Three fresh tools to supercharge your publications.
By Nan Hallock
On Sept. 6 in Chicago, Association Media & Publishing
turned one of its most popular 2013 Annual Conference presentations into a
half-day, interactive workshop for 28 AM&P members who traveled from
Illinois, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin to participate. Led by Lisa
Feldner of Network Media Partners and Kristin Gomez of the Association for
Corporate Growth, the workshop explored no-nonsense ways to cast critical and creative
eyes on an association’s current and potential publishing landscape.
Breakout discussions fueled the exchange of ideas between
participants, and an in-depth look at the conceptual evolution of ACG’s suite
of digital publications demonstrated
how to bring informed ideas to life in service of audience preferences and
Who’s Who and What’s What
Participants stepped through practical ways to enrich
traditional SWOT assessments (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats),
conduct meaningful competitive analyses, and apply objective, critical thinking
to internal communications and publications audits.
Feldner and Gomez emphasized that the productiveness of
these fundamental tools relies heavily on a thorough understanding of key audiences.
Before anything else can — or should — be considered, a non-negotiable
foundation must be built with accurate, in-depth, multi-dimensional reader profiles
that extend beyond basic demographics, geography, and job titles.
Ask and Listen: Build Relationships
Breakout groups brainstormed ways to reach into
nontraditional corners of the universe to gain unexpected and previously
unexplored insight. For example, it was suggested that an association’s public
policy attorney could provide a valuable strategic future-view. The member
services staff assistant who fields incoming telephone calls could report
"what’s trending now.” Extended
telephone interviews with chapter leaders and sit-down conversations with
conference attendees could yield boots-on-the-ground feedback from informed
leaders who function outside the traditional inner circle of advisory boards
Feldner and Gomez stressed that audience understanding is not
complete without an exploration of media consumption habits and preferences. Consider:
- What news is important to association members?
- Where are they getting it?
- How are they getting it?
- What do they want to get from their association
New Media Consumption Trends
The stuff of traditional association magazine and newsletter
tables of contents is no longer applicable. The challenge is to determine how
association publications can effectively complement the realities of an
evolving (and more competitive) media landscape.
Many association members now learn about their colleagues’
job changes, promotions, and openings in real-time via e-mail, Facebook,
LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media networks. Mainstream and trade media
keep members aware of breaking news online and via newsfeeds, listservs, and
e-mails. Members aren’t waiting for print magazines and newsletters to deliver
to their mailboxes anymore. They’re not even waiting for their desktop computers
to warm up. They’re using tablets and
smartphones on-demand at work, at home, and everywhere in between.
Feldner and Gomez cited a study by World Association of
Newspapers revealing that 90 percent of all media interactions are now screen-based,
and multi-tasking via multi-screens is a norm. This is not to suggest that
print is dead, but to emphasize the importance of carefully defining
appropriate content and determining effective delivery channels.
Don’t Quit When You’re Ahead
The ACG suite of digital publications interpreted what was
learned about its audience, its direct and indirect competitors, and the world
in which ACG and its members exist. The result is a strategic complement of
daily, weekly, and monthly online publications integrated with social media
initiatives — Twitter in particular. Each publication speaks to distinct goals
while completing a well-coordinated continuum of communication.
ACG’s decisions were guided by the thorough development and
thoughtful use of the research tools discussed during the workshop. The results
have been successful — very successful — but ACG is not taking its success for
granted. Feldner and Gomez emphasized that re-evaluation must be an ongoing
process. Keeping an alert ear to the ground in between the formal, scheduled updating
of SWOT assessments, competitive analyses, and internal communications and
publications audits will keep association media and publishing teams ahead of
the curve and in the driver’s seat in the face of inevitable change.
Nan Hallock is director of publishing, Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening. Association Media & Publishing thanks her for covering this event so thoroughly for our members who were unable to attend.