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Testifying at the Capitol: March Ewald Webinar

Posted By Valerie Dosland, Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Updated: Monday, March 2, 2015

As our 2015 Legislative session is in full swing, do you have a solid plan in place when you testify at the Capitol? Our own Valerie Dosland, Director of Government Affairs, touches on key points to help prepare you to give the best testimonial before Congress.

» Listen to the webinar here


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An affinity for success or failure?

Posted By David Ewald, CAE and Kathie Pugaczewski, CAE, CMP, Thursday, February 26, 2015
Untitled Document

Three quick tests to gauge the strength of your affinity program

Non-dues revenue has steadily become more essential as associations aim to balance their budgets through diversified income streams. Membership dues are no longer the leading revenue source for many associations. The search for new sources of non-dues revenue often includes consideration of potential affinity programs.

Done well, an affinity program can be a way to reinforce the association’s value proposition to individual and corporate members. Done poorly, it can become a catch-all discount program that dilutes the message to members and distracts staff and volunteer energy away from work that is central to the association’s mission without adding substantial value. Perhaps your association is considering an affinity program of its own. If so, here are a few quick steps may to get you started.

It is important that any affinity program meet three tests:

  1. Exclusivity of Access. The program must provide a real benefit to members that is not easily available to them through other means or off the street through "hard bargaining."
  2. Benefit to the Association. The program must include a significant benefit to the Association from the providing entity. This benefit must be more than "you will get more members because of this affinity program." In other words, there should be a financial incentive or free in-kind service to the association in exchange for endorsing or adopting the program. It should also align to the association’s mission.
  3. Provider Marketing. There must be willingness and intention by the providing entity to actively market the program.

In addition to these three tests, affinity programs are most likely to be successful if they address an industry-specific need of the members. The American Society of Association Executives and Center for Association Leadership has published a variety of articles that discuss affinity programs and affirm this point. It is important to prioritize what you are going after for the member. Bear in mind that those you approach about an affinity program must see something in it for themselves as well.

How to begin

  1. Prioritize a list of up to 10 different programs that could best meet the criteria discussed above.
  2. Survey members regarding their preferences and collect data from them regarding the potential market size so that can be leveraged when approaching potential providers. Also, review your current data on your members to develop a profile of your membership. Don’t underestimate the value that your members bring to the table if there’s a good match between the affinity program and your membership. If there’s real interest, the program will succeed and add real value to the member value proposition. It must be win-win for both the member and the affinity program and a real partnership where both parties are vested in the success of the program.
  3. Selectively approach vendors to implement a few programs at a time so the association can gauge interest and success. These results can be leveraged if the association decides to approach additional vendors in the future.

It is essential to keep in mind that implementing these activities can be very time-consuming — so they really must accomplish something that makes it worthwhile for both the Association and the member. If it adds real value, it will be worth the effort to put time and resources to the activity. In addition, it must be integrated in the marketing plan for the association as we need to remind our members of the value of their membership throughout the year as well as expand the membership base by providing a compelling value proposition.

Tags:  affinity  affinity program  david ewald  ewald consulting  failure  kathie pugaczewski  success 

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Understanding Social Reach: Why Small Organizations and Associations Suffer on Facebook

Posted By Kate-Madonna Hindes, Friday, February 13, 2015
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There’s one truth to digital media: Reach, is an ever-evolving puzzle. In 2013, Facebook claimed that graphics were out performing text content. We saw a dramatic increase in graphically-enhanced posts which helped de-clutter long, text posts. However, Facebook changed their algorithm again in late 2013 and smaller brands took notice, mainly because it was their reach that was being hurt most.

At Ewald Consulting, we’ve noticed that organic reach, (reach that was shared from individuals, not bots or advertisements) was dramatically slowing. For smaller organizations and associations, this can hit harder, especially as overall organic content is calculated at being shown to less than 3% of a group or organization’s fans. This truth has created skepticism and caused many brands to dismiss Facebook as a communication and marketing platform. Facebook’s ever-changing algorithm and reach is causing brands to disengage from the platform both mentally and physically. When we view something as unworthy of our understanding or time, it creates resentment. As marketers, we need to stop resenting Facebook and start understanding Facebook for what it is: A tool.

While it may seem to some that social media and digital marketing are fickle, complicated worlds, they rarely are. Facebook recently released a report that stated that video content is shared more frequently than other posts. In fact, we’ve seen this underlining trend perform well across multiple platforms.  It’s not the video marketing that’s capturing eyes: It’s the fact that the video shared is worth watching.

"Facebook is a place where if your friends are discussing something, they're sharing something or commenting on something, a video can dramatically outperform YouTube, and that's never really happened before," said Brian Shin, CEO of Visible Measures.

I was recently quoted in Adweek discussing how important it is to remember that Facebook is an advertising platform, first and foremost. Whether you’re a non-profit or association organization, when we neglect to interact the way the platform demands, we are punished. Take advertising for example,

“The problem is when a non-profit refuses to pay for advertisements, or rely solely on Facebook for social messaging. Many non-profits forget about the value of conversation on Twitter and the impressions that Pinterest and Instagram allow. We knew organic reach was dwindling in 2013, social is a single facet of the diamond, and a marketing plan can’t shine without everything coming together.”

How can you get the most out of your Facebook investment? Marry great content with shareable graphics and video. Don’t hesitate to spend $20-30 to boost a post to a targeted audience. In putting on our association management hat, I often suggest to our clients to utilize Facebook’s targeting to help gain exposure for those that are on the fence about joining the organization.  While a single article may not help convert them to association members, targeted quality content with a call-to-action that is of value, will. Facebook is a tool, and should be treated like a tool. If we’re only using Facebook because it’s a free platform, our marketing will underwhelm and underperform. I often stress to organizations, that it’s an attitude change. We aren’t on there because it’s trendy. We’re on there, creating content that is shareable because we’ve invested in the platform and it’s a necessary facet to complete the marketing funnel.

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Engaging Millennials in Associations

Posted By Sai Yang, Wednesday, February 11, 2015
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As a Millennial, going into the workforce can be quite a challenge when I feel that I’m constantly being judged because of my generation. Millennials tend to get bad reputations, mostly from Gen-Xer’s and Baby Boomers. I grew up in a rapidly developing technology society; having access to information from any place, at any time, from any device. I find myself constantly multitasking; whether that is responding to emails, doing an intense homework assignment, and or juggling two jobs to name a few. Just because I don’t desire a typical 9-to-5 work day, this doesn’t mean I want to work less. As Millennials, our priorities are different now. Within a few years if not already, companies will find their association aging. Millennials will be everywhere and it can be tricky to work with them if you don’t know how to engage with them. Here are a few ways I liked to be engaged.

  • Learning and Development: It is important that I have ongoing and learning professional development. I am a team player. I enjoy working with others. To obtain growth, it is best that I work and learn from other employees in order to improve my work ethic.
  • Constant Feedback: Millennials are very familiar with social media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. and the idea of constantly updating our status. We love feedbacks. We are looking to our management team and colleagues to be our mentors. I benefit greatly from receiving these feedbacks about the work I do. Millennials expect openness and transparency.
  • Responsibility: At any given chance, I want to be able to have ownership of my work. I want my work to mean something to me. The best way to engage Millennials is by having them be involved in the workplace. We have a very care-free attitude but we get the work done! 

Tags:  engaging millennials  sai yang  social media 

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How To Build A Press Kit

Posted By Jess Myers, Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Updated: Monday, February 2, 2015
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When you want the media to know all about your organization, and all about your current issues of interest, there are two basic ways to go about it.

You can answer the phone when they call, and spend 15 minutes telling them all the ins and outs of who you are and what you’re about. Those opportunities are great, if rare. More often than not, media relations are a proactive, not reactive, business.

The second approach is to prepare a press kit, so when the media wants to know about you and what your group advocates, you’ve got all of the information prepared in a convenient package for them. Press kits are a staple of the media relations word, and can be tailored to meet whatever project you’re advocating, or which segment of the media you’re reaching.

The classic press kit is a paper folder filled with several types of information that you hand out, or mail, to members of the media upon request. The more modern press kit has entered the electronic realm, with most press kit materials deliverable via email, and the capabilities expanding to include audio and video.

Whether you go paper or electronic, press kits should contain some of the same basic elements:

  • Press release – This is the heart of any press kit. It provides the newest news, regarding whatever is hot right now for your organization. It could be an announcement of an award winner or a promotion, a reaction to a hot issue in your realm, the preview of an annual conference, etc. It should be the first thing people see when they open your press kit.
  • Background – Have information about your organization. Who you are, how long you’ve been around, your mission, your membership numbers, etc. This can be in bullet point “quick facts” format or as a narrative.
  • Bios – Key members of your organization, if relevant, should have bio sheets in a press kit. A simple one- to three-paragraph description of who they are and why they’re an important part of your mission. Include head shots in reproducible form if their photos are needed or likely to be used by the press.
  • Statistics – It’s hard to describe a pie chart over the phone, but in a press kit, it’s a perfect place to include any charts, graphs or other visuals that illustrate your core points.
  • Photos – Anything visual is good, as it catches the eye and it works to tell your story.
  • Business cards – Absolutely vital to include ways that people can make contact after the fact. Many folders come with a built-in place to hold business cards. If not, in a physical press kit, staple a card to the top page, so it’s visible when people open the folder.

It’s good to keep a few basic press kits on hand as handouts when meeting with the media, as a basic backgrounder on your organization and your issue. It’s also wise to make .pdf files of your handouts, so they can be easily emailed, if you’re not physically meeting with members of the media.

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The Association “Data”ing Game

Posted By Kathie Pugaczewski, CAE, CMP, Vice President, Communication & Technology Department, Wednesday, January 28, 2015
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With access to technology tools that in the recent past were limited to Fortune 500 company budgets, associations now have the ability to effectively and strategically play the “data”ing game. Our challenge now is limited to human resources coupled with unlimited technology choices. To be impactful and sustainable, we need to create relevance and meaning from the proliferation of information.  And while it’s tempting to go wide and try several strategies, we need to take a deeper dive in fewer areas to start the “data”ing game and commit to a few strategies long enough to create lasting results.

Data tells a story.  It connects the dots and provides context and creates meaning so we can make better decisions to meet and anticipate the needs of our members. It appeals to the whole brain – right and left - with both qualitative and quantitative components to complete the picture.

Amazon, iTunes and google all use data attributes to drive sales, customer engagement and loyalty. They know our preferences and sell more to us by utilizing the data we give them with our transactions. We can do the same with our members on a different scale.

Our primary data source that we can start with is our member database. We keep “score” every month with our excel dashboard of joins, renews, total members as well as member retention. But are we doing anything meaningful to change the outcome of the game? When we use members’ specialties and interests to drive involvement, create community, identify trends, develop new offerings, we are aggregating the data and giving it back to our members in ways that are relevant to them on a personal level.

Our website stats show us who is visiting our website, how long they are staying and when they leave. A strong ongoing content development plan that builds resources will give our members a reason to return again and again.

Our accounting software can identify trends in membership, professional development and conference revenue as well as identify low net revenue offerings that may not be driving value for the members that we should consider cutting so we can focus on what’s most valuable to the members.
On our email stats are we breaking through the online noise with a compelling message? Is it too often or not enough? Is it visual enough? Is our social media enhancing our communication strategy? Are we facilitating conversations and offering compelling content that engages members into an ongoing conversation and community?

When we go deeper, beyond the act of merely collecting data, we can see patterns and make predictions to serve our members better as well as engage them in the work of the association.

According to ASAE’s Decision to Volunteer, the top five inhibitors to volunteering include:

  1. Lack of information about opportunities to volunteer –create an association job board
  2. Conflict with other volunteering activity – diversify volunteer base with short term commitment opportunities
  3. Never asked to volunteer – number one reason people don’t join as well – ask, people want to give
  4. Lack of information about virtual volunteering  - social media, emailing members, defined projects
  5. Lake of information about short-term assignments – committee structure not working, create action teams

The top five drivers to Volunteering

  1. It’s important to help others – it’s not all about what we can do for them but rather what they can do for us
  2. Do something for profession/cause important to me – mission needs to be compelling – are we inspiring?
  3. Feel compassion for others – altruistic motivation
  4. Gain new perspectives – learn from peers, mentorship and career growth
  5. Explore my own strengths – personal development, something they may not be getting from their job

Associations must get into the “data”ing game to retain and gain members, engage volunteers, create content for our websites, target professional development offerings, increase sponsorships, exhibitor and advertising sales and give data back to the members in a form that they can use in their own professions. A few moves, and let the games and success begin!

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Posted By Monte Abeler, Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, January 20, 2015
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You’ve probably heard the famous phrase, “If you fail to plan you plan to fail.”  Undoubtedly, there is a lot of evidence proving the validity of that phrase.  Kodak would be one example, as the photography giant was completely overrun by digital photography. However, a plan doesn’t magically transform into success all by itself. That would be like trying to create water with hydrogen alone. You need the oxygen! It would be like a farmer having seed and a plan for what to do with it, but never actually sitting down in the tractor and making the effort to plant; there’s a component missing. You probably know where I’m going with this.  Yes, we truly need both direction and action.  So what is, “Dir-Action,” exactly? It’s an epic combination of direction and action, giving you an opportunity for success. 

Take some time to ponder the following questions:

  1. Do I (we) have a clear direction?

    If your answer is NO, I would recommend holding a strategic planning session.  You can find countless advice and opinions on the best way to conduct strategic planning, and there a lot of successful ways to do it. When it’s all said and done, just make sure you know the mission, understand the direction, and are clear on the goals set to move forward. If your answer is YES, continue on to question two. 

  2. Are you taking intentional action on your direction?

    If your answer is NO, I would encourage you to pinpoint the reason why action isn’t happening. Common causes include vagueness in regard to who is responsible for certain tasks, a lack of accountability to complete assigned responsibilities, apathetic volunteers, volunteer work overload, and the absence of a timeline. Once you have the reason pinpointed you should be able to reestablish forward progress.  Smartsheets, Basecamp, and ProWorkFlow are three resources you may wish to consider to help with project management and deadline completion. If your answer is YES, then congratulations are in order.

Tags:  clear direction  ewald consulting  kate madonna hindes  success  take action 

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Social Media, Associations and Libel: Do we need new laws?

Posted By Laurie Pumper, CAE, Friday, January 9, 2015
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social mediaIf someone says something negative about your association on Facebook, what action should you take? What if someone makes accusations about one of your members – perhaps that the member has acted unethically or illegally? How can associations protect themselves from unfavorable publicity?

Similar questions have been with us for as long as associations have existed, but social media platforms have made it much easier for bad news to travel fast. For instance, if a former member or disgruntled former staff member made allegations to a reporter, the reporter would typically ask the association for a response. If the response indicated that the accusation was clearly false or overblown, the reporter would likely kill the story. With Twitter, Facebook, and hundreds of other platforms that allow people to easily post derogatory – even libelous – comments on social media, the job of association staff and volunteer leaders is more difficult.

For comments that simply portray facts in an unflattering way but don’t rise to the level of libel, an association’s best defense is a robust presence on social media and in the community it represents. If your members know about the good work your organization does and are familiar with your Facebook page or LinkedIn discussion group, they are likely to come to the association’s defense with their own positive comments. If your association has been featured in positive news articles in the trade media or general media, the public is less likely to be swayed by a negative comment, especially if it comes from a lone voice.

Although still relatively rare in the association world, there have been many instances when someone posts false accusations against a certain person or against an organization. Even if an association decides to take legal action — which can be time-consuming and expensive — it’s possible that the person who made the damaging comment(s) has no or few resources even if a court finds the association had a provable economic loss. For an individual who has been defamed, the process of trying to correct the damage is usually even more daunting.

Although it was written more than 20 years ago, momentum seems to be building for states to enact a law making it easier for individuals and organizations to set things right.

Since 2013, two states (Texas and Washington) have enacted the Uniform Correction or Clarification of Defamation Act (UCCDA). The Council of State Governments (CSG) included the Act in its 2014 list of suggested state legislation. A commentary published in November 2014 in the StarTribune newspaper says that a bill to enact the UCCDA will be introduced during the 2015 session of the Minnesota Legislature. Among other elements, the UCCDA states that a person can make a request for correction or clarification from the defendant. Getting a correction could go a long way toward repairing a damaged reputation. The law would require that the wronged person/organization make a good-faith attempt to request a correction or clarification within 90 days after knowledge of the publication in order to recover anything more than provable economic loss. The UCCDA states that a request for correction or clarification is adequate when it:

  • is made in writing and reasonably identifies the person making the request;
  • specifies with particularity the statement alleged to be false and defamatory and, to the extent known, the time and place of publication; alleges the defamatory meaning of the statement;
  • specifies the circumstances giving rise to any defamatory meaning of the statement which arises from other than express language of the publication; states that the alleged defamatory meaning of the statement is false.

The fact that the proposed legislation allows for action up to 90 days after learning about false or misleading information is helpful; it could be difficult to uncover damaging information soon after publication when it is the work of an individual not known to an organization. Other aspects of the proposal would bring clarity and needed updates to the issue of defamation and libel. If enacted, the legislation will be very useful to associations, businesses and individuals trying to maintain a good reputation.

The correct way to update libel law for the Internet age,” commentary article by Jack Davies, Star Tribune, published November 26, 2014, accessed January 2, 2015.
The Council of State Governments Knowledge Center, Uniform Correction or Clarification of Defamation Act, accessed January 2, 2015.

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Preparing Your Volunteer Leaders to Deliver Value

Posted By Shannon Pfarr Thompson, CAE, MPA, Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, December 30, 2014
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Everyone knows it is good practice to orient new board members. Annual new board member orientation sessions have become commonplace for the good reason that by getting new board members up to speed, they start off ready to succeed for your organization. Reviewing items such as the bylaws, policies and procedures, staff and board relationship, and other key items provides new board members with the tools and comfort level they need.

However, organizations often overlook training for their other volunteer leaders. Committee, special interest group (SIG), chapter and task force leaders are appointed by boards to implement important work for the organization, but frequently they are thrown into their roles without much guidance or training. This can lead to frustration and less-than-stellar results.

This year, one of the organizations I lead began biannual orientation sessions for new leaders, and I’ve been impressed with the difference it has made. The president and staff developed an agenda that takes volunteers through the most important aspects of the organization, divided up the list to best address each item, and then presented it via a webinar.

Using webinar technology allowed us to show organizational documents, demonstrate where leaders can find valuable information on the association’s website and also how to use the private part of the website specific to their committee, chapter or SIG. We had a chat available for questions during the meeting.

Here are some of the key things we included in our new leader orientation:

  • Organizational info – the tax status and what it means, the articles of incorporation, bylaws and policies and how they all relate
  • Key board and staff contacts – where leaders get support and who they should go to with questions
  • Important meetings – so leaders may plan ahead and see how these meetings benefit them
  • Financial policies – how their group fits into the budget and how to request funds
  • Communication tools – how to share information with their group, the board, and all members
  • Their responsibilities – to be a strategic leader, to consider leadership succession, to serve as an ambassador to members

By the end of the second orientation (after honing the original agenda), we found that leaders’ questions had been answered and they felt much more comfortable in their new roles as volunteer leaders. We hope it will also result in lower volunteer turnover and an enhanced willingness to step forward because leaders feel more supported. A small time investment has ended up providing a large benefit to our organization because we have volunteer leaders who understand their role, how it fits within the larger picture of the association’s activities, and they have the information and tools needed to hit the ground running. We look forward to the great results that these informed leaders and their teams will produce for our members!

Tags:  delivering value  ewald consulting  leadership  shannon thompson  volunteer 

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Sound Bite Friendly: Talking Points to Keep on Message

Posted By Jess Myers, Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Updated: Thursday, December 11, 2014
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When a reporter calls, the most important guideline you should keep in mind is: “don’t panic.” Once you’re calm and following lesson one, the next most important guideline is to have a goal for the interview/interaction with the media.

By having a goal, I mean to have a message you want to convey about yourself, your organization, your event, etc. When you talk to a reporter, speak in headlines. For example, if your dream headline for the story is, “Ewald Consulting is experiencing rapid growth,” I would make that sentence a talking point.

We hear the term “talking points” used frequently, especially during election season. Simply put, a talking point is a one- or two-sentence summary of your position.

Talking points are valuable to have ready before going into an interview — whether the medium is television, radio, newspapers or online journalism. You can use talking points not only as notes for what you want to say, but also as a way to refer to key messages you want to convey in the interview. And because many of us, when we get nervous, tend to ramble and say more than is needed, talking points are a great tool to keep us “on message.”

Here are some examples, brief talking points we put together for a retailer about its Black Friday weekend hours and specials:

  • Responding to incredible demand from shoppers, we are again offering extended hours on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, and are distributing a multi-page sale flier with hundreds of great deals.
  • The great deals for convenient online shopping started in the first week of November, with our company offering free shipping with no minimum throughout the holiday season.
  • For those who want to skip the checkout lines, we are offering a free “buy online, pickup in-store” option at each of the stores in our network.
  • Hundreds more great deals are available. Full details can be found in our sale flier

As you can see, none are too extensive or overly detailed; they’re just simple one-sentence talking points designed to help the interview subject get to the point, deliver key messages and convey the most salient information to a reporter. We like to say that the seven-word answer is always better than the 27-word answer.

If you anticipate a reporter’s call, it’s good to have a set of talking points on hand. Again, speak in headlines: think of the three to five main points you want to convey – your goals for the interview – and have them ready in bullet point form. If a reporter catches you by surprise, it’s OK to buy some time. Say that you need to call them back in 30 or 45 minutes, and use that time to craft some talking points for yourself.

Tags:  ewald consulting  jess myers  pr  public relations  talking points 

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MANAGEMENT | View all Management articles
A Successful Year Starts with a Solid Budget by Bill Monn
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9 Marketing Ideas for Your Organization by Kathie Pugaczewski
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MEMBERSHIP | View all Membership articles
A Holistic Approach to Membership Recruitment by Darrin Hubbard
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VOLUNTEERISM | View all Volunteerism articles
Three Ways to Stronger Volunteer Engagement by Paul Hanscom
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