (or local) information? Have you compared them lately?

Is your organization perceived as a leader or expert in something? What’s your status or reputation in the eyes of your members? How does your strategy help you position your association as a leader in one specific area? How trusted is your organization to deliver on that promise, and how does your plan maintain and build trust with your members?

Do your supporters remember you? You might be surprised how many supporters you really have. Those supporters are your best advertising. Are you identifying those supporters you worked to create over the years - like past officers and volunteers? Is it going strong? Or are your supporters feeling overlooked or forgotten?  Are you communicating regularly with them? Are you reminding them what you do that is valuable? Are you asking them to share your good work with uninvolved members? Ask them for their support. Consider making your supporters, especially your biggest fans, part of your team.

Are you connecting with new people? Unless your target audience is a very well-defined and limited group of people with little turnover, your communications programs should be bringing new members into your target audience. This often requires trying entirely new approaches to tap into that distinct audience. Have you planned for two-way dialog to identify your new member superstars, potential leaders, committee members or volunteers? Listen to them closely and learn what’s important to them. A focus group is a perfect way to seek information quickly.

Perhaps most importantly, do you love your job? Your communications work is about helping members do their job better. It’s important. It matters. Thanks for taking it on.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

GSAR Wins Big with Small Bottles Big Help

Last year we kicked off an initiative called Small Bottles Big Help.  The goal was two fold: to help associations give back to their community and help them get some media attention when they did it. 

We asked AE’s and their staff to collect small bottles from hotels during their travels. Even better was to make this contest an association-wide effort.  Shampoo bottles, lotions, and other toiletries.  At the end of the collection period, we asked them to donate the bottles to a local shelter or charity in need.

These small bottles go a long way toward helping local homeless, women’s or disaster relief shelters.  The shelters often don't have the funds for extra necessities - common items we use every day.  Many of us leave unopened toiletries when we check out of a hotel. What better way to give back then to bring the bottles home and donate them to a good cause? 

The response was overwhelming!  The association who donated the most bottles by November 30th won a webinar hosted by Melynn on a communications topic of the their choice. Lynnore Fetyko, CEO of Greater Syracuse Association of REALTORS® (GSAR) and Katie DeAnthony (communications director) were equally excited. A staggering 2,336 bottles entitled them to bragging rights and the prize. 

Most important, the bottles were donated to two shelters in the Syracuse area - Vera House and Dorothy Day House.  The Vera House is a comprehensive domestic and sexual violence service agency providing shelter, advocacy, and counseling services.  The Dorothy Day House provides 24-hour emergency shelter for women and women with children who are homeless or housing.

Thank you to all who participated in Small Bottles Big Help. And for all of you who are stewards of goodwill in your community in your own way.

Please click on the photos below to view images from GSAR on their donations.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Looking Back and Looking Ahead

Airplanes are great places to brainstorm. I had my share of airplane time in 2011. Someone recently asked me: "How many miles did you travel in 2011?" I have no idea. The mileage doesn't matter to me. Planes are valuable office time for me. I don't think about how many miles I'm flying, but the time to clearly think and plan while I am in the air.

Here's what I've been thinking and planning about marketing, communications and working with you:

The past 12 months
Lucky me. Thankful for bright, committed Association Executives who strive to get better

nSight Marketing worked with 40+ associations across the US  to help you get to know your members' needs, plan effectively, grow better leaders and think about communications in a more organized way.

The last 12 weeks
Information Gathering

  • While I work, I was on my annual Q4 sabbatical. I was multi-tasking of course - working and learning, thoughtful reflection, surveying my team and target audience to get the facts and a basis for new ideas.
  • I attend one major communications learning event per year. This one was at Southwest Airlines and the focus was brand and execution.
  • I want insight from my customers and target audience, so I asked myself: What are my goals and what do I want to know?
  • Analyzed my process and decide if I walk my talk. In other words, I want to make sure that I follow my own beliefs about my communications, and interaction with my current and potential customers.
  • Formally asked my employees and support staff what we do well and what we can do better.
  • I began getting nervous about starting the year at ZERO. Just like everyone else.
  • Started on my plan for the new year. A plan to do better work with the heads and hands around me.
The next 12 days

  • Update my brand promise and value proposition.
  • Work with people around me to be sure we implement significant learning events and communications changes for the better.
  • Finalize the 2012 plan.
  • Stop eating and drinking so much!
The next 12 months

  • To work with associations who are determined, deliberate and aggressive in building a strong and living value proposition. 
  • To help association executives and leaders create and communicate their brand and their value in order to exceed their membership and business goals.  
A wish for you
I wish you quality quiet moments - wherever you can find them.
I wish you thinking back to celebrate.
I wish you thinking ahead to get better.
I wish you a team who helps you get better in delivering the highest quality in every interaction.
I wish you joy in your work - knowing how many lives you touch in a positive way.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

One Association's Story of Building a Communications Plan

If communications are on your Association's radar screen, then the more honest you are about your current situation, the clearer the path is to improving it.

Kudos to Boulder Area REALTORS® Association (BARA) for having the courage and the trust to bring someone in from the outside to change the way communication looks for BARA members. In her own words, here is CEO Veronica Precella's story:

"Each year the Board of Directors of the BARA gather to work on a plan that answers the question “Where are we going?” This year, as the result of an all member survey and two focus groups, it was clear that our communications to our members are inadequate. The entire BOD invested time to create the communications plan so that as we move forward, we move as a cohesive group towards our goals. Everyone has “bought in” and we are clear on the direction the plan will lead us."  

BARA's investment went beyond homework. The Board of Directors and staff attended a full day communications workshop together. After a day of discussion, brainstorming and then reaching consensus on some key communications methods, Veronica and her staff now have a document and a new process to propel their communications forward.

The feedback about the planning day was that the process was thought-provoking and creative. The Board and the staff made some efficient decisions throughout the process. They have new questions to consider and are confident about moving forward.

The plan also includes five benchmarks and measures so the Board can confirm if the new communication approach is moving in the right direction over the next year and beyond. It includes surveying members again next year to determine if the changes made a difference with the key audiences.

Kudos to BARA. Now that the plan is complete, Veronica and her staff of three will implement the aggressive, yet manageable, plan. Creating a plan can help achieve your goals - with a staff any size - if there are enough "eyes on the goal" and the goal is important enough to your future.

If you think one or more of your staff members would benefit from a communications workshop, here is some additional information on creating a simple, usable communications plan.