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De Cagna: If You’re Not Thinking About This in 2014, You’ll Fall Behind - 2/5/2014 -

Jeff De Cagna
Get to know Jeff De Cagna FRSA FASAE, chief strategist and founder of Principled Innovation LLC. Jeff is an author, speaker and advisor, a former association executive, and he has served on the ASAE board of directors. Here, De Cagna talks about new media technologies that will impact association content, and the ideal relationship between an association’s media products and the industry they serve.

By Carla Kalogeridis

Sidebar: You've suggested that instead of associations focusing on extending the life of their current media products, they should be thinking about shaping their next ones. What will be the main quality of a successful media product in 2014?

De Cagna:
We’re seeing a revolution in how media content is developed. A significant shift is the use of meaningful data to understand the underlying components of what content resonates with stakeholders.

Another key ingredient of a successful association media program involves thinking through how to make content accessible to stakeholders, and specifically, suitable to the device in their hands. Think of the hit TV show House of Cards; it’s really a 13-hour movie broken into episodes, and in the future it may very well include different plot twists generated by viewer data. Netflix releases an entire season’s episodes all at once, allowing viewers to "binge view” the content whenever they want it.

I believe success will come to the associations that thoroughly understand the role that data plays in creating content, as well as being able to capitalize on the data you’ll receive as stakeholders interact with the content.

Sidebar: What’s a good example of a new way to use data to drive content?

De Cagna: A big one is anticipatory computing. It’s using algorithms and data to predict what kind of content people are seeking. For example, there’s an app called MindMeld. When a group is holding a conference call, the app listens to the conversation and identifies key topics and concepts. The app then searches for and displays meaningful information, and as the conversation changes, it continues to search for and share new content resources.

And while everyone talks about content, what we really need are media offerings that are also about context. The more associations can do that — link content to a richer understanding of their stakeholders’ problems, needs, and outcomes — the more useful they are. To create that kind of smarter value, you need both data and an empathic understanding of your stakeholders.

Sidebar: In today's media climate, technology can be a real game-changer. If an association can invest in just one media-related technology this year, what should it be?

De Cagna: It’s hard to choose just one because they are so interconnected, but what I think is essential immediately is a strategy for developing content for companion devices: smartphones, phablets (phone/tablet hybrids such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 3), and tablets such as the iPad. Many people are replacing their laptops with phablets and tablets, and when used in conjunction with the cloud, these devices are so much more than tools for delivering your content. I would advise associations to focus resources on learning about how cloud computing can help build new content capabilities and enable greater collaboration.

Also, wearable computing is going to be big. Google Glass is just the beginning. Smart watches and wearable health and fitness devices such as Fit Bit are likely to be big this year. A computer has gone from something housed in a large room, to something that sat on your desk, to something that rested in your lap, to something you use in your hand. Now, it has become something you wear on your body, and it will become very natural for people to look for interactive experiences in wearable computing devices.

In 2014, if an association is not thinking about mobile and wearable devices and how they connect to the cloud, they will fall behind quickly.

Sidebar: Can an association's media products still form a powerful bond between members and the organization — or is that expecting too much because there are just too many publications and information sources out there now?

De Cagna: It probably depends somewhat on the field the association serves and the role that media plays in that industry. There is a robust media environment for many industries, so it’s difficult.

For associations overall, they need to think about this question in a different way. Associations should be using media to build relationships between stakeholders, instead of focusing on using media to build bonds with the organization. Associations become more valuable when they foster connectivity and enrich the human experience of associating.. That’s the strategy behind LinkedIn, for example. Your bond is not with LinkedIn — it’s with the network of people that you build and the content you create and share through your profile and in groups.

We’ve got to shift the focus away from providing content just to sell memberships. Instead, we need to ask: What do our stakeholders want to share with one another, and how can our resources add more value to that experience? This approach is more consistent with how people connect with and relate to each other today. Associations can use content and context to make associating more meaningful and valuable for the stakeholders they serve now, and those they wish to serve in the years ahead.

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


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