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Put Your Data to Work - 7/11/2011 -

The Missouri State Teachers Association shares insights in learning to harness the communication tools of segmentation, social media, and sex.

By Rachel Webb

I thought I knew the Missouri State Teachers Association.

Our 45,000 members are educators and other school personnel who work in Missouri. That should seem pretty straightforward. Except that it’s not.

Sitting down for the "Put Your Data to Work” session at the recent Association Media & Publishing Annual Meeting in June, I felt like my association is someone I’ve been dating for more than five years, only to discover that he secretly likes to dress like Elvis. It’s something that would have been nice to know, and it leaves me wondering what else he hasn’t told me.

Luckily, Ellis Booker, and Margie Chiu set me straight. Now I know what I need to know.

Our communications department has been a leader in social networking and media. We’ve got it all, and we do it well enough that Association Media & Publishing gave us a silver award for it. But in terms of our distribution model, we’re still mostly in the 4 Ps: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. This is the old way, and we do it pretty well (perhaps since we’ve been doing it for 155 years.) But we need to switch to a new way.

The new way is based upon the three Ss: Segmentation, Social Media, and – everybody’s favorite – Sex.

Segmentation has to come first, and this means knowing, anticipating, and understanding what your customers need and how to reach them. For example, a company with a weight-loss product will have some customers who want to drop a few pounds for bikini season, some who are chronic dieters, and some who have been ordered to lose weight by their doctors. Each group needs materials targeted toward their interests.

Social Media is the harder S to measure. This means that an organization has to know what is influencing the conversation about them. Facebook makes this difficult because the site has been unfriendly to services like Rapleaf, which seek to analyze fan involvement.

Finally, there is Sex. This is where we have to give our audience something to look forward to. As a teachers’ association, we’re about as apple-cheeked wholesome as it gets, but there is still room for sex.

In addition to implementing the three Ss, we must also tailor our publishing to hit multiple-age demographics. As we in publishing know, the industry is going digital, but this is more than putting your magazine in an electronic format. This means a shift toward social media and user-generated content, as well as understanding generational differences in media use.

Older people are more likely to go to a news site for information, while younger people like to get an idea of what’s happening from the overall stream. In the old way, we were the providers to hunter-gatherers. In the new way, we must take our content to our readers. No longer can the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion rule. What we think our members want must be backed up by real metrics.

As we plan for the next school year, my eyes will be open to new data-collection tools and opportunities. It looks like data and I will be getting cozy.

Rachel Webb is an associate editor at Missouri State Teachers Association. Association Media & Publishing thanks her for covering this Annual Meeting session for our members who were unable to attend.


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