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Bates: Associations Must Face the Reality that Digital Apps are Our Future - 3/5/2014 -

Debbie Bates-Schrott
Get to know Debbie Bates-Schrott, president of Bates Creative, an integrated design agency specializing in interactive design, branding, publishing, and other content collateral. A year in to a new partnership with Adobe, Bates-Schrott, a former member of the Association Media & Publishing board of directors, is helping associations harness the power of personalized digital apps and demonstrating how to integrate app technology throughout the organization.

By Carla Kalogeridis

Sidebar: Bates Creative is partnering with Adobe to deliver completely personalized, digital apps to associations and other organizations. Can you explain the level of personalization and what can be achieved?

Bates: Adobe Digital Publishing Suite (DPS) is an end-to-end digital publishing platform that offers a customized branded landing page, which I like to call an organizationís brand portal, that ties the associationís member CRM or database and specific content to the member number. When the member logs in, the association can capture specific data about how the member engages with the app as well as feed in content specific to their interests. The technology also allows different categories of membership to have access to varying levels of content. For example, a full member could have access to all the content, plus special white papers, and a blog, while the vendor member might have access to just specific sections of content.

If a non-member canít log in, then the app might allow this user to read the first 10-12 pages of the magazine, and then at page 13, a pop-up suggests that they join the organization to have access to the rest of the content. Or maybe, the pop-up gives them the option of purchasing a subscription to the magazine or just buying access to that particular issue.

Sidebar: Are a lot of associations starting to use this technology?

Bates: I donít know of a lot of associations doing it, but the progressive ones are ó groups like AARP, AAA, ASME, and NEA, to name a few ó and itís definitely the future. We have to face the fact that when it comes to integration and analytics, thereís only so much we can do with print.

Sidebar: Is it expensive?

Bates: There are different cost entry points and multiple levels of enterprise licenses. It depends on usage. For example, an association doing a quarterly magazine would have a lower usage and license fee than an association doing 12 white papers, 30 books, and a monthly magazine.

So, yes, it costs more ó but you get more engagement. And even beyond engagement, much value is derived from a robust set of analytic tools, powerful ways to drive awareness, readership, and revenue ó and all of this can be integrated with your member database.

Can associations afford to play? Yes. Are associations going to be printing less in the future? Yes. You have to look at reality.

Sidebar: Who usually takes ownership of the app project ó is it the publishing department, communications, membership?

Bates: Itís usually a combination of these. For some associations, it starts with the publishing side because they are putting out the magazine and other digital publications and they hear about the technology first. But DPS is really an overall communications platform that involves the associationís membership, events, and IT departments, too. Often, an association gets started with the technology with their magazine as the pilot, but they soon realize that the real power comes from tying all the associationís siloes together.

We tell associations that itís a good opportunity to look at the world around them and then consider what a platform like this can help them accomplish throughout the organization. Itís better to look at the power of the tool as a whole instead of using it for one little thing.

Sidebar: What is the nature of Bates Creativeís partnership with Adobe, and how will it impact association publishers?

Bates: Bates Creative is an Adobe DPS Agency Partner. There are 10 agency partners across the nation, and we are the only one in the DC area. This means we have a relationship with Adobe that gives us access to direct training, technical expertise, and troubleshooting. We earned the partnership by proving that we deeply understand the tool, how to talk about it, and how to present it and sell it to clients. It means we work together with Adobe to bring this digital publishing platform to organizations that can truly benefit from it.

Sometimes Adobe brings Bates Creative in to help talk about the tool to prospective users, and sometimes we will bring in Adobe to our presentations. Weíve been part of the Adobe DPS agency partner program for about a year now. The program will probably grow to about 20 agencies ultimately.

When we first started discussions with Adobe, they were already well entrenched in the consumer and B2B magazine space and were turning their focus to corporate, government, and higher education. They didnít have their eye on associations a year ago. Bates spent a lot of time talking to Adobe about associations and nonprofits. We said that they were ignoring a market that has all the needs that the technology can meet: membership sales, analytics, customized content, events, and publications. They took a look at the association market and agreed.

Now, Adobe is getting very involved with Association Media & Publishing. They have done a webinar for members to introduce the features and benefits of DPS, presented at a recent AM&P Executive Think Tank on association mobile strategy, and they are sponsoring and speaking at the AM&P Annual Meeting. In addition, Bates is working closely with an Adobe rep to understand how we can best service the association sector.

Sidebar: So if an association is interested in getting started with the DPS digital publishing platform, what would be the first steps? Would you start with their existing print magazine, or do you create an entirely new digital publication with different content altogether?

Bates: That depends on the quality of the associationís print publication. If itís good, then we can often map out a magazine app in a linear fashion and show how sections of the print magazine can be brought to life with Adobe DPS technology. The first few issues are always a learning experience, but then it becomes more natural for the association.

After the magazine app is built and designed, you might bring in the associationís membership marketing collateral in DPS. Then maybe the annual report could go out as an app. Itís all about content marketing. We can help the association implement the technology throughout the organization in any way that is appropriate for them and that maximizes their investment in DPS. The key is to employ the power of the technology to tie all these functions together because it increases engagement, member service, and sales.

The bottom line is that people today are spending more and more time with apps. Apps are a better solution for associations than magazines. We are driven by technology in our personal lives, so it should be the same in our business lives. The DPS digital publishing platform is fantastic for storytelling, and with a responsive-designed website, the two tie in very well to each other. It allows the association to have all areas talking to each other: publishing, communications, membership, and events. From the moment we saw the first iPad, we said, "Weíve got to do a magazine app for this.Ē

Carla Kalogeridis is editorial director of Association Media & Publishing. If youíd like to be interviewed for Sidebar ó or know of someone else who always has an interesting perspective or opinion on association communications and publishing ó send us your suggestion.


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