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Getting Serious About Digital - 8/13/2013 -

Donít be afraid to completely disrupt your own communications systems to further your goals, advises ASAEís Robb Lee.

By Michael Deme

The 2013 Association Media & Publishers Annual Meeting was the first I've attended since becoming editor of Adventure Cyclist, the association magazine for members of Adventure Cycling Association. My reason for attending was to investigate the ways in which other associations were addressing issues that most of us share.

One of the concurrent sessions I attended was hosted by Robb Lee, chief marketing and communications officer, ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership. He was joined by Andrew Hanelly, vice president, digital experience, McMurry/TMG and Julie Shoop, vice president/editor in chief, of Associations Now. The focus of this session was on how associations are meeting the challenges presented to them by the digital revolution.

Robb Lee opened the session by explaining how ASAE continues to explore ways of staying current, relevant, and fresh in the digital arena. I had the feeling that many in the audience represented associations that are much smaller in size and have fewer resources than ASAE but were eager to hear how a well-regarded organization such as ASAE met the challenges weíre all facing from other nonprofit associations and for-profit competitors.

At Adventure Cycling Association, a nonprofit organization that promotes bicycle travel, we compete with both and have been in the process of revolutionizing all of the ways that we communicate with our members and the readers of Adventure Cyclist magazine. Throughout the first half of 2013, we have redesigned both our extensive website and Adventure Cyclist to incorporate all aspects of our digital communications including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and FlickR, while providing the flexibility to incorporate any other methods that we have yet to take advantage of.

Leeís message was fairly simple: Donít be afraid to challenge yourselves and to completely disrupt your own systems to further your goals. I think this is great advice, but it can be a scary scenario for many in the nonprofit world. Not all organizations have the ability to disrupt how they behave, especially if they have a longstanding relationship with their core funding mechanisms and everything seems to be going well. Why rock the boat? While digital is great and offers new and valuable ways to communicate the organizationís message, print is still king and thatís what their members are happy with ó at least thatís what the surveys say.

While this may be true (and it is with Adventure Cyclist), we recognize that the printed magazine can benefit greatly from the added content that we can produce in the digital sphere. In addition, this enhanced content may reach audiences that would not otherwise come into contact with Adventure Cycling Association.

In support of Leeís message, Andrew Hanelly gave examples of how ASAE, in association with McMurry/TMG, has developed its ideas about how to meet the digital challenge. Julie Shoop provided the details and explained the specific methods that ASAE was using with a focus on Daily Digital, its online source for contextualizing association news with general news trends.

I came away from this session feeling very good about what weíre doing at Adventure Cycling because we are thinking the same way about digital as ASAE is. In short, digital is a great way to enhance what we already do. When we combine the new methods with the more established ones, we can reach new audiences and expand our message to a broader audience.

Michael Deme is director of publications and editor of Adventure Cyclist Magazine for Adventure Cycling Association. Association Media & Publishing thanks him for covering this session for our members who were unable to attend.


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