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Mission versus Membership - 3/27/2012 -

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

The fit-attractiveness 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).

Figure 1.

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 Figure 1.

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.


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