Here are several ways to infuse gratitude into your association's publishing culture—as well as the reasons why it's a good idea to do so.
By Carla Kalogeridis
HERE'S A QUESTION JUST IN TIME FOR THANKSGIVING:Does your association publishing team encourage a culture of gratitude? In today's high-stress, lean staff, no-time-for-anything work environments, those association publishers who don't put gratitude on a pedestal are shooting themselves in the foot.
Let's face it: Most association publishers (or associations, for that matter) couldn't exist without volunteers. We use volunteers as contributing writers, to serve on editorial boards and publication committees, to cover special events in print and video, review manuscripts, and to provide photography and art for our publications. As we head into the Thanksgiving season and the end of 2009, it's important to remember to thank those who have helped your association publication thrive and reach its goals.
For example, the Journal of the Association for Laboratory Automation (JALA) publishes about 500 pages of peer-reviewed scientificcontent in six issues every year.Unlike many other scientific journals, however, its association members (and readers, authors, and reviewers) are not primarily academics."Our members are practicing scientists, such as researchers employed by commercial companies like drug development companies andgovernment labs,” explains Nan Hallock, managing editor of the Journal of the Association for Laboratory Automation. "In other words, they have no incentive to write or review papers for us. Because of this, gratitude is one important component of our ongoing efforts to keep the manuscript pipeline filled.”
So how can association publishing teams show gratitude to their volunteers? Here are some simple suggestions.
1. Don't neglect to say "thanks”—duh. You'd be surprised how often people neglect to properly thank those who contribute. When someone does something helpful for your association publication— recognize it. Make sure you give your volunteers' efforts the attention they deserve.
2. Take a second, no matter what you are doing, to engage with the volunteer. When a volunteer writer sends in an article to a busy editor, how often do they get nothing more than a quick acknowledgement of receipt and a brief thank you in return? Most of us are guilty of that one. No matter how busy you are, take a couple of minutes to write a personal email or send them a handwritten note thanking them for their work.
It's also a good idea to mention at least one specific attribute of the piece in your thank-you communication. For example, "I particularly liked the interview you did with John Smith,” or "I loved your headline!” Personalizing your thank you will help you engage with the volunteer on a more meaningful level and will probably get you a "yes” when you ask for their help again.
Gifts work, too. Upon publication in Hallock's Journal of the Association for Laboratory Automation, each author gets a thank-you package that includes a handwritten note along with complimentary copies of the publication and small giftsfor the author and all co-authors."The small gifts currently are an oversized, neon-colored JALA luggage tab which is very popular,” says Hallock, "and a rubber ‘JALA Man' stand-up desktop clock and clip, which is cute and often amuses people.”
Hallock finishes off the thank you with a special 'JALA Author' sticker that she puts on the outside of the package.
3. Don't overlook the impact of the "group thank you.” While thanking volunteers in a personal manner is important, thanking your publication volunteers collectively is also a good practice. When an individual sees himself or herself thanked as part of a group, they feel a pride of belonging and a sense that they are contributing to their profession—and that others in their peer group know it.
In its December issue, JALA's editor in chief's column thanks and names all authors and reviewers who participated throughout the year, says Hallock. In addition, JALA publishes an author index (as well as a subject index) in the same issue.
And if you've got a bit of budget to use (or plan ahead now for next year), your association can really make an impact by thanking volunteers with something they can hang on the wall and be proud of. Kim Howard, editor in chief of the Association of Corporate Counsel's ACC Docket and an Association Media & Publishing board member, prints a poster for her volunteer authors featuring all of the year's magazine covers and a simple thank you message on the poster: "The ACC Docket thanks all columnists and authors for your outstanding support and contributions to the 2009 magazine. We appreciate your dedication to the ACC Docket.”
"We also include a letter signed by the members of the editorial staff when we mail the posters,” says Howard.
Keep in mind that today's digital printing and print-on-demand technologies might make this idea more affordable than you think. Another option: Get a printer to sponsor it.
4. Thank publication volunteers in person—in front of everybody. Don't miss the opportunity to thank your publication volunteers at your association's annual meeting and conferences.
At its annual conference,JALA hosts a reception celebrating JALA authors in its exhibit hall. Authors get ribbons for their badges so everyone knows who they are."We have beer, wine, soft drinks, hors d'oeuvres andsets of signs that include blow-ups of the JALA covers, a thank you to all authors that lists their names, and a thank you to all reviewers that lists their names,” describes Hallock."Wehave this reception anyway to keep people on our show floor, so we kill two birds with one stone by simply saying that it's held in honor of the authors and reviewers.”
Hallock says JALA also includes authors and reviewers at its JALA VIP Reception held during the conference. "This invitation-only gathering is held at a beautiful poolside location after dinner on the last night of the conference,” she says. "We serve cocktails at an open bar and desserts.In addition to authors,reviewers and editorial board members, association board members, and any other available VIPs such as plenary speakers are invited –and they usually attend.”
5. Don't forget the advertisers and sponsors. Yes, your sponsors pay to support your publication and they get some tangible benefits from the exposure to your membership (hopefully). But that doesn't mean you shouldn't thank them when the time is right.
"Several times a year, our news magazine publishes a house ad acknowledging our sponsors,” says Brent Jacocks, director, publishing services, for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). "And at the end of the year, we publish a list of contributors as a full page in the magazine.”
Running a house ad thanking advertisers, sponsors, and authors is an idea many associations have taken advantage of, but the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) takes it one step further. "February is Volunteer Appreciation Month, so we use that hook to do a wide variety of thank-you events for our members, readers, and key volunteers,” says Kate Conley, periodicals director and editor, ISTE's Learning & Leading with Technology.
Taking the time to thank those that make your association publishing life easier will build your organization's reputation in a positive way. Simply put, volunteers will like doing things for your association and will go the extra mile for you when you need it. There's still time to make 2009 a season of gratitude at your association.
Carla Kalogeridisis editorial director of Association Media & Publishing. Follow her on Twitter @CarlaKalo. .Login to the Digital Provider Marketplaceand read entire November/December issue online.