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Report the Buzz Without Getting Burned - 12/7/2010 -

Here are three tips for staying on the cutting edge of news delivery—without getting burned.

By Marlene Hendrickson

In a world where Twitter regularly scoops the evening news, it’s easy to get used to right-now and all-the-time information sources. But even before 24-hour cable news channels, CNN.com, and mobile news apps, associations strived to get timely, cutting-edge, and valuable news to its members first. Daily e-newsletters, websites, and now RSS feeds and social media networks are among the communications venues keeping associations in the game of breaking the latest news and trends.

But while there’s excitement and value in getting to members first with the latest industry news, there’s greater strategic value in being a credible source of information. Here are three tips for staying on the cutting edge of news delivery—without getting burned.

1. Determine the "me” factor. Even a seemingly sexy development in your industry must pass the "me” test. Put yourself in your members’ shoes. How does this news bite really affect them? How might it help them do their jobs better? If you don’t come up with a good answer, then perhaps don’t waste time and energy reporting on it.

Indeed, the news must go beyond compelling, says Jonathan Godfrey, communications director for the Association for Competitive Technology (ACT). Most of ACT’s 3,000 members are software developers, and lately, they’re the ones creating the cool and complicated apps that are populating smart phones.  

"There’s a lot that happens in our industry that directly affects what our members are working on,” says Godfrey. He and his colleagues monitor Twitter and blogs, for example, to stay on top of the trends. "But we want to be confident of its veracity and relevance first.” Godfrey says among the first steps is being the member and asking, "How does this relate to me? How does it relate to my day-to-day experience?” If it really doesn’t, then he’ll pass – and wait for the next and likely juicier nugget.

2. Look to your members. They may not always be the fastest solution – after all, they have full-time jobs, too – but tapping your members is a virtually fail-safe strategy for delivering credible and relevant information. Most associations have editorial advisory boards or committees that can be a valuable resource when it comes to determining content.

Joann Cooper, executive director of the Wall Street Technology Association (WSTA), looks to the organization’s volunteer Advisory Content Committee, for example, to determine relevant topics for the education seminars. The seminars are designed especially for WSTA members, who are technology and financial industry professionals. Cooper and her colleagues also work closely with an advisory committee that focuses on WSTA’s quarterly Ticker magazine.

"The Ticker committee reviews all of the articles that are submitted,” Cooper explains, "to make sure they’re on the mark and to make sure they’re really beneficial to people.”

3. Socialize but don’t take credit. So what if your news nugget just barely passes muster with these first two tips – and your gut is telling you to share with members anyway? Enter the beauty of social media and the age of electronic journalism.

Your so-so information may very well make a decent tweet or blog entry. Make it clear that your association isn’t endorsing the information and be sure to include a link to the source. Another idea is to use the nugget to start a LinkedIn group discussion. Depending on the topic and the source, it could make for a lively exchange – something most associations continue to eagerly seek on their social media platforms.

Marlene L. Hendrickson is a communications consultant and strategist based in metro Washington, DC and a member of the Association Media & Publishing Content Creation Committee. Follow her on Twitter at @mhendrickson14.


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