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April 30, 2009

Getting to the real answer

Any association executive can tell you it's important to know why those members who have left the organization did so.

At her general session at ASAE & The Center's Membership and Marketing Conference, Terri Langhans said there's only two answers to that question:

1. The right answer. And,

2. The one that sounds good.

You know what she means. For a long time, the king of the hill was "no time," perhaps superseded recently by "can't afford it."

It's an answer, it's easy, and it usually closes the topic.

As Langhans would say, don't even bother asking the question if you're going to allow those kinds of answers to close the topic. You have to dig deeper. You may or may not get to the real answer, but without the real answer, you have no new information to help you help your organization.

Langhans' suggestion--follow up with this question: "I hear you, but is that the real reason? What is that you know that I couldn't possibly know that, if you were me doing this job, you'd want to know?"

Not sure how well this will get to the real answer -- I'm curious to know how others think they get the real answer.

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April 28, 2009

The Power of A

Many of you know about ASAE & The Center's public awareness campaign, "The Power of A." (If not, see the release and the website.)

What I'm curious to hear from Acronym readers is -- how important do you think public awareness of the association community really is? While it's part of our core cause, it's never ranked particularly high in importance by ASAE & The Center members in our assessment surveys. At a recent session devoted to teaching young association professionals how to enhance their networking skills, one of the tactics offered was not even referring to the association part in introductory conversations. Rather, talk about the mission of your organization, particularly if you can relate it in some way to something that affects your new contact directly.

Internally, we routinely have conversations that at least touch on whether or not the size and scope of association management rises to the level of being a profession. Certainly the CAE puts a professional stamp on it, as do the many dedicated people in the field. But there's preciously little in the way of university programs or research (outside of ASAE & The Center and a few other institutions) specifically on association management. It starts with defining what a profession is, and association management falls into a murky area.

To me there's not much of a question of the fact of "the power of A" -- associations do affect the world in many, many ways. How important is it that those outside the association sector realize the cumulative effects? And even if it is important, how likely is the widespread understanding of what associations do and why they are important?

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Hand Hygiene for Grown-ups

With the contining spread of the swine flu, we’re all hearing one directive drilled into us like never before—wash your hands! Often! In the right way! Sounds pretty straightforward, but even before the swine flu hit, the Soap and Detergent Association and the American Society for Microbiology were responding to data showing poor hand hygiene in many adults (a rather disturbing 25% of adults, for instance, don’t wash their hands in public restrooms).

Now, with 149 swine flu deaths on record and almost 1,700 people sickened, what seemed a small project last fall--creation of an online and print-version brochure (www.cleaning101.com/handhygiene) about proper hand washing--takes on new and greater importance. Available in English and Spanish, “'Don’t Get Caught Dirty Handed' reminds adults that many cases of colds, flu, and food-borne illness are spread by unclean hands, and these diseases are responsible for billions of dollars each year in health care expenditures and productivity losses in the United States,” says the association.

No soap around? Reach for a hand sanitizer (keep one in your desk, purse, laptop pocket and car glove compartment) or hand wipes.

With a slight blush of embarassment, I suggest sharing this information with staff as a gentle but direct reminder that we’re all in this together when it comes to germ sharing and avoidance. For more info, visit www.washup.org.


April 27, 2009

More association responses to the swine flu outbreak

Associations continue to galvanize professional expertise among their members and staffs as they hasten to respond to the public threat posed by a unique strain of swine flu that has killed close to 70 Mexican citizens and sickened almost 1,000 more in both Mexico and the United States.

• As part of its Get Ready pandemic flu strategy, the American Public Health Association has set up a superb website. Included on the site are the what-to-dos of a pandemic flu outbreak, a PDF of a chapter on influenza from a recent edition of its Control of Communicable Diseases Manual, and an aggregated list of pandemic-related blog posts. Resources for the public are in both English and Spanish.

The site also includes a transcript of the CDC’s April 24 briefing about the outbreak investigation and two question-and-answer sessions with trained APHA “Get Ready” experts on how animal diseases are transferred and how to protect children during an outbreak.

• The Infectious Diseases Society of America issued an April 21 dispatch in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report describing two cases with no known exposure to swine.

• Infectious Disease Association of California has issued guidelines for clinicians to help them identify possible patients suffering from this strain of swine flu.

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Study Mission heads to Dubai

Here's a report from ASAE & The Center's Chief Learning Officer Anne Blouin, CAE:

The first segment of our study Mission in Singapore has come to an end. Speaking for the group, Singapore has exceeded our expectations. The learning has been incredible and we have a much greater appreciation of how and why Singapore punches above its weight. Impressions include adjectives such as lush, clean, beautiful, structured, visionary and Master Planned. Itks relatively easy to do business in Singapore since the business language is English and there are 1500 multinational companies ding business here.

We're now off to Dubai for the second week of the Study Mission.

Meanwhile, Bojan Tercon continues his chronicling of the mission on his blog.


April 25, 2009

Associations celebrate Earth Day

The celebration of Earth Day featured a wildly diverse group of associations offering a range of pickins as colorful and creative as your great-aunt’s garden. Here’s a partial list from a wheelbarrow load of press releases, RSS feeds, podcasts, Facebook updates, and more.

• Built around the theme “Air—The Sky’s the Limit,” the American Chemical Society has a “Chemists Celebrate Earth Day” portal with a spiffy logo, contests for high school/college kids, an event locator, and contests.

• BOMA International has released "100 Days, 100 Ways," a list of tips and strategies about recycling, energy efficiency, water conservation, indoor air quality, and tenant awareness to help property professionals make going green a priority. The document appears on its sustainability site called The GREEN (Green Resource Energy and Environment Network), which is chock full of eco-resources for members and the public.

• The Special Libraries Association has announced 12 recipients of the 2008 SLA Presidential Citation honoring its "Knowledge to Go Green" Champions. The unique citation recognizes individuals and SLA units that have implemented strategies to reduce their impact on the earth.

• The African American Environmentalist Association blogs about the Earth Month video message of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, who urges citizens to help create the green economy and to take steps to protect water, air, and land.

• The Newspaper Association of America has launched an Environmental Hub to showcase some of the socially responsible initiatives of NAA members who are “championing practices that help papers thrive economically while preserving and protecting the environment for future generations.” You’ll find an environmental toolkit for members, general background on environmental issues, Web resources, and info on a “Green Ideas” CD that compiles eco-initiatives and ideas underway at newspaper media companies.

And perhaps not strictly an Earth Day product but cool all the same, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education and the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment have launched an online climate action planning wiki called “Climate Planning for Campuses: How-to Guide.”


Associations in Action regarding Swine Flu and Potential Pandemic

With reports breaking all Friday regarding hundreds of both Mexican and American citizens sickened or even killed by a new form of swine flu, associations in the health care and agricultural communities have been busy confirming information, alerting and surveying members about any potential swine flu-related patients, and calming an anxious public even while acknowledging that much—including the original source of the illness--remains unknown.

"At this point, it appears to be human-to-human transmission only," said Dr. Ron DeHaven, CEO, American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), in a press statement Friday. "We've been in contact with the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV), and there have been no reports of outbreaks among animals, although their members are certainly aware of what's happening and are stepping up surveillance for the virus with federal and state animal health officials."

According to officials, “there is little or no risk of catching swine flu from eating pork or pork products, but as always, proper food handling and hand washing should be practiced.”

The AASV is regularly updating its Web site at http://www.aasv.org with news for its veterinarian members and the general public.

The American Lung Association in California quickly blogged about the six documented cases of this new strain of swine flu in the San Diego area and Imperial County, as well as two cases in San Antonio. It noted that rapid flu tests cannot tell this type of flu from seasonal flu, “and the current vaccine may not be protective. Tamiflu works, as does Relenza.” The post, found at http://alacsd.blogspot.com/2009/04/swine-flu-outbreak-in-mexico-touches.html, also notes that “while there are likely more cases in the U.S., there are no large-scale outbreaks.”

As of this Friday night post, however, CNN is reporting that 75 high school students in New York City are being tested for suspected swine flu.

The National Pork Board also has issued a helpful 4-page information sheet about swine flu at http://www.aasv.org/aasv/documents/InfluenzaFactSheet.pdf.

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control has information on the human swine flu investigation at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/swine/investigation.htm.


April 24, 2009

Study mission to Singapore and Dubai

Several association executives are taking part in ASAE & The Center's third annual study mission to look at business, association, an cultural life in distinctive spots around the world (read reports from last year's mission to India. This year's trip takes association leaders to Singapore and Dubai.

Bojan Tercon is with the Singapore delegation and is logging the trip on his blog.


April 22, 2009

Ring my bell!

No, I can’t say that I’m a big fan of Anita Ward. And, no, this is not an ode to “Disco Week” on American Idol. The words “Ring my bell!” actually have a very different meaning around my office. Recently, we instituted a new recognition program. Each time a member of our staff experiences a significant professional achievement, we ring a bell that now sits proudly in the center of our building.

Significant achievements could include a new member joining the association, meeting a major deadline, completing a long-term project, securing a new contract, launching a new member benefit, obtaining a new milestone or successfully executing a program. Whatever the achievement, our small staff of 10 convenes in the hallway each time the bell is rung to celebrate and debrief.

The key here is that our bell is rung as soon as the achievement is realized – it’s immediate gratification. Recognizing significant achievements in the moment, rather than waiting for a regularly scheduled staff meeting, allows us the opportunity to properly recognize each accomplishment and its contributors. Regardless of title, we find that each of us is equally eager to obtain the next achievement; with it comes the opportunity to ring the bell.

This new recognition program serves two main purposes. First, it provides staff a forum to publicly recognize achievements. Second, it keeps us motivated. With a small staff, it’s easy to lose sight of everyday achievements. Collectively, our staff works diligently and carries an ambitious workload. Taking the time to recognize achievements in a timely manner renews our commitment, offers much-needed mental breaks and positively impacts morale.

So, my question to you is this: What motivates you to do your best each and every day? What are some of the unique ways your association recognizes significant staff achievements?

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Using social responsibility to build meeting attendance

The Springtime expo last week showcased a number of companies, products, and education sessions related to greening of meetings and the strong business case for social responsibility, especially in this difficult economy.

Kicking off was Trailblazer session speaker Gary Hirshberg, “CE-Yo” and cofounder of Stonyfield Farm, whose $340-million company is the largest organic yogurt producer in the world. Hirshberg, fresh from a similar presentation to an association of convention center managers, shared his compelling story of how he built Stonyfield Farm as a socially responsible business to prove that you can make both an outstanding profit and a positive impact on the planet. Sustainability also helps businesses “get to the Holy Grail: customer loyalty.”

Asked what specific socially responsible actions could be taken by meeting planners to attract more people to their events, Hirshberg suggested two in particular:

1) Hold a service day as part of any conference or major event. “People want to connect and interact,” he said, noting that working side by side on a community project creates a feel-good experience off the bat. “The networking is incredible…. And right away the meeting is a success because people think, ‘I gave instead of just received.’”

2) Consider offsetting greenhouse gas emissions. Hirshberg noted that figuring out total airline or other transportation mileage of attendees is fairly easy, and the carbon emission totals can then be easily calculated online and offset through tree planting, energy credits, and other options.

“It’s not expensive [to offset],” he emphasized, and it helps “create symbols that show this [commitment to social responsibility] is a conscious effort.” To generate more SR-related ideas, he urged meeting planners to talk directly and frequently about sustainability, noting that “you’re only limited by your imagination.”

You can learn much more about integrating SR into your organization by reading his excellent book, Stirring It Up: How to Make Money and Save the World (Hyperion, 2008). A longer interview with Hirshberg will appear shortly on the ASAE & The Center’s Social Responsibility page.

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April 20, 2009

Didn't you hear? The recession is over

I am concerned. Had the occasion to speak with some association folks recently, and I was surprised at the optimism level. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for optimism, but my cause for concern is that this is false optimism.

After hitting it's recent low about a month ago, the Dow trickled back upwards for a while before flattening out for a few weeks. There were a couple positive economic indicators (and a few not-so-positive) and some encouraging words from the president and the Federal Reserve. And then there's the backbreaker: people are just tired of the economic reality, the endless news cycle, the bad news, the scandals. I think all of this has given people -- or at least some of the people I've talked to recently -- a notion that the worst is over.

I don't believe it. Keep a thimble full of optimism if it helps you get through the day, but don't close your eyes to reality. Associations traditionally are lagging indicators on the economy, meaning all the layoffs and bad news and such that we read about in the last six months, will begin to affect our bottom lines in the next six or nine months. A few months after it bottoms out for our members is when it will bottom out for us.

How fast will it bounce back? Anyone who thinks they can answer that is fooling themselves.

For more on what associations are doing and need to think about in this economy, see Economic Resources Online.

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April 17, 2009

Springtime Illustrated

Here's a look at the 2009 Springtime Expo in pictures, courtesy of ASAE & The Center's Springtime Expo 2009 Flickr Group.

Springtime ReceptionColin Mochrie

Education Sessions at Springtime 2009


Springtime Expo 20092009 Springtime Expo-Expo Hall!

2009 Springtime Expo-Expo Hall!

2009 Springtime Expo-Expo Hall!2009 Springtime Expo-Expo Hall!

Excited by Springtime


April 16, 2009

Association meetings and the economy

No one doubts the economy is affecting association meetings, but if anybody doubted that we are just at the starting line of the meetings distress, all one needed to do was have a few conversations on the show floor.

“Things were going well, I wasn’t experiencing hardly any affect—until January, then it start hitting pretty hard,” says Joanne Melser, who sells to the association market for Keystone Resort and Conference Center.

“We’re doing great in 09,” says Ross Mirmelstein, a meeting planner with the National Sheriffs’ Association. “We’re two months out and we’re tracking ahead of the last few years. What I’m worried about is 2010. It’s an election year, it’s on the West Coast, and I’m worried about what kinds of cutbacks localities are going to have to make. 2010 is a little scary for me.”

Of course, the economy is affecting associations right now, too.

“I’m not booking anything new,” says one hotel rep. "All we’re doing is rewriting existing bookings.”

A meetings consultant who requested her name be withheld says, “It’s the worst I’ve seen it in 20 years. I’m seeing budgets freezing, and lots of regional and small meetings just being cancelled.”

There is some good news, though. As in down economic cycles of the past, its associations that are keeping the entire sector afloat. With a few exceptions here and there, they are not cancelling their biggest meetings. There’s a general appreciation for association sector business during soft economic times. Hotels and destinations report not just a willingness, but an eagerness to work with associations to be sure the meetings are as financially successful as they can be.

As reported by Nancy Halsey and Dawn Smith of the Air Line Pilots Association International, associations are making nips and tucks where they can.

“Maybe you cut a reception, or you limit the open bar to an hour,” Halsey says. “You make your bookings for smaller groups, replace full meals with hors d’oeuvres.”

Smith adds: “We’re not hearing complaints. Our members understand what’s going on.”

Scott Williamson with ConferenceDirect says he’s seen the same things. “You’re going for fewer days and fewer room nights,” he says. “They’re being smarter about sponsorships and really watching costs, but the bottom line is associations in general have to have their meetings.”

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April 15, 2009

"What do you do?"

What do you do? Such a simple question, one you are sure to be on the receiving end over and over again. So why are most of our answers so bad?

That’s what Ira Koretsky, president & CEO, The Chief Storyteller, challenged the young professionals attending the preSpringtime Unplugged session “Business Dating: Six Ways to Become an Expert Networker” with.

There really is not excuse not to have a good answer to that question. What constitutes a good answer? Here’s some tips Koretsky gave:

- When people ask the question, they don’t actually want to know the specifics of your job. They want to know what you can do for them. So think of an answer that goes beyond, for example, marketing.

- Think in headlines, or, at worst, a 30-second radio spot. “Think of yourself as a verbal advertisement.” You have a very limited time to make an impact.

- A good answer will not force people to ask further basic questions. Rather, it will tell them something interesting.

- At all costs, don’t ask the question yourself – at least don’t make it the first question you ask.


Clean tech association creates innovative membership category

You would think that a nonprofit named the Clean Technology and Sustainable Industries Organization would have it made, considering all of the federal attention on these types of businesses in the new stimulus legislation. However, CTSI is hardly sitting around helping members complete bank deposit slips.

Instead, it appears to have recognized a tremendous opportunity for itself that will help members in the short term and the entire industry in the future. Its just-launched program, cleanConnect, aims specifically at helping the thousands of new clean-technology entrepreneurs create small businesses properly and then execute the really hard stuff—e.g., survive for the long-term despite the weak economy. The program has been carefully crafted around the basics: “partnership building, policy advocacy, resources & information, and financial support.”

The nonprofit also has partnered with the Nano Science and Technology Institute to cosponsor 2,700 presentations, industrial workshops, and issue-specific “short courses” at the upcoming TechConnect World conference in May.

In addition, the nonprofit has established a unique style of “in-kind” (free) membership, with benefits focused primarily on CEO professional development/engagement and concerns. In return for the free benefits, cleanConnect membership participants must “contribute to the building of the CTSI clean technology community,” which might run from serving on industry action committees to passing resources to other members to writing articles—anything that “will benefit the community.”

“Whether it takes one year or three, the public markets will come back, credit will become available, and companies will begin thriving again,” the organization writes on its Web site. “By joining forces and working together as a community, clean technology companies will be well positioned to take advantage of the comeback. By building a strong resource network, sharing our collective knowledge, and unifying our political voices, we will continue to drive innovation in energy and environmental technologies forward.”

I love that CTSI is building in value to itself and the wider community as it simultaneously targets valuable resources at what some might consider a niche element of the industry. I'm also curious whether many other associations permit members to "work off" their dues payments. Anyone?


April 14, 2009

Need a corporate partner? Try one of the world’s most ethical companies

With so many associations seeking to expand their corporate partnerships or to embrace more for-profit stakeholders in their coalitions, the Ethisphere Institute’s 2009 list of the World’s Most Ethical Companies may be a great place to trawl for possibilities.

The list, which contains 99 honorees and cuts across 35 industries, recognizes “organizations that promote ethical business standards and practices by going beyond legal minimums, introducing innovative ideas benefiting the public, and forcing their competitors to follow suit.”

“Operating as an ethical leader requires a significant commitment from companies that goes beyond lip service and demands real action and change,” says Ethisphere Institute Executive Director Alex Brigham, adding that the companies “have demonstrated an understanding that ethical practices are not only necessary but can support a stronger and more solid business overall.”

Honorees, chosen from a record number of applications, include 22 newcomers such as Dell and Best Buy, as well as three-time winners such as Starbucks, IDEA, American Express, and PepsiCo. Special congratulations go to Marriott International (a longtime partner and the major sponsor of ASAE & The Center’s Social Responsibility Initiative) and to Stoneyfield Farm, whose “CE-Yo” Gary Hirshberg is speaking this Thursday, April 16, at ASAE & The Center’s Springtime expo.

The institute settles on an “Ethics Quotient” (EQ) for each applicant after its analysts evaluate the company on seven categories. The process involved reviewing “over 10,000 companies’ codes of ethics, litigation and regulatory infraction histories; investment in innovation and sustainable business practices; activities designed to improve corporate citizenship; nominations from senior executives, industry peers, suppliers, and customers; and feedback from consumer action groups.”


April 13, 2009

Are free events ever really free?

I have noticed that recently I am being bombarded with the offer to attend free education (webinars, seminars, audioseminars, etc.). I have always known that these types of things were available but there seem to be a lot more of them lately or groups are just promoting them more aggressively. This got me thinking about the following.

1. The free education I have heard of is typically given by a vendor. Do vendor-offered free events pose a risk to attendance levels at the association’s (ASAE in this case) own fee-based educational events? In some way are the vendors that are “members” of the association biting the hand that feeds them? Or is this just the price of doing business and is beneficial to everyone involved? Normally I would say that having free education doesn’t really affect the association much, but when money is tight like today, I am curious if the potential impact is much larger.

2. Are free events actually educational or are they just a disguised sales pitch? We all know that nothing in life is free. Have vendors realized that a sales pitch disguised as education is still a turn off even if it is free (I hope so)? Or are we as attendees so in need of education that does not hit our budget that we are willing to take a flier on an educational event that we know may be part sales pitch just with the hope that there is enough diamonds among the you-know-what that it ends up being worth our time?

3. For those of you who are members of other associations, is free education as prevalent in those associations as it seems to be within ASAE lately? I am a member of DMAW (Direct Marketing Association of Washington) and these types of things don’t seem to be offered at all. I was also a member of AFP (fundraising professionals) for a while, and, again, I rarely heard about things like this. Is the association community unique, and if we are unique why is this only happening here?

I am curious to know what this trend is telling us and how it will impact associations today, and in the future, as technology makes it easier and easier to provide educate as well as let potential attendees know all about it. I await your thoughts.

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April 10, 2009

Why Should I Care about Something Called “Cloud Computing?”

If you attended the 2009 Technology Conference hosted by ASAE & The Center, you heard a lot about what term “cloud computing.” Discussion focused on what the term means (buying access to software and services downloadable via the Internet from a third party rather than trying to purchase and run everything yourself), whether its odd name should be altered to clarify its definition, and what its potential may be for cost savings and improved technological performance at associations, especially small to mid-size organizations.

I ran into this article, titled “No Man Is an Island: The Promise of Cloud Computing, Knowledge,” in the always-interesting Knowledge@Wharton e-newsletter this week and want to share it. The tech wizards quoted believe that organizations of the future will almost all operate with “the cloud” because of what they perceive is better security, dramatic cost savings, and current fatigue regarding the constant IT “rat race” to keep up with ever-evolving technology.

I’m interesting in learning whether any associations are actively incorporating cloud computing into their IT strategies. Please post here for more discussion.

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April 8, 2009

Managers and leaders and visionaries! Oh, my!

I think we can all agree that significant differences exist in the skill sets demonstrated by managers and those demonstrated by leaders. For example, managers administer while leaders innovate.

And, with the widespread availability of self assessment tools, including Myers-Briggs, True Colors and countless others, we can identify and examine our own personality types and the skill sets we possess, making changes along the way to promote success.

But, I’d like to challenge this dichotomy, for a moment, and offer a third dimension for your consideration. In the context of organizations, particularly associations, I think another, very distinct type of individual exists: the visionary.

Whereas leaders may excel in a functional area, such as finances or public policy or programming or communications, visionaries have a good working knowledge of each of these areas, both in theory and in practice.

Leaders possess limited—but desirable—skill sets that may serve them well in the role of department head; however, they are ultimately unable to see and influence the big picture for an entire organization.

In other words, visionaries are even more well-rounded, sought after and rare than leaders. Conceptually, they understand where organizations should go and have the skill sets to attain definitive outcomes.

So, my question to you is this: Do you agree with this delineation? Why or why not? If you agree, how does an association professional, particularly a young professional, become a visionary?

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April 3, 2009

April Associations Now Case Study: Awards Program Gone Wrong

As even my eight-year-old could probably tell you, awards programs are all about fairness. If your members feel like awards are given based on favoritism rather than merit, they're not going to respect--or, most likely, participate in--your awards program. And while I imagine most associations go out of their way to ensure fairness, it's possible for one unfortunate situation to create a bad impression that lasts for years.

This month's Associations Now case study, "Can't Win for Losing," explores a fictional CEO's attempts to get to the bottom of things when her awards committee seems to be making its decisions based on sentiment rather than the official rules of the awards program. Amy Lestition and John Crosby both provided excellent comments on how associations can avoid similar problems (or deal with them when they happen).

The April case study, along with John and Amy's comments, is available online. What would you have done differently if you were faced with a similar situation?


April 1, 2009

Legislative Fly-In: Is passion all you need?

At an education session on day one of ASAE’s Legislative Fly-in, Amy Showalter, president of The Showalter Group, offered an interesting observation on the power of passion in pleading a case—and just as important, when passion gets in the way.

Talking passionately about something is the perfect strategy when it puts your audience in the position of being on “the side of the angels.” That is, if there is clearly a right side to be on.

That’s not always the case. In fact, it’s not often the case. Usually, there is an opposite argument to be made. Showing excessive passion in such an instance can actually turn off your audience. If the topic has the potential to create enemies for them—or less extreme, if they’re likely to face resistance from at least someone else or some other constituency, it’s better to dial down the passion a notch, acknowledge that there are no absolutes, and explain why your position benefits the audience.

Showalter framed this observation in the form of a Hill visit, but I think it’s just applicable to any situation in which you’re championing a position.


Healthcare and social technologies, part II

The second part of yesterday's session was equally, if not more, interesting than the first. Each of the panelists talked about the specific tools they were using and what they accomplished. Here are some of the details:

- Mayo Clinic started with a Facebook site - in fact, they were one of the first institutional sites on Facebook. They launched a YouTube channel (Lee Aase, the panelist suggested this is an absolute no-brainer for any association) and one of the benefits is that they don't need a server dedicated to video streaming for their blog. He also mentioned that if you are going to get into video, get a Flip video camera - they're inexpensive and have their own USB port to quickly import the video you've captured. (I've used them - it really can't get much easier!)

- The chief marketing officer from Sermo, Gina Ashe, shared more about their product that has created a secure, exclusive community for physicians. Their business model was interesting - there is no fee for physicians to join and no advertising. It sounds like they earn revenue from companies and organizations who obtain access to the site as observers. The most interesting tidbit from her presentation was about a partnership they had developed with Bloomberg. They are using the physicians on their site to make sense of medical information for the financial markets. It was obvious that there was a lot of interest in this in the room.

- Frank Fortin from the Massachusetts Medical Society discussed their endeavors in developing community online, including a past failure as well as their plans for the future. One interesting tidbit I picked up - he had read Groundswell, written by Forrester researchers, and was interested in developing a social technographics profile of his membership to help MMS get a handle on why their communities were not thriving. You might think that would be expensive - Forrester is a pretty big name. Frank says it was actually quite inexpensive for a one-time use. Lesson? It's never a bad idea to ask!

The session closed with each panelist providing their one parting thought... here's what was said:

- Web 2.0 is about listening

- Encourage the empowerment of your membership. They are allowed to have opinions. Allow them to build upon their best assets.

- Mayo has sharing guidelines (for social sites) for their staff.

- Want to know more about social media? Lee Aase started Social Media University Global. Check it out. There's even a picture from the first session.

- The decision to participate in social media is not about shiny new tools. It should be a decision to communicate better with your stakeholders. Don't overthink it. Members will tell you what they need.

Bravo Jeff and panelists! Excellent session!