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How Associations Can Thrive in a “Virtual Everything” World

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Why preparing for the worst can shake out your best.

After the American Water Works Association made the shift to virtual conferences and events last year, Mike Hiskey, its director of IT, characterized it as a “mind-expanding experience.”

“We couldn’t just say, alright, see you all in a couple of years,” he said. “Everybody has been learning and growing and adapting, and it’s been a lot of fun. It’s fun to learn new things. It’s fun to grow, and it’s been an enlightening process, but also a tremendous amount of work.”

Hiskey shared how the AWWA has been able to keep its members engaged, provide opportunities and share knowledge in this new world of what he called “virtual everything.”

Don’t Work in a Bubble

Although the move to virtual is tech-first, it entails many moving parts, Hiskey said, noting that it’s essential to engage with teams across an organization.

“Honestly, the tech implementation might be the easiest part,” he said. “The more challenging thing is to make sure we understand how each service offering affects our member value, affects our membership benefits package.”

According to research conducted by Personify in December of last year, 46 percent of members said it was very important to engage with their associations to learn career skills or get certifications. Both networking and industry advocacy were considered very important by 45 percent of respondents.

Given those findings, should a product or service be free to members and charged to non-members or exclusively available only to members?

In some cases, the real value of a product is its ability to attract membership. In others, the value is simply the profit. But Hiskey said you have to include your entire team in those conversations to get the most insightful answer. That means collaborating with your product, finance and marketing teams. Include everyone because an interdisciplinary approach will yield the best ideas for membership value, he noted.

Embrace Worst-Case Scenarios

“One big takeaway [from the past year is recognizing] the importance of risk assessment and having an incident response plan,” Hiskey said.

At the start of the pandemic, the AWWA swiftly identified imminent challenges and drafted a plan to transition to working from home and delivering conferences in a virtual setting, he explained. “But we thought this would be for a few weeks, maybe a couple of months.”

Now nearly a year into the pandemic, Hiskey said it’s vital to think about all the possible risks and have a plan in place to cover even the most extreme outcomes. What 2020 has shown us is that it’s both prudent and valuable for associations to build resilience plans to ensure their long-term well being.

“Get people together and say, ‘Let’s seriously think about what could go wrong,” he said, and consider strategies even for scenarios that seem outlandish. “The lesson is to be a little more accepting of things that could go wrong and think about how you’ll respond.”

Evaluate the Systems You Already Have in Place

It’s not all about dreaming up worst-case scenarios. This is also a good time for associations to take a hard look at the systems they currently use.

Hiskey said the AWWA found that the past year was ideal for reworking some long-standing but antiquated workplace procedures. He pointed to one process that required someone to fill out a piece of paper and run it to three different managers for physical signatures. Not only was that time-consuming, but in a remote world, it wasn’t even possible. “This was a perfect time to make changes and improve; there have been a lot of rewarding moments that came out of our conversations.”

Personify’s research found that 83 percent of employees surveyed said that tech has been very important for engaging association members in 2020, with 42 percent saying it’s absolutely critical. What’s more, 76 percent of employees said it’s been easy for their organization to make the change to digital programming.

Never Stop Adapting

AWWA took advantage of member comfort in a digital world by launching its own platform—called envoi—to digitally deliver its standards to members. It’s provided a streamlined product outreach for the association, Hiskey explained.

“Many of our members are working from home, so now they have access to our standards in electronic format,” Hiskey said, adding that the AWWA is considering expanding types of content and accessibility to envoi over the next few months.

In the AWWA’s embrace of “virtual everything,” it uses Microsoft Teams for interoffice collaboration and communication. For large virtual conferences, it uses the webinar platform ON24. For video streaming, it uses webcastcloud. And for all of its member and customer transactions, the AWWA leverages Personify360 and views the AMS solution as “the authoritative source” on its data, according to Hiskey. “We’ve got a good rubric set up to figure out the right tool to meet the needs of a particular event, but we are looking forward to consolidating that stack.”

Be Patient

There are a lot of people coming together from different teams with a common cause. Hiskey emphasized that it’s critical to keep in mind that there’s a learning curve, and everyone is adjusting—not just your staff, but also your clients, your tech support and your members.

“This is affecting all of us; we’re all having to change what we think, what we do, how we behave, how we act,” Hiskey said. “I think that’s one of the beautiful things that came out of the last year—the support everyone had for each other.”

At the end of the day, if you intend to adapt and support those around you in an empathetic way, you’ve got a solid foundation, he said.

“As long as we continue to demonstrate value to members and make sure people understand that we’re still here for them, people will adapt, and people will change.”


This series by Personify is intended to serve as a guidepost for associations that are reacting to fundamental market shifts and proactively building a better future for their organizations.

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Membership Pro Tip: Renew Now, Pay Later

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Giving members the option of a dues grace period can be mutually beneficial.

How does it work?

With the help of its IT team, the Healthcare Financial Management Association created a “Renew Now, Pay Later” program for its largest group of members, who were set to lapse over the summer, according to Keith Chamberlain, director of membership and experience.

Members clicked a button stating their intent to renew and gave their credit card information, but HFMA didn’t charge it for 90 days, providing a grace period for payment.

Why is it effective?

It is low cost and easy to set up. HFMA’s IT team simply created a new 90-day subscription for that group of members. HFMA already had monthly billing installed, so they just leveraged the technology to use monthly dues payments in a similar way. Fewer than 100 people have taken advantage of the offer, but those who did said they were “delighted” with the option, Chamberlain says.

What’s the benefit?

Knowing that HFMA members had the backs of the clinicians they were working with during the pandemic, Chamberlain says his team was motivated to ask, “What can we do to have their backs?”

Do you have a membership pro tip? Please share in the comments or send me an email.

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Tips and Tools for Helping Members Manage Stress

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The Massachusetts Society of CPAs goes the extra mile for members facing mental health issues and stress. Here are some of its leadership tips and proven tools to help members cope when they need it most.

Around tax time, the stress level among Certified Public Accountants amps up significantly. That is now compounded by a year-long pandemic, and other issues, which are leaving many people feeling overwhelmed. In response, the Massachusetts Society of CPAs has upped efforts to help its members with programs especially geared for these particularly trying times.

Amy Pitter, MSCPA’s president and CEO, is committed to destigmatizing mental health challenges by providing tools and safe spaces for open conversations among members. The efforts dovetail with an increased focus on how to improve diversity and inclusion in the CPA profession, she said.

“People’s authentic selves include any mental health issues they might chronically have, or have at the moment,” she said. “And, as with any diversity issue, you can’t be inclusive if you’re not willing to talk about it.”

Pitter has three tips for association leaders who are looking for ways to help members manage mental health issues:

  • Talk about mental health with your members. Associations must provide a safe space for their members to have open, honest—even raw—conversations. Talking about it will help normalize these discussions and remove the stigma.
  • Change is hard and comes slowly. COVID-19 has accelerated everything, so it’s OK to pause before you pivot.
  • Lead by example. Dealing openly with stress relieves stress, and association leaders must encourage their staff and members to pay attention to their mental health. It’s hard to let go of thinking that working crazy hours is a badge of honor, but the real badge of honor is to face your stress and its repercussions head on.

Caregiver Support Group

Pitter points to three tools—among many MSCPA currently has in place—the group is using to help members better cope during an extremely stressful time.

Recognizing that many members are caring for children, adult parents, family members with disabilities, and more, MSCPA hosts a CaregiverParent-Alliance Support Group—an online roundtable for members to discuss challenges, share resources, and offer advice.

The virtual groups are held during different times of the week, like Tuesday afternoons or Wednesday mornings, to be sensitive to people’s scheduling needs, Pitter said. MSCPA caps the roundtables at 12 to 15 participants to facilitate open conversations.

“People were so appreciative we were taking the lead,” she said. “Everybody is in the same boat, and they learn from each other and support each other.”

Stress Management Resources

MSCPA provides articles to members on how to help combat burnout, manage expectations, prioritize whole body wellness, and reduce stress. The aim is to provide members with unique value—not the same tax articles they could find anywhere else, Pitter said.

The articles are geared toward helping people navigate their business and work lives and focus on themes like diversity, mental health, and wellness. MSCPA supplements the articles with corresponding webinars, which encourages members to look to MSCPA for thought leadership and guidance on particular issues, Pitter said.

Social Connections

MSCPA hosts virtual social events for members, including a beer and cheese tasting and a trivia night, to provide a networking outlet for members and keep them engaged in a relaxed setting. The events used to be in-person, typically at a bar, but the revised online setting still works. CPA member firms assemble teams and compete against one another.

“It’s a real opportunity for people to have fun with their colleagues,” she said. It also helps the firms recapture a sense of office culture they’ve been struggling to regain.

“It’s something we can uniquely offer our members,” she said. “Everybody’s hungry for connection right now.”

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Tips for Navigating a New Membership Terrain

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Associations long relied on the same channels to engage, recruit, and retain members. And then everything changed. Now what? A membership expert shares her ideas for switching course and finding new opportunities.

Association executives often default to finding a better marketing strategy when times are tough. But what if marketing isn’t the problem? More and better marketing is not necessarily the solution to all membership challenges, especially right now.

“Marketing is not a fix for value,” said Sheri Jacobs, FASAE, CAE, president and CEO of Avenue M Group. Instead, organizations need to think through the channels they use to engage members. “It has become increasingly important to have many micro segments within your value proposition to meet member needs—whether you are a trade or professional organization,” she said.

Associations have long counted on the same channels to engage with members. For example, in the past it was a given that members would reliably attend meetings. “That’s how we recruit them,” Jacobs said. “They come to the meetings and we give them value.” No one thought about new channels before the pandemic because everything was working. Now it’s time to “think big and bring it,” she said.

Adjacent Markets

Jacobs had a moment recently while listening to a podcast about an organic cattle ranch in California that sold meat directly to restaurants. When the pandemic hit and restaurants were shuttered, the owners considered closing the family business, which had existed for five generations. Their main distribution channel had been abruptly shut off, and the only way to survive was to find a new market and a way to expand their business. Rather than closing up shop, they partnered with neighboring ranches to sell meat directly to consumers instead.

The rancher’s predicament—and solution—reminded Jacobs of associations. For organizations that can’t deliver what they did before, adjacent markets may be able to help. Partnerships among like-minded organizations can provide a way for associations to mutually benefit one another.

“It’s not just looking at expanding in existing markets, but looking at adjacent markets where there are resources you don’t have,” she said.

Think Big and Bring It

Jacobs recommends a “swipe file” exercise to encourage thinking about solutions beyond marketing. When you see an idea you like that stands out and is effective, grab it and keep it in a swipe file.

“Put away all resource constraints, and once you come up with the big ideas, then come back and assess what’s realistic to implement,” she said. Just as commercial ventures do, look at adjacent markets that might be relevant to your business. “Think about where you might need to make some flips and changes”—like the cattle ranch.

Considering new channels for market expansion and delivering value requires a certain amount of fearlessness. “I start every year saying I need 100 failures,” Jacobs said. She challenges herself to experiment enough—and take enough smart risks—to get a dozen or more successes. “The success comes in failure,” she said.

Despite the daunting challenges of the past year, Jacobs is encouraged.

“Every organization and every board is open to change right now,” she said. If the pandemic hadn’t happened, associations would likely have stayed in their comfort zones while the drop in membership and increased competition continued unaddressed.

“I am more optimistic now for associations than ever,” she said.

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Why Associations Should Emphasize Brand Strategy Amid COVID-19

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Right now, your brand may be the most visible part of what you do. For that reason, your association should lean into efforts to strategically raise the brand. Here’s why.

Most of the time, once you have a brand set, you leave it alone and let it do its thing.

But this is not most of the time, and suddenly, the brand is more important than ever. In fact, when you can’t hold meetings and receptions, it may be the glue holding everything together.

With that in mind, here are a few considerations to keep your brand strategy in focus:

Tighter budgets require a tighter strategic focus. Recent Gartner research found that nearly half of chief marketing officers had seen budget cuts in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, and that has led many of them to reprioritize brand strategy. According to a Marketing Dive analysis of the data, a third of respondents moved brand strategy to one of their top three priorities—despite it being “near the bottom of the list in 2019.” Ewan McIntyre, a Gartner for Marketers analyst, said that the shifting economy required a shifting focus on brand awareness. “We are seeing successful brands take action that is authentically connected to their brand strategy and value proposition,” he said.

It will allow you to think beyond the crisis. Putting a focus on branding right now could also create a path forward beyond the current moment. In a resource page on the COVID-19 crisis, PwC recommends that businesses take the current moment to do some planning for a point when things are a bit closer to normalcy. “What we see today may be dramatically different in six months. In the long term, it will be essential to take a pulse of your customers to determine the need to make fundamental changes to core markets or business models,” the page states. “This is also a time to reassess your brand relative to competitors to understand your differentiating capabilities and where your company could win market share.”

It will allow you to emphasize visually what you can’t physically. In a lot of ways, brand strategy is about positioning. Now is a good time to experiment with what a brand could be. A recent Forbes piece shows how many retail brands are using digital and sensory experiences online as a way to highlight their work—and they offer a lot you can borrow from.

You should be willing to keep up right now. The one downside of brand strategy at the moment is that the uncertainty of COVID-19 means that associations, like many others, could find themselves shifting with the times. AdExchanger notes, for example, that many brands have had to adapt to the shifting attempts to reopen and close states and countries. Lindblad Expeditions, a firm that offers luxury adventure cruises, has leaned into online content marketing in its messaging as it’s had to pause service. “It’s a week-by-week thing,” noted Kim Kyaw, Lindblad’s director of advertising and digital, in comments to the website. “A lot of factors go into it, like the willingness of guests to travel, the willingness of people in those communities to allow guests and whether the airlines are going to those areas.”

The post Why Associations Should Emphasize Brand Strategy Amid COVID-19 appeared first on Associations Now.

Membership Pro Tip: A Low-Cost Way to Connect Members

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Looking for simple, inexpensive ways to keep members engaged in a virtual world? Here’s one solution.

How does it work? Recognizing that its members were lonelier and more isolated than ever without the typical pathways to interact with colleagues at in-person meetings—an ongoing issue—the Council on Undergraduate Research established “CUR Conversations,” a low-cost way for members to connect on a video calling platform.

CUR sends out an email inviting members of its community to get together and share ideas for an hour on the video calls. Any member can propose a topic for the call, which is limited to a specific number of people.

Why is it effective? Members can join the casual forums to discuss hot topics, issues they are struggling with, success stories, solutions, and more. The calls often bring together members who don’t already know each other, which helps them widen their circle and build bonds with new people in a virtual world, despite the lack of face-to-face events.

What’s the benefit? “We don’t have to develop any content, and it’s not a heavy lift for us, but members are getting a lot of value out of being able to connect with their colleagues,” says Lindsay Currie, CAE, CUR’s executive officer.

Do you have a membership pro tip? Please share in the comments or send me an email.

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When the Contingency Plan Becomes the Main Event

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How associations can adapt to the times with research and the right technology.

Chris Lyons’s association faced a daunting task: Planning two annual meetings at once.

Maybe this sounds familiar: Lyons, who is the associate executive director at the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS), was contractually obligated to a host city for an on-site meeting. But as the pandemic descended across the US, he realized he needed to simultaneously plan for a virtual event.

Like many associations dealing with a volatile 2020, “the uncertainty of planning two potential meeting formats divided our focus,” he said.

Eventually, the AALAS’s commitment to its on-site meeting was lifted, and Lyons and his team were able to focus all their efforts on planning a virtual event—with just a few months to spare.

The whiplash of 2020 is a common story for organizations navigating major event commitments. Executives and their staff grappled with how to rapidly transform their annual meetings—touchstones for communities of professionals who rely on them for education, networking and support—by successfully leveraging digital platforms and trying to replicate the benefits of an in-person experience.

It was a reactive, stressful year, by most accounts. But going forward, Lyons and other executives are learning from the chaos of 2020, and they’re planning to use their experience to fuel growth and efficiencies in 2021. Here are some of the lessons they’ve learned that can help guide your own decision-making moving forward:

What Doesn’t Thrill You Makes You Stronger

While 2020 may have been trial by fire for many organizations, one silver lining is that many of those same organizations discovered inner strengths – like resilience and the ability to pivot their planning in a more agile way than they had perhaps thought, especially through digital technology. This turned last year’s challenges into a springboard to inform event planning for 2021 and beyond. In this spirit, Lyons said the AALAS will continue to identify different ways to keep attendees engaged during virtual meetings—the venue of choice for at least a while longer.

For example, Lyons tapped into Personify’s technology suite to reduce reporting bottlenecks by making data more accessible to his entire team instead of relying on traditional methods of pulling data. This improved processes and allowed for more efficient and effective decision-making.

May I Have Your Attention, Please? It Depends

Audience engagement starts with tuning in, but without true interactivity, it’s far too easy to tune out in favor of another browser tab, incoming IMs, or other real-life distractions now that so many are working from home.

While many companies may be inclined to simply take their standard event format and convert it to an online version, that may not always work, according to a recent article in Fast Company. It’s important for organizers to consider what new opportunities they can provide attendees.

In exploring ways to keep participants’ attention, Lyons mentioned live polling, video chat breakout rooms, push notifications, live question-and-answer sessions, quizzes, virtual activity-a-thons, and virtual photo booths as examples of some of the strategies companies are considering for future events.

The key is to find ways to engage attendees in the online environment instead of just moving from one speaker to the next. Scheduling breaks and finding creative ways to use the digital medium to gamify attendees’ experiences can be a successful strategy, the article said.

Make Sure Your Tools Adapt With the Times

Personify conducted a study in January 2021 on the future of associations, nonprofits and events. According to its research, nearly half of association professionals said they saw a boost in tech spending in 2020. Community software, virtual event software and member self-service tools were all top-purchased items.

In order to embed their educational videos into their online engagement platform, Lyons’ association, chose Vimeo—not only for its array of features, but also for its strong privacy policies. “Though there was a nominal fee, this hosting platform provided more security controls and options than YouTube did,” he said.

AALAS also uses Microsoft 365 and Zoom, and is in the process of working with their database vendor to integrate their online exhibitor registration—A2Z Events—with Personify360—their association management system. “This integration will improve efficiency by keeping data and exhibitor transactions under one roof,” Lyons said.

Embracing new technology often comes from identifying what’s not working and making changes accordingly. One challenge Lyons’ association faced before adopting Personify360 many years ago was that their original database didn’t have capabilities for ecommerce integration. That’s what catalyzed their search for a new system in the first place. But as part of the upgrade to a more comprehensive management system, Personify360 has also given their association the ability to centralize their data, such as online exhibitor registrations, with other databases for memberships and subscriptions.

First and foremost, however, it’s important for associations to identify what their needs are when it comes to their virtual presence and strategies and then match those needs to the right tools. In Lyons’ case, it was discovering that it was possible to streamline a multitude of services under one roof. In this digital-first age, you want your plans to be in perfect harmony with your digital tools. And ultimately, those digital tools should help reinforce the reason people attend conferences in the first place: for the meaningful connections, networking opportunities, and professional development they look forward to all year. In other words, help them remember why they’re a member in the first place.


This series by Personify is intended to serve as a guidepost for associations that are reacting to fundamental market shifts and proactively building a better future for their organizations.

The post When the Contingency Plan Becomes the Main Event appeared first on Associations Now.

What Is Performance Marketing, and How Can It Help Associations?

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Your association’s usual strategies for reaching its audience might not work so well right now. Performance marketing can help you sharpen your aim.

By Melissa Bouma

Have you ever watched the Super Bowl and wondered what it must be like to have a massive budget to devote to a single 30-second ad?

Once it airs, millions of dollars are gone in basically the blink of an eye, and although the reach and earned media is there, the return isn’t actually measurable.

Associations, by and large, don’t have that kind of budget to spend on a TV spot. But they do need a strong marketing strategy to drive new members to join and to attract attendees to their next virtual events.

One way to attract the right audience without blowing your budget is through performance_ _marketing, an approach that enables you to measure how your marketing is working (or how it is performing). Admittedly, performance marketing can be difficult to understand if you’re not familiar with it, so let’s simplify it further: At its most basic level, it’s a piece of marketing content that can be measured, allowing you to accurately gauge its return on investment.

This can take a lot of different forms. For example, you may create a blog post that is intentionally designed to work in a paid search context, hitting terms you know will do well with your audience. Or you might build a video campaign that targets specific audiences through paid social media. You might also target your audience through services such as Outbrain or Taboola; the options are plentiful.

The audience is narrow, and the content is highly targeted toward action. As a result, you’re paying small amounts to make a big impact that you can quantify to decide whether to double down or pull back. Performance marketing is growing in value: In a comprehensive 2018 study of the sector, the Performance Marketing Association estimated the industry’s value at more than $6.2 billion, with more than 200,000 businesses and individuals taking part.

It has also gotten some high-profile attention. Last year, the management consulting firm McKinsey wrote that performance marketing “will give marketers an edge when it comes to reaching their target groups efficiently during and after the pandemic.”

While this is an emerging category, it also isn’t on the bleeding edge—and that means there are established tactics that associations can try as they experiment with performance marketing.

The Benefits of Small Scale

The secret sauce of performance marketing is that because you’re only spending small amounts of money on paid advertising, it allows for a lot of testing and refinement.

That testing can cut across demographics and specific audiences so you can target your messaging as narrowly as needed. You can then experiment to see what works best and, over time, check your results to figure out what worked and didn’t.

If you want to target the C-suite or perhaps heads of HR, you can do so, and you can actually see if it’s driving leads to your association over time. If it’s not, you can stop.

The result is that you can get really close to your audience and understand what your efforts and spend are netting you. Perhaps you started with 25 segments, but you cut it down after some initial testing to the most effective two or three segments. That means, rather than taking the old-school “spraying and praying” approach, your audience is tailored—and so is your messaging.

Performance marketing minimizes costs while maximizing results.

Why Associations Should Care

For associations, performance marketing may be a new way to think about solving the traditional problems of member marketing or promoting events. (Then again, given that events are largely remote right now, you’re having to think in new ways already.) Nonetheless, performance marketing makes a lot of sense for associations as a way to target new members or sell new services to current members in a lean, thoughtful way.

That said, a good partner will help your association spot the differences between good performance marketing and bad performance marketing. After all, you don’t want to waste time and money when the goal is saving time and money.

At this moment of tight budgets and fewer opportunities to reach members offline, you need marketing that’s more down-funnel and is actually reaching your target audience, with the message you need them to read—one that encourages them to take action.

You may not have a Super Bowl budget at your disposal, but you might just get a more effective result.


Melissa Bouma, president of Manifest, has more than 15 years of experience building insight-driven branding and content strategy, with a client base representing large companies, major universities, and prominent associations.

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What You Need to Know About Music Licensing for Virtual Events

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In a world where a live event can be as simple as a few people meeting via videoconference, how do the rules of music licensing apply? According to one legal expert, it’s a question of liability and risk, just as with in-person events.

Music played at in-person events can add the right vibe and a unique kind of energy. It can have a similar effect for virtual events too. But event planners might be wondering: Does the difference in venue matter when it comes to music licensing?

For the most part, it doesn’t, says Peter Strand, a lawyer with Mandell Menkes LLC who specializes in intellectual property issues in the music industry. In a virtual setting, “if there’s music being played, that is still copyright protected, and the performance has to be authorized,” he says.

Strand, himself a musician (his ’70s band Yipes! once opened for Foreigner and Cheap Trick), notes that this is also true of event recordings, even if they will not be available in perpetuity. “Again, the fact that these are virtual, and that the recording may not be permanent … doesn’t change that,” he says.

Managing Risk

Plenty of virtual events—some in venues as small as living rooms, others at a massive scale—have used music in a high-profile way. Strand says that the two primary groups for performance rights, ASCAP and BMI, realistically don’t have the resources to track down every performance, nor do groups representing songwriters.

But failing to get a license for the music you use carries potential for liability, especially if the event is high-profile. Strand cites the hypothetical example of a well-known musician doing a musical livestream. “If an artist with some notoriety says, ‘I’m gonna do a Dylan program on Friday live from my living room, that may trigger somebody to contact that performer to say, ‘You need to get that license,’” he says.

The poster child for what can happen if you fail to license music for digital use is the exercise bike company Peloton. In 2019, the company was sued by numerous music publishers over unlicensed songs featured in Peloton videos.

Eventually, the company ended up striking a settlement with the National Music Publishers’ Association, whose members filed the lawsuit. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Peloton paid $49.3 million in settlement and litigation costs.

“I think that the media coverage of that matter probably was instructive to other organizations,” Strand says.

Consider the Source

One thing that has changed about music licensing thanks to the internet is how easy it is to find songs and use them without thinking about copyright—which can lead to trouble.

Strand cites the real-life example of a company that attempted to license a vintage pop song for a commercial, only to learn after using the song that the recording was not owned by the record company it was trying to license from. It turned out to be a cover version that an employee found on the internet.

In an era when Spotify and even illegal torrent sites can put a song at your fingertips, the ease of sourcing music can create headaches, especially as the rules for permissible use are often unclear.

“People do have a little bit of a casual relationship with stuff found on the internet, even if in the back of their head, they know something about Napster,” Strand says, referring to the now-defunct peer-to-peer file-sharing service that got into legal hot water over copyright infringement.

For event planners to avoid such risks, Strand recommends dedicating staff to content discovery and working with a lawyer to help manage decision making around licensing for an event.

“If you’re going to assign people to select content that you want to have as part of your event, find out the source of what they handled; make sure that you know it, if you can identify the owners; and make sure that you can contact somebody to get it licensed,” he says.

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Membership Pro Tip: Engage Members From the Get-Go

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Finding out what a member wants from your association as soon as they join establishes an immediate connection and creates a customized experience—for the member and the association. That’s a win-win.

How does it work?

When a member joins or renews membership with the National Asphalt Paving Association, they immediately receive an email thanking them for joining. In the same email, there is a request to address three quick items: their company listing, whether they’d like to join a committee, and if they would like to be connected with a fellow NAPA member to walk them through their membership. Each action item has a follow-up link for the member to click and add more information.

“The best time to activate a member is at the point of acquisition,” says Steve Shivak, NAPA’s director of membership.

Why is it effective?

This early interaction allows the membership team to learn about the member based on what they select and—just as important—what they do not select, Shivak says. The team introduces members to programs, committees, staff experts, and other topics of interest so they don’t have to search for them.

Online one-on-one orientation sessions give the NAPA team an opportunity to learn more about the member, their company, and their challenges. After the orientations, members are often pleasantly surprised that the team wanted to spend time with them and not sell them something, he says.

What’s the benefit?

Members get an instant connection, and they feel like they have a champion in NAPA. “We’re a national association with a small-town feel,” Shivak says.

NAPA benefits as well: The information members provide guides topics for monthly member briefings, conference sessions, research, and advocacy. “It keeps our fingers on the pulse of what keeps our members awake at night,” he says. The early engagement is also an opportunity to identify the next generation of volunteer leaders.

Do you have a membership pro tip? Please share in the comments or send me an email.

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