How One Event is Handling Proof of Vaccination for Attendees

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With COVID-19 still prevalent, HIMSS has selected two vendors to verify all attendees are vaccinated for its upcoming conference. A look at how the organization set up its verification process and advice for other groups considering adding a vaccine requirement.

When the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society decided to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for its conference attendees, one thing it had to figure out was how to verify their vaccination status. For its HIMSS21 Global Conference in August, the organization selected CLEAR Health Pass Validation and Safe Expo Vaccine Concierge Validation to provide verification.

“Attendees, in order to pick up their badge, need to have their vaccination verified through one of these outlets, or they can bring their vaccination card onsite and go through the process onsite,” said Karen Groppe, senior director of strategic communications for HIMSS.

All registrants, from staff to vendors to attendees, must show vaccine verification to receive their badge.

“Everybody—from the audio-visual production team to security—has to be vaccinated,” Groppe said. “Not one of our keynote speakers has declined. They all love the vaccine requirement.”

Groppe said the verification process was quite simple. “I had to take a picture of myself, my driver’s license, and my vaccine card,” she said. “Once they had my vaccine card, they went through their process and came back with [a screen that said], ‘Here is your health pass to access HIMSS21.’”

The vaccine requirement will give attendees options regarding masking. Groppe noted that the local rules covering Las Vegas [at press time] said that all people—including those who are vaccinated—should wear masks in enclosed spaces if they are unsure of the vaccination status of those around them.

Because HIMSS21 requires vaccination, attendees will have the option to go without a mask in any room that requires a HIMSS21 badge to enter. The event is being held at the Sands Expo and Convention Center, which has some spaces open to the general public, so the recommendation based on local rules is to mask in general areas and choose your mask comfort level in HIMSS21 areas.

“How you decide to go out into a pandemic world is very individual,” Groppe said. “We are encouraging folks to understand what is going on in Las Vegas and the precautions one should take, even though they’re vaccinated. I know for myself, I will wear a mask to and from, any time I’m outside the [conference] bubble.”

Advice for Other Associations

For associations planning a vaccine requirement, Groppe had two points of advice. First, expect more questions, as one would have any time a new procedure is implemented. CLEAR and Safe Expo answer specific questions related to their verification processes, but staff are getting questions too.

“We send out directions every other day. It’s all over our website, but people still call with questions,” Groppe said. “That is in addition to all the other questions we traditionally receive around conferences—all of the last-minute details. So that’s why I say, pack your patience.”

The second piece of advice is to be ready to depart from the norm of accommodating members. HIMSS has a no exceptions policy for vaccination.

“Association staff are used to being accommodating of our members,” Groppe said. “To have to say, ‘No, you cannot come because of our requirements,’ that is a hard thing for association staff to get their heads around. One thing we’ve learned with this is you have to approach it very clinically. The clinical approach is, these are our rules, these are what we’re sticking to, and there are no exceptions. In an association world with a pandemic, you have to be really strict. It’s uncomfortable.”

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Young People Don’t Trust Institutions. Here’s How Your Association Can Break Through the Trust Barrier.

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Generation Z is wary of “fake news,” misinformation, and false advertising. Associations must demonstrate honesty and authenticity to connect with young members.

Between public health missteps, the visibility of police brutality, and the events surrounding January 6, Generation Z is entering the workforce at a time when our nation has suffered from institutional breaches of trust.

Their attitudes reflect this: Gen Z’s average trust rating for major institutions fell 10 percentage points across the board in just two months of 2020, and even in 2019, 24 percent of Generation Z said they had 0 percent trust in business leaders. For associations, this is a concern when it comes to attracting young members.

“When engaging with organizations and institutions, Gen Z leads with skepticism. They operate on the belief that trust should be earned, not assured,” says Phoebe Murray, director of strategic insights and communication at BridgeWorks, a talent firm with a generational focus.

Associations can connect with young members by demonstrating the kind of transparency and authenticity that rebuilds trust. Use these tips from Murray to develop trust with your Gen Z members.

Show, Don’t Just Tell

It’s clear that Gen Zers are strong advocates for corporate social responsibility. In your communications to members, you’ve probably made commitments to bolster DEI efforts, enact positive social change, and do work in the community. While it helps to get the word out, your young members will probably respond more to action and real-world examples of these efforts.

Has your organization recently implemented successful internal DEI efforts? Is your association holding charitable events and fundraisers in the near future? Let members know of these initiatives.

“Gen Z reserves their trust for organizations that share their values and illustrate those values through their actions,” Murray says. “They have a strong sense of social responsibility and expect organizations to demonstrate the same commitment to effect positive societal change.”

While you’re at it, you can ask some young members to lead or be a part of these initiatives, as Murray says Gen Zers are more trusting of their peers than of institutions.

Emphasize Transparency

Members of Gen Z focus on honesty and transparency, but the majority of them don’t believe brands deliver. And with such an awareness of “fake news,” they’re wary of misinformation and don’t buy into hype.

Instead of dressing up or sugar-coating something about your organization, be open and honest with members. This approach should start from the top: Give members ample opportunity to reach out to senior leaders in your organization. That way, the inner workings of your association don’t seem opaque and members get a sense for how decisions are made. Creating a member forum could provide Gen Zers with the platform they need to get involved.

“Gen Z doesn’t just want to see behind the curtain, they want to be backstage. Give Gen Z access,“ Murray says. “Provide a platform for them to ask questions, share their perspectives, and make their voices heard. Listen to their ideas, and let them be a part of the solution.”

Encourage Open and Inclusive Communication

“Don’t talk at Gen Z; talk with them,” Murray says. “Ensure that your communication takes into consideration Gen Z members’ perspectives and invites their feedback so they feel a part of the conversation.”

Gen Z looks for organizations to value their opinion, and they expect two-way dialogue. When communicating as an organization, seek out your members’ thoughts and invite them to provide feedback. Gen Z also has an expectation of inclusivity, so be sure to use inclusive language whenever communicating with members.

“Effectively communicating with Gen Z requires two-way dialogue,” Murray says. “Social media has given Gen Z a voice with brands, businesses, leaders, and society at large, and they expect organizations they engage with to extend the same invitation to join the conversation and share their perspectives.”

This is the first in our three-part series about Generation Z. Stay tuned for part 2, about online communities, and part 3, about making your values known to younger members.


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Membership Pro Tip: Help Members Get Back to Business

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A newsletter became a free marketing resource for one association’s members to help them reignite their businesses after a particularly difficult time for the travel industry.

The American Bus Association became a central hub for its travel industry members to connect with its tour operator members so they could get back to business after the long pandemic shutdown.

How Does It Work?

The American Bus Association staff puts a question in its newsletter geared for the travel industry: Are you open for business? More specifically, are you open for groups to travel to your attractions and venues?

They ask the travel industry members to contact them; ask them five questions about logistics, requirements, and more; and request a couple of pictures of their destinations so they can put the information in their newsletter showing tour operator members that those attractions are open for business.

“We brought business through for our members,” says Lia Zegeye, ABA’s senior director of membership. “We were able to connect the buyer and the seller.”

Why Is It Effective?

It is a marketing tool for ABA’s members who might not have the financial resources or the capability during this difficult time to market themselves because they don’t know what’s open and what’s not. Making an investment in marketing is difficult right now, Zegeye says, because they might be marketing to an audience that is not open for business yet.

“They’re reaching the right audience through the newsletter and have a sense of the market and who’s actually working right now,” she says. Which helps them gear their marketing strategies in the right direction.

What’s the Benefit?

The benefit for the association is increased member retention and engagement. For members, this answers the “what’s in it for me” question. They might not have the marketing resources yet and ABA is able to put their information out there and they’re able to leverage that.

“This was a minor thing for us to do just putting the information in the newsletter,” Zegeye says. “That way we engage the community when they need us most.”

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

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How to Keep Your Virtual Event Sponsors Happy and Coming Back for More

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Inside NJCPA’s digital strategy to attract sponsors and overdeliver on their goals.

When events were suddenly forced to change from in-person to virtual last year, planners were able to offer attendees interactive content, online breakout rooms, and informative speaker lineups to still ensure a positive, engaging experience. But what could associations offer event sponsors who saw their usual activation and signage opportunities disappear?

That is the question that Eileen Proven, Business Development Specialist at the New Jersey Society of Public Accountants (NJCPA), needed to answer following the COVID-19 lockdown. “Our premier sponsors agree to a yearly spend with us, and we were at a loss of what to offer them when we canceled a large convention last year,” she explains.

This problem was compounded by the fact that advertising on NJCPA’s website had taken a significant hit during the pandemic and sponsored placements in its biweekly newsletter were sold out for the year. So Proven had to act fast to find a way to replace lost revenue.

After an exhaustive search for solutions, she landed on the perfect tool to offer sponsors to help them meet their sales goals: Feathr, a digital marketing platform that allows organizations to quickly and effectively target a specific audience. In the case of NJCPA, that audience is more than 14,000 CPAs working in private and corporate practices.

Through a combination of instructional videos and one-on-one training with the pros at Feathr, Proven quickly got up to speed on learning how to use the platform and how best to explain its capabilities to prospective clients. “Advertisers needed some assistance to understand that if they are buying Facebook ads, yes, they are hitting the masses, but they are not hitting their target market.” In other words, you’re not going to get a huge ROI on an ad for discounted business insurance if you aren’t getting that ad in front of a lot of people who are, in fact, business owners.

At first, Proven says she was unsure how NJCPA’s audience would react to retargeting campaigns (i.e., ads that follow you anywhere you go on the internet). “We’re a CPA organization and our members tend to skew conservative,” Proven explains, noting that they are not hesitant to give negative feedback. But her worries were for naught. The initial retargeting campaigns Proven launched on behalf of sponsors were successes right out of the gate—resulting in more than $30,000 in total sales and 10 out of 11 clients immediately re-upping for more.

To Proven, results like this signify success on both sides of the campaigns. “My counterpart and I are focused on making sure that every sponsor we work with is satisfying a need for our particular members.” Sponsors gain customers, and association members get exposure to products and resources they actually need—the definition of a win-win. “We just renewed our partnership with Feathr,” says Proven, “so I’m just going to keep working and selling. No plans to stop!”


Feathr has thought of everything to help get associations up and running with digital advertising. Its dedicated flock of experts advises on unique revenue-generating campaigns and provides graphic design and implementation services to ensure successful marketing campaigns. Partnering with Feathr ensures your association’s success for years to come.


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New Report Sheds Realistic—and Promising—Light on Membership

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Marketing General Incorporated’s annual report on membership has some predictably dire findings. But there are also lots of positive trends and revelations about how associations weathered a mighty storm and never lost sight of meeting member needs.

It’s probably no surprise that Marketing General Incorporated’s 13th annual Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report has some bad news, but there is also a lot of good—and intriguing—news. Let’s start with the bad news, and then move on quickly to the promising findings.

Here goes: 47 percent of associations reported a decline in membership and 45 percent saw a renewal rate drop, which is pretty dramatic after only a 24 percent drop last year. Eighty percent canceled in-person meetings, which had financially devastating effects. “Far and away, it’s one of the worst years we’ve seen,” said Tony Rossell, senior vice president of MGI and the report’s coauthor.

Ready for the good news?

Overall, the long-term membership trend for associations remains positive. Nearly half of associations—45 percent—still show an increase in membership and 71 percent of associations said the level of member engagement increased this year. “An important point this year was that associations really did step up and meet the needs of members,” Rossell said.

“Rethink, Innovate, and Change”

And that responsiveness paid off. Eighty-three percent of associations said they saw a significant increase in webinar participation, which is up from 53 percent last year. An impressive 78 percent of associations reported that they developed new products and services to assist members and member companies over the past year.

And don’t ever underestimate the importance of a strong value proposition because it is essential for successful membership recruitment. Associations that reported increases in their new member and overall membership in the past year were significantly more likely to say their association’s value proposition is very compelling.

“Associations really did rethink their value proposition,” Rossell said. “Whenever you have pain and challenging times, it’s a really great opportunity to rethink, innovate, and change.”

There is no doubt it has been an extremely challenging time. There were panic lapsers—members who left because they lost their job, or their company was cutting costs. But Rossell remains optimistic because the people most likely to join an association are lapsed members.

“You have a gold mine sitting in your database, because people have lapsed in the last few years,” he said. “If you go back to them, the likelihood of them joining is much higher than just going to a cold prospect.”

Community Matters

In a drastically changing world, associations are a constant and still provide all-important professional development through certification programs, webinars, or other training. People want to keep their skill set up, whether they’re looking for a new job or trying to maintain their current position. The report found that there was a 57 percent increase in members attending professional development programming. And 37 percent of associations said they saw an increase in members accessing career services.

“The best unemployment insurance you can buy is joining your professional association,” Rossell said, “because you have a career center, networks, and you can reach out to people.”

Having a community to turn to in troubled times also mattered a lot, specifically members-only areas. The report showed an uptick in visits to members-only sections of websites—56 percent, up from 44 percent last year. And there has been a 53 percent increase in participation with private social networks, which Rossell said is a “revolution for associations.”

That online accessibility, with people seeking information, community, and interaction, was a big step up in members connecting. “You’re buying into a community that can help you,” Rossell said. “That will be a powerful pull for associations.”

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How to Kondo Your Website for a Better User Experience

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Like your home, your website needs a regular decluttering to “spark joy” in its visitors. Use these tips to clean up your website after a content audit.

We’ve all seen websites that are so cluttered that it’s difficult to find what you’re looking for. How could you navigate a spider web of decade-old reports, blogs with broken links, and pages with miscellaneous items thrown around? If this sounds like your association’s website, then it’s time for a cleanup so that you can offer a better user experience.

You’ve already performed your content audit, so you have a plan of action for your pages. Now, it’s a matter of knowing how to best remove, revise, and reorganize your content. Use these tips from Carrie Hane, coauthor of Designing Connected Content and Association Content Strategies for a Changing World, to declutter your website effectively.

Delete Content Without Stranding Users

It’s time to remove pages you deemed expendable in your content audit. But doing this effectively is not as simple as clicking “delete” in your CMS, because you don’t want users to get lost in a sea of “page not found” messages and error pages.

There are a few things you can do using HTTP status codes. One is to assign a “410 Gone” status to permanently deleted pages rather than a “404 Not Found.” The difference is that a 410 will tell search engines that the page was deliberately and permanently deleted, removing it from search results, making it less likely for users to stumble onto a deleted page.

When deleting pages, remember to remove links on your website that lead to those deleted pages. Tools such as Google Analytics can help you find broken links on your website so you can remove them efficiently. And while you’re taking pages offline, keep an archive of deleted pages so you can still reference them if needed. This could be as simple as unpublishing pages in your CMS so they are visible only to site administrators.

“I would say the number-one reason people are hesitant to get rid of things on their website is, ‘Where will it go?’” Hane says. “If you have a clear archiving policy, then you can say, ‘It’s not disappearing from the face of the earth; it’s just going away from our website and over here.’”

Consolidate Redundant Content

If you’re deleting duplicate content, use a 301 redirect to send users to a similar page with relevant information. A redirect will help users find what they need and stay on your site instead of hitting a dead end at a deleted page. This is useful when, for example, you want to consolidate overlapping information on three pages and put it all on one URL.

Reorganize Content for Easier Site Navigation

“The recommendations from the audit should be more holistic, and not just a list of pages to delete and rewrite. You’re probably going to have to do some reorganization as well,” Hane says.

With newly deleted pages, content gaps might develop on your website; this is where the content model you created during your audit will come in handy. Content modeling involves determining how your content should be structured and visualizing your website’s content ecosystem.

Revise Content for Better Performance

Sometimes, a page contains valuable information, but it’s just not presented in the right way. How you revise your content should depend on your organization and its goals, but there are general best practices to consider as you rewrite pages:

Follow SEO guidelines. Spruce up outdated or underperforming content by improving page SEO. Hane says good SEO has become much more complex than just adding a few keywords, and organizations need to consider fixing page structure, using HTML elements, adding multimedia, considering content freshness, and paying attention to link quality and quantity.

Hane also recommends using a guide to break down the many different factors of SEO. The Periodic Table of SEO Factors from Search Engine Land examines six different SEO categories and assigns a level of importance to each component. (Our third entry in this series on website optimization will cover SEO in more depth.)

Improve readability. Old pages you haven’t touched in years may contain run-on sentences, overly complicated information, or poor page design. Hane recommends consulting a readability guide and following these guidelines:

  • Use plain language.
  • Write in short sentences.
  • Divide text into short paragraphs and break up copy with bullet points, accordions, feature boxes, and tools.
  • Structure your pages with headings and subheadings, and apply heading tags to the HTML.
  • Remove complex terminology where you can. Use simpler terms to make your point, or provide full context around the complex term to help readers understand.

This is part 2 of our series on website optimization. You can read part 1, about content audits, here; stay tuned for part 3, about SEO.


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How Will Large Event Spaces and Other Venues Likely Change in the Next Few Years?

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Establishing consumer confidence is necessary to ensure a successful, full return for our industry. Here’s how event spaces are leading the way, in four key areas.

COVID-19 is waning, thankfully, but its influence remains. Meeting planners need to assure attendees that they will be safe at their events. In the wake of the pandemic, four things will likely change in large event spaces and venues in the next few years: environmental hygiene, food service, technology, and the customer journey.

Many venues have established permanent protocols to provide safe and secure meeting environments. However, the entire live-events industry should work together to establish confidence that meetings are safe. A few key areas of change to focus on include:

Environmental hygiene: Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) accreditation is important for all large-scale event spaces and venues. It establishes competencies, procedures and tools to provide a safety standard. To achieve trust, venues could promote the importance of GBAC accreditation for large meeting spaces.

Foodservice: When attending large events and/or conventions, an important part of the overall experience is the ability to network and socialize over meals. Post COVID, food-and-beverage safety procedures must adapt to include improvements in cleaning, additional space between food stations, and potentially eliminate self-serve food buffets.  

Technology: Technology to improve safety protocols and meeting experience is an area where we will see incredible change over the next few years. Commitment from venues and cities to stay nimble and make capital improvements where necessary will be vital. For example, we expect to see technology enhancements immediately in registration and screening. Recent positive numbers on incoming show registrations around the globe illustrate that the desire for—and the benefits associated with—face-to-face live events is still strong. Still, hybrid content will make up shows. Consider hybrid broadcast studios, once considered a luxury, are now viewed as essential. 

Customer journey: Cities, and the destination management organizations that serve them, will need to provide an accessible, thorough understanding of an event attendees’ journey at their destinations. For example, it should be common practice to provide meeting planners with toolkits that outline the safety protocols in place in key areas of a city.

Establishing consumer confidence is necessary to ensure a successful, full return for our industry. We can host large-scale events and meetings again. The key is to adapt, and maintain a commitment to keep our attendees safe!

About Choose Chicago

When you choose Chicago as your next meeting destination, you can feel confident that the health and safety of your attendees, exhibitors, and staff is our utmost priority.

While the city is now fully open and ready to welcome meetings, conventions, and events, safety is always our primary concern. We recommend checking with your venue for detailed information on everything meeting planners need to do to provide a safe and enjoyable event experience.

Our many venues, vendors, and airports have implemented state-of-the-art technology and robust sanitation guidelines, so you can plan your meeting with peace of mind. Additionally, our All In Chicago incentive program offers valuable rewards for meeting professionals. Learn more about the program and Chicago’s plans to responsibly welcome back meetings and event



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Hybrid Meeting to Provide “Recharge Room” for Onsite Attendees to Relax, Unmask

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Attendees at their first face-to-face meeting post-COVID may feel a little overwhelmed. Recognizing this, the American Association of Feline Practitioners is creating a Recharge Room at its fall meeting. Attendees can get extra social distance and mentally recharge.

In-person events during the time of COVID-19 have the potential to be stressful for attendees who have been solo most of the past year. Staff at the American Association of Feline Practitioners recognizes this and plans to offer in-person attendees at its hybrid annual meeting in October a space to relax and recharge.

“With so many people having different comfort levels and integrating in-person back into the mix of our educational resources, we wanted to make sure that we accommodated everybody’s comfort level,” said Heather O’Steen, CAE, AAFP’s CEO. “Our Recharge Room will provide space for those that need a break.”

The group’s meeting will be in Phoenix, and when AAFP originally secured the meeting space—pre-pandemic—more in-person attendees were expected. With pandemic restrictions, people’s personal comfort levels, and virtual options reducing in-person attendance, the hybrid meeting was left with extra space.

“We have the space in order to accommodate it, so we wanted to make sure that we were able to give attendees the opportunity to have mask breaks,” O’Steen said. “If they’re not comfortable eating in the exhibit hall with a couple of people at the table, they can go to the Recharge Room and eat by themselves in order to take off their masks and not be close to others.”

The Recharge Room will have several tables spaced more than six feet apart and only one chair at the table. Attendees do not have to worry that someone will join them or invade their space.

The current plan is to follow the federal guidelines that allow vaccinated people to go unmasked while unvaccinated people must be masked. But O’Steen knows the guidelines might change.

“We will evaluate and assess the current environment prior to the meeting, and there is a chance we could require all attendees to wear a mask,” she said. In that case, the recharge room may be more popular.

The event is being held in a convention center, so the hope is to avoid attendees feeling they need to leave and return to their hotel room to get a safe mask break. The recharge room also can provide an opportunity to mentally regroup.

“I think there are lot of people who haven’t been to large gatherings yet, and mental health issues are on the rise in every industry,” O’Steen said. “So, if somebody feels overwhelmed or anxious, they can go there and take a step back.”

AAFP has also mentioned the Recharge Room in its conference registration materials to let attendees know it will be available. O’Steen said the changing dynamics of regulations related to the pandemic makes the room ever more important to ensuring comfort of attendees. “We don’t know exactly what is going to happen in three months, but we wanted to make sure that we were able to satisfy as many people’s needs as possible,” she said.


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Why It’s Time for a Fresh Look at Your Value Proposition

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New research suggests the pandemic changed the needs of association members. Leaders will have to spearhead creative responses.

What do your members and customers value?

That shouldn’t be a scary question: Associations are used to paying close attention to what services people find useful and which benefits people find attractive. But the pandemic has disrupted clarity about that, along with much else.

For example, see the latest edition of Marketing General Inc.’s Membership Marketing Benchmark report, which includes some sobering findings. In addition to the familiar news about meetings taking a hit, membership has suffered a blow as well: Nearly half (45 percent) of associations surveyed reported a decline in membership renewals, doubling the rate of the previous year. And a larger proportion of associations say they’ve seen a decline in new member acquisition (37 percent) than those who’ve seen an increase (29 percent).

According to the report, a key factor in getting those first-time members has been its value proposition: “Associations reporting increases in their new members and overall membership in the past year are significantly more likely to say their association’s value proposition is very compelling or compelling.”

Addressing weak membership numbers may demand a more holistic approach—and more ambitious thinking about what members want from you.

Associations say they haven’t been sitting idly by: 78 percent of the survey’s respondents said they’ve developed “new products and services to assist members and member companies.” That’s meaningful, though I do wonder how much of the innovation being trumpeted by respondents involves much beyond launching a virtual conference in 2020. Addressing weak membership numbers may demand a more holistic approach—and more ambitious thinking about what members (and potential members) want from you.

I was thinking about this while reading about a recent effort by the magazine Outside to move away from its familiar subscription model to one that more closely resembles an association membership. As The Washington Post reported last week, Outside is a legacy brand that’s been pummeled by weak ad sales and an internet audience that expects free content. Robin Thurston, who bought the magazine in February, thinks he’s found a fix: Rather than peddling magazine subscriptions, he’s selling memberships around the lifestyle that the Outside audience represents.

That involves a $99 annual fee that includes access to not just the magazine but other publications, books, apps, online courses, and reduced entry fees to athletic events. That doesn’t sound radically different from an association membership’s familiar mix of content-plus-education-plus-events-plus-discounts. But as professor Sharon Bloyd-Peskin told the Post, the heart of Outside’s effort is to put it at the center of member’s everyday lives: “Here’s this brand saying that a magazine or two is part of our value proposition, but what you are really buying is a whole package of things that you’re used to paying for.”

And that’s the challenge that association leaders have to address now: What puts your association front-and-center in members’ professional lives, when so many of them have had their professional lives upended? Thurston’s bet may not pan out—it depends on converting 10 percent of online readers to members, which is a big lift. But it recognizes that standing still will mean falling behind.

In Fast Company, Tadiran Group CEO Elad Peleg points out that legacy companies have a hard time accessing their “inner startup” because they’re used to their tried-and-true processes. To resist that, he proposes a kind of “genetic therapy”: Looking beyond revenue growth and closely studying what products and services people actually use, and whether they sustain their engagement over time. Associations can get caught in similar ruts. Now is a good time to start breaking out of them.

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Improving Members’ Professional Lives Is a Key to Long-Term Growth

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The American Medical Association didn’t wait for members to tell them what they needed to avoid burnout and improve their careers. Instead, AMA conducted proactive research that revealed a path to effective solutions that will significantly improve each member’s professional journey.

The American Medical Association recently announced it had achieved 10 consecutive years of membership growth, with a 35 percent cumulative increase in dues-paying members during that time. It is the largest year-over-year membership increase in 70 years, which would be impressive under any circumstances.

It is even more so given that AMA’s success endured during an extraordinarily challenging period in the medical profession caused by a global pandemic. AMA was an ally to its members before COVID-19, and significantly more so during the pandemic when members needed the group more than ever.

There were many reasons for AMA’s success, but one aspect was revealing research that gave the group meaningful data on what members found satisfying and motivating about the medical profession—and what was hindering their professional success. Those insights helped AMA to be more agile, focused, and responsive to member needs.

One of AMA’s three strategic arcs that contributed to its membership success, according to James L. Madara, M.D., AMA’s CEO and executive vice president, was improving physician satisfaction by removing obstacles that interfere with patient care. The others include reimagining medical education and preventing chronic disease.

In tackling the first objective, waiting for members to tell them what was wrong was not going to cut it. “Sometimes organizations with internal subject matter experts make the mistake of thinking that subject matter experts, because they are so expert, know what the market must need in their area, but it’s not always the case,” Madara said. “You have to go out and see what the market needs.”

AMA’s multipronged research delved deeper into finding out exactly what the barriers to improving patient care were for physicians. One study found that a primary professional satisfier and intrinsic motivator was how much time physicians spend face-to-face with patients. The dissatisfiers were things that impeded those interactions. Additional research revealed that for every hour a physician spent with a patient, they spent two hours on administrative tasks like data entry.

“Not surprisingly, there was some burnout,” Madara said.

Understanding what was driving member satisfaction—and dissatisfaction—allowed the group to laser in on ways to effectively begin to remove those obstacles, such as simplifying complicated administrative documentation, decreasing prior authorizations, and giving physicians tools they needed to incorporate telehealth into their practices.

While there was not one factor that drove AMA’s growth in membership, Madara said the value of membership that spurred AMA’s most recent success was “making the mission statement seem like a reality for the organization.” Each of the strategic arcs—removing barriers, reimagining medical education, and preventing chronic disease—all directly support AMA’s mission: to promote the art and science of medicine and the betterment of public health, Madara said.

Madara is optimistic AMA’s membership growth will continue. He credits member engagement with AMA’s journals, websites, and other resources as another key to membership success.

“The tools we’ve developed that have attracted people are getting better and richer each year,” he said.

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