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Time to Tweak - 11/2/2010 -

Now is a great time to evaluate your media products and implement tweaks and updates that will refresh your look without breaking the bank.


By Lynn Riley


The facts aren’t pretty. With a slow economy comes flat membership revenues and flat ad sales. But along with this down time comes an opportunity. Now is a great time to evaluate how your media is working for you and to look at ways to better engage your audience.


·         Are you attracting and keeping website browsers?

·         Are you reaching the younger professional demographic with your magazine?


Refreshing the look of a publication, logo, or website generates new interest from readers, users, and advertisers. Increasing your website’s functionality captures more attention and involvement from web users. Equally important, it shows advertisers that you’re committed to delivering an engaging experience.


What’s the best place to start? Set goals for reader or web-user responsiveness. Develop measurable criteria. If you just have a general sense that something isn’t quite right—but you can’t identify it—you can mistakenly "fix” the wrong thing. A reader survey is an obvious place to start. Tracking unsolicited reader feedback is another.


Four key areas to look at include your association’s website, publication, flag, and logo. Here are a few tips to consider when updating your media:


1.     Website. Web 2.0 is practically old news. Today’s sophisticated web users expect an interactive experience, not static text. If your website is simply a brochure site, an update is long overdue. Streaming video, member access portals, blogs, and discussion boards are expected these days. Involvement devices such as surveys, instantly scored quizzes, and personalized, site-based recordkeeping add value to your site and keep members coming back again and again.


"Websites should be evaluated every six months,” says Eileen Coale, an award-winning marketing consultant and copywriter in Annapolis, Md. "The web is a fast-evolving media and websites can become dated very quickly.”


2.     Flags and logos. The human brain loves "new” stuff—as long as it’s not jarringly different from what’s expected. Many organizations make the mistake of recreating a logo or flag from scratch. That approach, however, can backfire because it creates a major disconnect between your association and your audience.


A smarter strategy? Incremental changes. For instance, a slight reshaping of logo elements or updated colors still lets your audience recognize you instantly, while the freshness catches and keeps their eye. One good rule of thumb: If it’s been 10 years since your last makeover, you’re overdue.


3.     Publications. Trends in font usage and color palettes may be subtle, but they’re always on the move. New design tools also shape design trends. A publication design from as recently as five or six years ago can look dated.


Start with a new or updated flag, and use it as a springboard to move toward an updated publication design. It doesn’t have to be a major overhaul; even small changes can give a publication a fresh new look. Besides, big changes all at once can mean big expenses. A smarter strategy is to review websites and publications regularly – every 6 to 12 months – and schedule incremental changes. That way, you don’t alienate your audience with an abrupt change. Instead, your media moves forward into the future alongside your audience, at a pace that’s comfortable for you and your members. 


Nothing lasts forever—even recessions. When the economy picks up again, your updated website and refreshed publication will position your association as the go-to organization for old and new members alike.


Lynn Riley is an award-winning graphic designer for associations and a member of the Association Media & Publishing Content Creation Committee.


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