This matrix is a good tool to help you justify a
new media product—before you waste time, money, and credibility.
By Joe Vallina
Too often, association
media professionals can feel pressured by peers or others in their organization
to incorporate the "next cool thing,” be it a new technological approach, an
Internet delivery tool or program, or an untested form to deliver content. Most
of the time, there are good reasons to incorporate new ideas and technology
into our media offerings. After all, we have a professional duty to ensure that
our products are continually improving, and keeping up with the Joneses is a
legitimate way to do that.
But in the rush to try
new ideas, there is a danger of throwing away time, money, and organizational
credibility on projects that do not align with the goals of our association or our
readers, or both. This is why it’s important to take some time up front to step
back and analyze if and how the new idea fits into the mission and needs of our
stakeholders. There are many tools to help us do this, but let’s take a look at
one time-tested candidate.
The Fit-Attractiveness Matrix
matrix is a business tool designed to give a visual snapshot of where a product
idea fits within two criteria axes. Note that placing the proposed project into
the matrix is a subjective exercise, and for it to be successful, it is
imperative that you are as honest as possible. In other words, "wishful
thinking” destroys the usefulness of this tool.
The first fit-attractiveness
matrix you should consider when embarking on any new project—or when justifying
any old ones—is the Mission/Membership Attractiveness Matrix. This tool will
help you determine where the idea fits within the intersection of your
organization’s mission (the most important criteria in the association and
nonprofit sector) and market attractiveness (in this case, most likely the
attractiveness to our membership and readers).
There is a reason that
the Mission/Membership Attractiveness Matrix should be first in the line of
hurdles for potential projects to cross. In the association world, mission
should underpin everything you do. If a nonprofit organization succeeds at an
enterprise that does not enhance its mission, or worse, detracts from it, does
it really succeed? I would say no. Should a nonprofit pursue activities that
members want if those activities do not enhance the organization’s mission?
Again, I’d argue that they should not, which is why zone 8 is shaded in red in
Most of the zones in
Figure 1 are pretty self-explanatory, but I think a few warrant further
discussion. As a general rule, you want all projects to fall within zone 3.
Those that fall in zones 2 and 6 should be pursued as well, with an eye toward
tweaking them in content and delivery to move them closer to zone 3.
Projects that fall in
zone 1 (high mission fit/low attractiveness) have potential. If you believe
that the membership attractiveness can be developed significantly by tweaking
the content or delivery, anything falling in this zone would be a candidate for
testing, ideally on a pilot basis. However, if you do not honestly think that
you will be able to increase the member attractiveness of the project, it is
advisable to reject it.
Zone 9 is a special
case. Here, you are looking at a project that does not fit well with your
organization’s mission, which would tend to disqualify it from consideration.
The rub, however, is that it is being demanded by your membership. In this
case, it may work to partner with another organization whose mission fit is
better to provide this service to members. As a side note, if you have too many
projects coming up in zone 9, your organization may need to re-visit its
mission, as this could be a signal that the association’s leadership has gotten
out of step with the rank-and-file members.
This is not an exact
science. However, it is a solid first step in justifying new projects, products,
and services for your readers. Prudent association media professionals will
continue this evaluation process with matrices examining time spent vs.
projected usage, projected cost vs. potential ROI, and the like.
Association media is
changing at warp speed. Here’s hoping we’ll all be able to not only keep up,
but lead the way.
Joe Vallina is assistant director, periodicals at the
American Nurses Association and a member of the Association Media &
Publishing Content Creation Committee.