How to Find the Right Micro Influencer for Your Organization

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Tracking down an influencer who fits your niche and drives engagement may feel like hunting for a needle in the proverbial haystack. But finding the right fit is more effective than getting an influencer with the largest following. Here’s how to find the right match.

When crafting an influencer marketing campaign, it might be tempting to catch a big fish with millions of followers. But finding the right influencer for your message and voice, not just one with a big following, is more likely to bring messaging success. So, where to start among the millions of influencers?

“Look for creators with audience loyalty and proven channel authority across multiple social platforms,” says Qianna Smith Bruneteau, founder of the American Influencer Council. “Follower count is a vanity metric.” Micro influencers and nano influencers may not have the reach of their more mainstream counterparts, but their followers tend to be loyal. Consider these tips from Bruneteau as you begin your hunt for the right social media influencer.

Define Your Goals

It’s not just about finding an influencer who fits your organization’s niche; it’s also about finding one who can produce the specific results you’re looking for. Consider your KPIs and the tone you want to set in your messaging.

“Do you need content to educate, inspire, empower, or entertain? Understanding your goals will help inform and identify on-brand creator partners who can help achieve business impact,” Bruneteau says.

Your ideal influencer might change depending on whether you want to get video views on your YouTube channel, increase engagement on Twitter, generate leads, or drive conversions.

Narrow Your Search

Search engines and social media platforms are natural starting points—but in a sea of influencers, you’ll need to dig deeper to find the person who best fits your organization’s niche. Start by using hashtags to see who’s already talking about your brand, then take advantage of online tools that further narrow your search, such as:

  • Upfluence, which offers an influencer search tool.
  • Influence.co, a platform where you can build relationships with influencers.
  • Influencer Intelligence, which features a database of verified influencers to sift through.

Give the People What They Want

As you look into potential influencers, listen to the audience you want your influencer to reach: your members. You can do this by leveraging social listening tools, which analyze user activity on social media to get a sense for who your audience is paying attention to, what kind of content they respond to, and how they’re interacting with that content.

With social listening, you’ll know what kind of influencer will get through to your members and drive action. Plus, you’ll know where to look: If members are particularly active on Twitter, then snagging an influencer known for TikTok might not benefit your organization.

“There are incredible creators on every platform. Focus your energy on the platforms where your customers are,” Bruneteau says.

Look for Authority Over Follower Count

Find the influencer who holds sway in your industry. While “authority” may seem nebulous, there are platforms such as share-of-voice tools that analyze who’s leading the online conversation on a particular topic. While you’re at it, see which influencers in your space have consistently high levels of engagement on their posts, and find out which influencers have training or expertise related to your industry to help ensure that you’re introducing your members to a person with credibility.

“Macro to mega influencers may have large followings. Still, their audiences may not be as actionable or hyper-engaged as midtier or micro influencers,” Bruneteau says.


Read the first part of our series on influencers, about how working with influencers has changed during the pandemic, and stay tuned for the third entry, about making influencers stick with your association.

 

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The Future of Associations Is All About Connecting Members to One Another

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Wesley Carr discusses bringing members together—and then getting out of the way.

There is one critical thing that all association professionals might not realize: Your association doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to your members.

So says Wesley Carr, director of stakeholder engagement for the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society (RAPS). “Some people sneer at this, but the truth is that we are in the people business,” Carr says. “And facilitating connections and engagement between our members makes them better at what they do—and in turn makes our association stronger.”

Over the past 16 years, Carr has seen a simple correlation: “The more engaged your membership is, the higher your renewal rate is going to be.” While most associations make a big marketing push for renewals once a year, Carr believes that members are making up their minds way before that final registration link gets sent out. “The 11 months leading up to renewal time, that is when that decision is made. What has gone on for the past year informs the answer to the question: ‘Is this membership valuable enough to my career to continue?’”

For Carr and his team, the key to great engagement is offering continual opportunities for members to connect and contribute, and, as he says, feel like the association belongs to them.

“About 95 percent of the content that we produce comes from volunteers, so we utilize Higher Logic, which is a community and communications platform, to promote opportunities for volunteers to contribute,” he explains. “Through the volunteer offering, my department is able to manage the recruitment, training, and onboarding of volunteers for all of our different departments. That way we can make sure that our chapters continue to provide engagement opportunities for the regulatory affairs profession.”

When the pandemic hit, Carr says that the association worried about a drop-off in renewals and new memberships. “In tough times, a membership in an association is often the first thing on the chopping block,” he notes. “So to increase the value of our membership, our chapters started conducting free webcasts. To encourage people to participate, our speakers would post on Higher Logic community boards, and we sent out registration emails. We saw an incredible level of engagement amongst our members—some of whom hadn’t engaged with us in years.”

Another big initiative the association launched was a revamping of its member profiles, which had twofold benefits. “We enlisted 200-300 volunteers to help with this process, which helped us sort out and better understand the demographics of our membership. But it also helped the volunteers and the members reconnect with RAPS in a meaningful way. We sent out thank-you emails to all who participated and really drove home the message that this is for you and by you. This organization is yours.”

The message is clearly hitting home. In member surveys, the top benefits routinely include the Higher Logic-powered online community. “They love that they can hop online and instantly connect with 30,000 expert members around the world,” says Carr.

“I think that the ability to learn from other professionals with different perspectives is really what association management is all about right now,” says Carr. “Not too long ago, associations were the only place you could go for information. But now, with Facebook and the internet in general, there is so much information out there. So it becomes more about the people and empowering professionals to help one another, learn from one another, and teach one another. Those are the types of connections our technology allows us to make.”


Higher Logic, the industry-leading, human-focused engagement platform, delivers powerful online communities and communication tools to engage members at every stage of their journey. Higher Logic provides a robust engagement platform and strategic services with over a decade of experience in building personalized and scalable community engagement programs. We serve more than 3,000 customers, representing over 350,000 online communities with greater than 200 million users in more than 42 countries worldwide.

 

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Membership Pro Tip: Delve Deeper to Regain Lapsed Members

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Reaching out a little farther to lapsed members with better, more relevant communications has yielded some excellent results for one association. Find out why.

Extending back to members who have lapsed over one to two years is pretty standard, but what happens when you delve a little deeper and go back, say, five years? Finding the sweet spot of how far back to go is ongoing, says Maureen Geoghegan, communications and membership executive at the American Society of Anesthesiologists. But so far, it’s definitely been worth it.

How Does It Work?

Geoghegan’s team has a multichannel communications plan, but email is the main tactic for reaching out to lapsed members. They have focused on frequent communications and creating emails that aren’t just a laundry list of all the things lapsed members are missing out on.

They lead with a specific story, benefit, or resource that directs the lapsed members to resources they might need without overwhelming them. It doesn’t always have to be a traditional resource, but something they might not know about like wellbeing information to manage burnout and stress.

“We’re trying to connect people to the resources that we provide, and not always position it like the all-or-nothing membership offer,” Geoghegan says.

Why Is It Effective?

It has doubled the number of rejoins ASA generally has in a year. They’re also conducting qualitative interviews, beyond just exit interviews, with lapsed members and ones who have rejoined to get a better understanding of what motivated them to rejoin, or what it would take to get them to rejoin.

What’s the Benefit?

For ASA, it’s bringing people back into the membership. ASA has strong membership goals for revenue and for member numbers. “The more active, engaged members, the better it is for the Society,” Geoghegan says.

Some members, who might have dropped off because of the pandemic or because they simply forgot to renew, are accidental nonmembers and the communications remind them of the day-to-day resources ASA offers, beyond the annual meeting.

“People want to be communicated with at other times than when we’re invoicing them,” Geoghegan says. “That sort of engagement communication is a high priority for us.”

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

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Listen for the Wheel That Isn’t Squeaking

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Is your decision making driven by a handful of opinionated members? Construction Specifications Institute CEO Mark Dorsey says that this challenge could be driven by—and fixed by—your board.

Associations have many stakeholders to consider, but not all of them speak at the same volume.

If you’re not careful, that can create a “squeaky-wheel” problem in which those most likely to speak up are the ones guiding the entire association—even if their needs don’t match what the bulk of your members want or need.

Mark Dorsey, FASAE, CAE, CEO of the Construction Specifications Institute, says that the squeaky-wheel issue reaches all the way to the board level, as board members can have direct input on the creation process in ways that a rank-and-file member cannot. In other words, board members’ input—necessary as it is—can leave an outsized managerial imprint on associations’ initiatives.

“That’s often where boards go too far,” Dorsey says. “If they want to get into that level of detail, then they’re managing. And then I would ask myself as a board member managing all this, why did I hire management?”

The antidote, Dorsey says, is a strong understanding of the audience you’re trying to reach, as well as significant upfront research that can help you frame the problem you’re hoping to resolve. This not only helps you align your actions to your members’ needs, but also helps you steer board members in the right direction when they try to get too in the weeds.

“I’ve generally found that people of good will, armed with the right information, will make and support the right decision every time,” he says. “It’s pretty rare that it gets derailed.”

Build Beyond Emotion With Lean Canvas

During an 2021 ASAE Annual Meeting session that Dorsey led with Suzanna Kelley of McKinley Advisors, the duo discussed the Lean Canvas, a product development strategy that aims to help people quickly and clearly organize a business plan.

“Lean Canvas really forces that conversation. It forces a bit of discipline around understanding what your market is,” he says.

This restriction can help organizations stay concrete and data-driven, helping negate the impact of the squeaky wheel. Dorsey says that he’s found success with his board by encouraging them to focus on solutions that speak to this more defined approach, rather than letting emotion and personal interest lead the way.

“It’s almost a reflex now with some of our volunteer leaders,” Dorsey says. “They go, ‘Wait a second here. What is the problem we’re trying to solve? What are the factors around this?’”

Target Your Super Users

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to ignore your most vocal members entirely. Instead, consider how to address their needs in a way that doesn’t dictate the direction of the entire organization. One approach is to expand your offerings to include a narrower product that specifically targets your squeaky wheels.

Dorsey compares this to a method used in software development, in which user groups help technology companies target specific challenges.

“Bring them together, use those as listening opportunities,” he says.

It may require some prodding to get vocal members to define exactly what they want in this setting, he admits.

“Ask what-if questions, because I think customers naturally have a bias towards the familiar,” he says. “So wanting to monkey with something that made them successful is often a challenge.”

But these approaches can uncover opportunities beyond the obvious, which can help to extend product offerings in ways that can appeal to different groups of members.

Develop Products Members Don’t Know They Want

Of course, when vocal members are asking for what they want, that means they may be missing out on the things they don’t know they want.

A common reference point for this phenomenon is Apple’s development of the iPod and iPhone, but Dorsey goes further back to an anecdote from the automotive industry: the Mazda MX-5 Miata.

In the years before the Miata’s 1989 release, the convertible had largely died off as a category. But the auto industry decided to give the model another shot, despite broader trends suggesting it would flop.

“Then the Miata came out because the car people said, ‘Yeah, but we still think people want this skateboard-sized car that you can run around in,’ and they had fun, and it blew up,” he says.

Sometimes, finding the right product opportunity requires intuition, along with a willingness to try new things. By building your approach to discussing new ideas with a framing rooted deeper than emotion, you can generate compelling new products—and make existing ones even better.

 

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Creating a Workplace Culture That Welcomes Sensitive Discussions

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Your workforce may want an open dialogue on hot-button topics. But without an inclusive and trusting environment, tensions may rise. Here’s how to create a culture where workers feel comfortable discussing delicate topics.

Association professionals are beginning to return to a shared workspace—and they’re doing so in a social landscape that’s different from what it was when they left. While political divisions over the past few years have led some workplaces to curb discussion of hot-button topics, 2020 and 2021 have seen a massive uptick in awareness of DEI concerns and other social issues.

As a result, many professionals want to talk about these things at work and look to their organizations for support. And limiting discussion on these topics may allow inequity to persist in your own workplace.

That said, these discussions can cause friction between employees, so organizations and their leaders should work to develop a culture that leads to constructive conversation and makes workers feel safe talking about sensitive issues. Consider these tips to help facilitate these dialogues.

Build Organizational Trust

Without a culture of trust and inclusiveness, employees may not even feel comfortable having difficult conversations. And that isn’t uncommon: A report from the Society for Human Resource Management found that 33 percent of all U.S. workers and 45 percent of Black workers say their workplace discourages discussion of an important—and sensitive—topic: racial justice. The same report revealed that 32 percent of all HR professionals and 47 percent of Black HR professionals feel unsafe voicing their perspective on racial justice issues.

To help build trust among employees and create a level of comfort around discussing sensitive issues, organizations could consider offering diversity training and other less formal ways for staff to gather. Leaders can then reinforce this idea by showing an active commitment to diversity initiatives and connecting with employees by making an effort to know them on a personal level.

Lead With Empathy

When employees are in distress or passionate about a touchy topic, don’t shut them down and tell them work isn’t the place to vent. Instead, be an active listener and acknowledge their feelings.

Be prepared to “hold space” for that employee—the act of being physically, mentally, and emotionally present for someone so that the person can be vulnerable and know he or she is in a judgment-free space. Doing so will show employees that they’re in an inclusive environment and can express themselves at work.

Encourage Discussion, Not an Argument

If you’re driving a conversation about a sensitive topic at work, remind participants that they are there to share ideas and learn, not win an argument. Create times and spaces for employees to engage in structured, moderated conversations with ground rules that address being respectful, listening to others, giving all participants a voice, and critiquing ideas instead of individuals.

You can apply the same ground rules on company messaging channels if employees discuss issues with each other online. For example, you could assign certain employees to moderate these channels to keep conversations civil and on topic without silencing workers.

Google did something similar during the pandemic, urging its employees to moderate internal message boards to keep conversations respectful while still allowing users to hit on delicate topics. Moderator training is key if you go this route, as you don’t want moderators overstepping their boundaries and removing messages based on personal biases or in an effort to shut down uncomfortable conversation for the sake of the company.

Celebrate Diverse Perspectives

Teams can actually become more productive when they highlight and accept each other’s differences rather than hide from them. A workplace that showcases employees’ different backgrounds, cultures, experiences, and perspectives creates an inclusive community where everyone feels comfortable speaking up. You can start with such initiatives as offering educational opportunities where employees share their own history and establishing a calendar that highlights a number of cultural traditions.

 

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Seven Ways to Make Your Communication More Pandemic-Inclusive

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Associations have a responsibility to communicate with their members and the public about COVID-19 and vaccination. Here are some pitfalls to avoid when doing so.

While we have been living with the pandemic for quite a while, it can still be challenging to figure out how to best discuss it with your audience.

This is particularly true as associations begin in-person operations again, whether that’s returning to the office or hosting conferences.

Here is a list of tips and recommendations for discussing COVID-19 in an inclusive way that respects your audience and avoids creating a stigma around people who have contracted the disease:

  1. Maintain the privacy of those seeking care. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that discussing another person’s medical care generates stigma. With that in mind, if someone is part of a contact-tracing exercise or has chosen not to publicly disclose a COVID-19 diagnosis, it’s not your organization’s place to “out” that person.
  2. Avoid using terminology that implies others are a risk. The World Health Organization says in its social stigma guide [PDF] that using phrases that assign responsibility to people with COVID-19 can make it seem like they have done something wrong. “Using criminalizing or dehumanizing terminology creates the impression that those with the disease have somehow done something wrong or are less human than the rest of us, feeding stigma, undermining empathy, and potentially fueling wider reluctance to seek treatment or attend screening, testing, and quarantine,” the organization states. Instead of discussing the disease in terms of “transmitting COVID-19,” “infecting others,” or “spreading the virus,” use words such as “acquiring” or “contracting” the disease.
  3. Don’t associate the disease with a specific region or ethnicity. As WHO notes in its social stigma guide, the name COVID-19 was intentionally chosen to avoid stigmatizing any region or population.
  4. Call the virus by its proper name when needed. Simply calling the virus “the coronavirus” isn’t fully accurate, as there are multiple types of coronaviruses. COVID-19 is generally the accepted name, according to the Associated Press Stylebook [subscription], with “COVID” acceptable in direct quotes, space-constrained headlines, and proper names. It’s also important to note that there are many variants of the virus, with the delta variant currently the most common. Follow guidance on those names from WHO.
  5. Focus on facts, and correct rumors. An information void can foster an environment for misinformation, says the American Psychological Association [PDF]. The organization recommends clearing up myths where possible and highlighting factual information to your intended audience. “Clear, concise, and culturally appropriate communication—in multiple forms and in multiple languages—is needed to reach broad segments of the population, with particular focus on marginalized communities,” the organization says.
  6. Be thoughtful with terminology around the vaccine. The way we talk about vaccines can create confusion and potentially misinform the public. The AP Stylebook’s coronavirus topical guide has an entire section detailing how to describe the vaccine (not as a drug, medicine, or serum), as well as how to discuss side effects (“use caution in reporting”). This extends to those who choose not to receive the vaccine as well: The AP specifically warns against using the term “anti-vaxxer” except in a direct quote that is properly explained. A neutral approach helps to ensure balance and clears the berth for providing reliable information on protective measures.
  7. Avoid using misleading or hyperbolic language. As an association, your role is to be a general resource for your membership and the public. Inflammatory language, such as “plague” and “apocalypse,” goes against that mandate; it can even create unnecessary risk or harm. WHO recommends taking a more positive approach in your messaging. “For most people, this is a disease they can overcome,” the organization notes.

 


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What You Need to Know About Culinary Trends at Meetings Right Now

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Meeting F&B priorities mirror social values leading up to—and resulting from—the pandemic.

Environmental consciousness, holistic wellness and community-driven solutions: The largest and most durable trends in meetings F&B track right along with social and personal values that are at the forefront of the cultural conversation.

While priorities such as sustainability and health consciousness had long been gaining importance among event organizers and guests, experts say the pandemic sharpened the focus on delivering culinary offerings with these themes—a result of both ideological shifts and business necessity.

Here’s a closer look at the state of meetings F&B right now, with input from Beth Williamson, district manager for Centerplate catering operations at the LEED-certified Virginia Beach Convention Center.

Local and Sustainable

Williamson explains that natural resource conservation and environmental stewardship have long been a concern among meeting professionals. “But now, we’re really seeing a focus on local and seasonal, and supporting regional and small businesses,” she says. “People are wanting to support at the local level. We’re going to our major suppliers, but we are also looking regionally and locally for solutions.”

Indeed, the pandemic, “sharpened the focus on sustainable business practices for both our clients and our guests,” she says. “As people continue to work from home and business travel is still limited due to the pandemic, there has been a noticeable shift to venture out regionally for a better understanding of what is available in communities and how to offer support both personally and professionally.”

Virginia Beach has also long had initiatives that support small businesses, women-and minority-owned businesses and disabled veterans, says Williamson. “So we are always actively out working and making calls and trying to find all kinds of vendors.”.

The Supply Chain Effect

If local, seasonal foods had already been an established and ever-growing priority, the supply chain disruptions wrought by the pandemic only accelerated the trend, forcing professionals to find local solutions as a practical matter in addition to a philosophical one.

“We see sustainable menus as a welcome solution to some of the supply chain issues we currently face,” Williamson explains.

She adds that she and her counterparts at venues all around the country “are all reporting different challenges with a supply chain. You have to research other outlets, and it changes rapidly from one week to the next.”

For some outlets, local means very local: The Virginia Beach Convention Center has raised garden beds onsite that inspire executive chef Desiree Neal and her team to create sustainable menu items which vary by season. The team works with a master gardener to grow crops based on what matures best during seasons throughout the year. Herbs in bloom here year round include sage, parsley, mint, oregano and thyme, plus fresh bay leaves from a tree on the property. 

Health Consciousness

Health-conscious requests have been on the rise in recent years, with gluten-free fare becoming “a really popular thing,” Williamson says. “We’re always getting requests so we make sure that that’s readily available.”

And while certain diets may prove to be fads that come and go, the overall attention to health-conscious fare within meetings F&B is likely here to stay. This was underscored when the pandemic foregrounded the importance of staying healthy at work, on the road and at home.

“I don’t think it’s going away,” she says. “We always offer something healthy now— and it’s not okay just to have standard fare, you need a good variety.”

Right now, the broader focus on wellbeing and the unique business challenges of the current climate are driving meetings’ culinary focuses, Williamson notes

“As the concern for health and safety remains of paramount importance, we are facing more immediate challenges with both labor- and supply-chain continuity,” she says. “With that said, we strive to ensure the food and beverage offerings are as creative and locally inspired as possible, while adhering to any special circumstances.”


For more ideas on how Virginia Beach can boost your attendance and simplify your next meeting or event, visit visitvirginiabeach.com/meetings.

 

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Membership Pro Tip: A No-Cost Retention Strategy

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A zero-dollar strategy for retaining and recruiting members is hidden in plain sight on an unlikely, but very common, association tool: a job board.

As unlikely as it might sound, tracking career changes on job boards provides valuable information that helps with member retention and identifying new prospects.

How Does It Work?

Steve Doran, CAE, director of membership and marketing at NAFA Fleet Management Association, identifies positions on the organization’s job board that are important to NAFA’s membership and sets up alerts that notify him when someone is about to leave those positions or if they are opening up.

He builds a spreadsheet that lists the person leaving the position, the company they are with, and the day the job post went up. Then, he checks his database to see if he is losing a member or gaining a new prospect.

Sometimes it might be a company he has been recruiting for membership that has repeatedly turned him down. But now it has the potential to become a new prospect because the decision maker, the person responsible for paying membership dues to organizations for its employees, is leaving.

“That’s probably the most crucial person to be tracking on a job board,” Doran says. Because when the decision maker leaves a position that opens up the potential for losing five or six members from the association.

Why Is It Effective?

It increases retention. “You’re not waiting until the person leaves and then trying to get the dues renewal,” Doran says. Through the job board, “you’re basically getting notice that the person is leaving,” he says.

What’s the Benefit?

It keeps track of the primary contact for memberships at an organization. Because when that person leaves and the membership doesn’t get renewed, “All of a sudden your membership drops,” he says. It keeps membership consistent and helps keep the database fresh and up to date. It also doesn’t cost anything. “Some people pay for resources,” Doran says. “This is literally a resource that notifies you your membership is changing.”

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

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Why Immersive Elements Matter More Than Ever Right Now

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Communicating with engaging visuals and interactive elements is easier than you might expect—and it could offer an engaging alternative for members who find virtual events frustrating.

By Melissa Bouma

The good news about content marketing is that its value is no longer in question: It isn’t a battle you have to fight with your board anymore—it’s an expectation.

There’s just one problem. Since targeted content creation is easier to get through the pipeline than it once was, it comes with a lot more competition. And that competition might not just be from other organizations like yours, but from outlets like the mainstream news. You could be competing against celebrity news for mindshare without even realizing it!

So, if your goal is to reach your association’s intended audience, text alone will likely not be enough. For one, it’s a lot to digest, whether it’s 300 or 1,500 words. It is also being created from all corners of the internet by competitors and colleagues alike, so it’s hard to make it stand out.

Of course, the written word still has a lot of power, but it can’t be the only way to build engaging content. We live in a world where people spend 15 seconds on an average article, but will spend an average of 24 hours a month using TikTok and nearly 23 hours watching YouTube videos. What does this tell us? Immersive content has taken an increased hold of your audience. Below, the hows and whys of going immersive with your content.

4 Simple Ways to Build Immersive Content

Certainly the phrase “immersive” might have you thinking big picture about big-ticket items like augmented reality or virtual reality. Perhaps they are even stretch goals for your association to budget for in the future. Regardless, you can still create gripping content that takes your organization’s message to the next level without breaking the bank. Consider the following:

  • Build around data points. Associations are often primary resources for information about their given industries, which can generate effective storytelling hooks that can be leveraged into interactive infographics, social shareables, and hooks for more traditional storytelling. Data makes great fodder for engaging content, and it can catch the eyes of your readers both in their feed and in their inbox.
  • Play into visual elements. We live and interact in increasingly visual mediums, and your content has to match the times, or it will be in danger of getting overlooked online. Effective video projects like CDW’s Feds in the Field series are proof that great storytelling and smart visuals combine into a stronger whole. In short, give people something that wows them while still plugging into your overall messaging.
  • Build around interactivity. Creating quizzes or crowdsourcing-driven content is a great way to leverage some of the energy surrounding a big story in your space. Consider how Google recently celebrated the Summer Olympics by creating an entire video game around them. It’s all about taking advantage of momentum.
  • And don’t forget audio. As I’ve previously discussed, audio-based content is an effective way to stand out as you present content to others—and it can even integrate with your visual elements into a multi-sensory package.

How Your Immersive Content Can Augment Your Virtual Event Strategy

For many reasons, associations’ business models are tied to their existing events, which can generate a lot of revenue for the organization. But current consumption models may not match what your audience is into now, or how they interact with information.

Therefore, in addition to putting on a big virtual or hybrid event (and, of course, relying on content to help drive interest in the event), it might be a good idea to create a content hub as an alternative for audiences who consume information better without the involvement of webcams. Don’t forget, virtual events and immersive content can work together.

And let’s be clear. While content is often at the center of a sophisticated funnel-style model, what you create does not always need to be in service of trying to drive some sales strategy.

Maybe the content is good enough that people are willing to pay for it, no extra steps needed. Maybe the interactive elements you create help communicate the true value of your industry to the public, like the Paper and Packaging Board, a Manifest client, does on its site How Life Unfolds.

Whatever the case may be, it all starts with creativity. It only takes a little bit of it to successfully engage your audience for more than 15 seconds at a time.


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 Adding a Vaccine Requirement for Your Events

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In the wake of federal mandates and high COVID-19 cases, more associations are considering imposing a vaccine requirement for in-person attendees. Here’s what you need to know about the legal considerations, verifying vaccination, and state bans.

ASAE will also require registrants to submit an Acknowledgment of Personal Responsibility Form upon registering for a meeting or event and to comply with any state or local mask mandates in place for indoor events until further notice.

ASAE is working on a technology solution that will enable meeting registrants to submit proof of COVID-19 vaccination during the online registration process. The availability of that option will be communicated as soon as possible.

With increases in COVID-19 cases, full federal approval of the Pfizer vaccine, and new federal vaccine mandates covering employees, more associations are considering adding a vaccine mandate to their in-person events.

“The trend absolutely tends to be in favor of requiring proof of vaccination,” said Jeff Tenenbaum, managing partner of Tenenbaum Law Group and an attorney specializing in nonprofit law. “A lot of this is being driven from the ground up, from the attendees or prospective attendees, who say, ‘Look, we want to come, but we want to feel comfortable that you have a vaccine mandate, and we want you to require proof of vaccination.’”

Legal Obligations

Associations are within their legal rights to have a mandate.

“It is legally acceptable to require proof of vaccination as a precondition of conference attendance,” Tenenbaum said. “That being said, due to Title III of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, there is an obligation to make an exception when the event is being held in a place of public accommodation, and, specifically, a reasonable accommodation, for those that have a qualifying medical condition or disability that makes it risky or dangerous for them to get a COVID vaccination.”

However, this is something that is typically easy to accommodate. “What most associations are doing as the proposed reasonable accommodation is either allowing those individuals to present proof of a negative COVID test within either 48 or 72 hours prior to the start of the conference,” Tenenbaum said. “Or if the conference has a virtual component and people can participate virtually; that, in and of itself, has been offered up as a reasonable accommodation.”

Tenenbaum notes the federal Civil Rights Act, which does not apply to conference attendees, requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation for employees with sincerely held religious beliefs that prevent them from being vaccinated. Some conferences are extending that exception to attendees as well.

“In the conference setting, while it’s not legally required, there seems to be a trend for a lot of associations with vaccine mandates to allow for both medical and religious exemptions,” he said.

How to Verify Vaccination

For many associations, checking for proof of vaccines may work fine for small events but prove challenging for larger ones. There are companies that can verify vaccination proof, and Tenenbaum recommends it, if it’s economically feasible.

“If you can afford to use companies such as Clear to verify the proof of vaccination, you should,” Tenenbaum said. “It’s so much safer, more reliable, and takes the burden off of your staff. Attendees can be pre-cleared, it will cut down lines for entry to the conference, and it can mitigate liability risk for the association.”

HIMSS, a medical association that held HIMSS21 Global Conference in August, had a vaccine requirement for its 20,000 attendees and used outside companies for verification. Anthony Maggiore, director of meeting services for HIMSS, spoke at PCMA’s recent Vaccine Spotlight webinar about the benefits of outsourcing this.

“It was important to us as an organization that we were not the keepers of any of our attendees’ or exhibitors’ health data or any of that information,” Maggiore said. “We wanted to make sure we had a third party doing all of the verification. I don’t think anyone wants that information housed within the association.”

Unfortunately, the increase in events requiring vaccination proof has made booking a verification company harder. Maggiore urged associations interested in implementing a vaccine requirement to prepare now.

“You need to start the conversations,” he said. “You need to start the RFP processes, so that you can get some suppliers lined up and make sure that you’re not going to be left empty-handed when it comes to trying to service your show, for whatever your right of entry requirements are going to be.”

Vaccination Proof Bans

One issue that continues to be a problem when it comes to COVID-19 protocols is that every state has different rules. Tenenbaum said five states—Florida, Texas, North Dakota, Iowa, and Alabama—ban businesses in the state from requiring proof of vaccination as a precondition of entering the business. However, you may still be able to require vaccination if your meeting is being held in one of those states.

“What we’ve seen is the hotel lawyers in these states seem to be advising their hotel clients that, while the hotel itself can’t require proof of vaccination as a precondition of walking into the hotel, an association that is holding a conference at the hotel or convention center in those states can impose that requirement because they are not the business,” Tenenbaum said. “They are just renting the space.”

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