Wednesday, 26 February 2014

The Power of Why (Guest Post by @Lowellmatthew)

I believe that the further we get in our careers, the more we discover that the questions we ask have the potential for learning and growth much more than the answers we receive.  Honing focus on our assignments, gaining organizational vision, insight into industry direction and determining our own personal career paths are each potential adventures of discovery – fueled by the question why.  Depending on how we utilize this three letter word, we can paint a self-portrait of an up and coming organizational leader, or a stubborn employee who isn’t a team player.  Here are five perspectives on the question why:

  1. Why are our resources aligned with these priorities?”  You have read the mission and the vision, you have reviewed the strategic plan.  The true value that an organization is trying to produce is often a deeper narrative than what resides in these pieces – and how an organization assigns its staff and finances can tell the backstory to how it is trying to achieve its goals.  Asking for better understanding into the formula behind organizational success can demonstrate that you are looking to be a key contributor to that success.  In addition, these insights can show opportunities for cross-silo collaboration and cooperation, building bridges and help you produce stronger results.
  2. Why do I have to do this?”  When we know how the work that we have on our plate impacts the success of our organization we often find greater feelings of achievement/accomplishment.  With that said, there are also times that we have to do what logistically needs to get done.  This question can be a double edged sword – asked in the right context it shows intent to be a key organizational contributor, asked in another light it can be taken as petulant.  Navigating the delicate balance is essential to demonstrating that you can get the job done with the right attitude.
  3. Why do I have this job?”  A question for personal reflection, it is important to take stock and align how your current position reflects that career path you are pursuing.  What are you looking to learn at this job?  What successes will be milestones that will show future employers what you bring to the table?  How is your current position not just a job, but an intentional step in your successful career path?
  4. Why are certain topics trending in industry discussions/publications/conferences/online forums?”  Knowing the path you want to take in your career means knowing where your industry is going.  What publications do you read?  What blogs make you think, question and push your own pre-conceived concepts?  Keeping abreast of industry issues, problems and opportunities coming down the line will never be part of a job description, but should be part of our personal resolution.  Discovering our personal professional paths in an intentional fashion means also exploring the professional universe where we will have our journey – so start drawing your map!
  5. Why do I rock?”  What are your strengths?  How do you keep those strengths in your mind as a toolbox and intentionally bring them to the table with every assignment you have?  What tools do you want to develop to add to your repertoire?  We each need to know what we bring to the table, both so we can use those strengths for awesome results and so we can build teams around us to help balance our areas for growth with others strengths.  

This advice for the emerging association pro is by Lowell Aplebaum, CAE. He's the author of Association 141+ blog ( and a spectacular association pro himself with the Society of Neuroscience.

Image courtesy of

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Blogging Best Practices

The CSAE Marketing & Communications group was privileged to receive some great advice and words of wisdom from local blogger and social media advisor Sue Murphy (@suzemuse) at a recent session.  As a result, here are 10 Steps to a Better Blog:

  1. Define your purpose, your audience and your competition.  Understand your focus and know your business goal.  If you create good content, people and search engines will love you.
  2. Set a realistic schedule that readers can rely on.  How often?  At least two posts per week.  It’s about balance and experimentation.  Try different days to determine variances of engagement.  Create content in batches.  Write several posts at a time.
  3. Mix it up.  Different lengths, multimedia, timely and timeless posts, top 10 lists.  Variety is key.
  4. Move beyond the written word.  Use visual elements: photos, checklists, videos, slideshare, info graphics, etc., but still keep dialogue around it.  Consider a Creative Commons photo license.
  5. Size matters.  How long?  Long enough to make a point but not bore those who skim articles.  Average 300-600 words.  If longer consider a two part series.
  6. Write killer headlines and subheads.  This is the most important part of your post.  Pique curiosity of skimmers and scanners.  Consider search engines and key words and phrases.  Be descriptive – headlines should tell you a story/paint a picture.  Compelling headlines stand out.
  7. Design is important.  Reflect your organization’s personality, style and brand.  Must include:  subscription buttons – RSS or email, contact info – name/email/twitter, search box, archive of posts (by category, title, dates), social media share buttons and links to your social media sites or direct feed widgets.
  8. Create momentum.  Have a clear call to action.  Drive traffic to more info on your website.  Ask people to subscribe, donate.  Ask a question at the end to encourage people to comment or respond.
  9. To moderate or not?  Shouldn’t turn off or edit comments.  Only use to remove inappropriate or off topic comments.  Use anti-spam tools.  Post a terms of engagement to let people know what will be tolerated.  The Canadian Dental Hygienists Association shared a sample of their Community Terms of Engagement ( Make sure someone is tasked to moderate and monitor the blog closely.
  10. Use categories and tags to help search engines find you.  It also helps people to search by interest.  Come up with identified categories ahead of time and unique hashtags.

Some additional tips and tricks:

  • Think of yourself as a storyteller
  • Think of your website as a digital storefront and a blog as your digital magazine full of articles
  • Be Google friendly
  • Less formal, more personality
  • Be patient
  • Cross promotion on social media and your website is important

Happy Blogging!

This post was written by Angie D’Aoust, Director of Marketing & Communications with the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association (CDHA).  

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Advice for the Emerging Association Professional (Guest Post by @kikilitalien)

After spending 12 years working in the association world, I am no longer considered an “emerging association professional”.  I could throw in a joke about this just meaning I’m getting old, but instead I wear it as a badge of honor! People from all walks of association life offer lunch or coffee, looking  to me for advice on how to successfully maneuver the mysterious and well-acronymed ocean that is the association industry!  Naturally, I look forward to any excuse for good conversation with a new acquaintance and these requests are both flattering and equally informative for me.

What follows serves as my general advice on how to best engage as an emerging association professional … coffee not included….

Rule #1: Take Charge of Your Own Professional Development

To advance in any profession, you must remain the perpetual student. Your education doesn’t end after university. Many organizations offer some kind of professional development stipend to help foster personal and professional growth. Know what kind of professional development support you have, but don’t stop there! Many conferences offer scholarships for people who might otherwise be unable to attend. You may also offer to volunteer or blog about the event in exchange for registration.

Whatever you do, please join your industry’s association. It should come as no surprise that the association world has its very own Association (CSAE, ASAE). The experience you gain from meeting a large number of people serving memberships similar to yours is immensely valuable. Helpful tips on membership retention, member value, price of engagement, and so much more from across the spectrum of the association world are waiting for you to reap from others in your field.

Participating in your industry’s association may also provide you the opportunity to speak at future events and conferences. Becoming an adept public speaker can help you professionally in countless ways as well as making you infinitely more employable in the future.

Through continued learning you may even wish to pursue becoming a Certified Association Executive (CAE).   You’ll need to spend some time in the industry first. However, if you think you might go that direction, it’s never too soon to start learning about CAE requirements and areas of study you will want to research ahead of time.

Rule #2: Don’t Undervalue Your Role Because of Your Paycheck

Being an “emerging” anything usually means your paycheck isn’t what you’d like it to be. As an emerging association professional, this can be disheartening to say the least. As you are learning about your membership, caring for it, and bemoaning the antiquated ways your association operates (“You mean you still receive dues via fax?”), it can be frustrating to see the reflection of your labor in your humble paycheck.

Remember: everyone “starts” somewhere, and it’s not where you start, but where you finish that counts!
I remember spending long hours in the office in the beginning; always one of the last to leave. True, there was much I needed to learn, but I also felt a charged sense of urgency. Surely no one saw things the way I did – otherwise there would be more change!  Frustration was an everyday event that sometimes felt would never end.  But still that energy grew, much like I’m sure it’s growing within you today.

Use that energy. Learn as much as possible.  Be aggressive!

Ask more questions than you feel comfortable. There are oftentimes internal politics at play that make seemingly obvious answers impossible to play out. Find another way. Do not, under any circumstances, believe that the size of your paycheck determines your worth to the office. Your paycheck will grow as you garner more experience. But always be prepared to show why you are ready for more responsibility, learning opportunities, and (eventually) money.

Rule #3: Participate In Associations as a Volunteer

There is no better teacher than experience. Volunteering as a council member or in any role, really, is one of the best ways you can begin to understand your members.  Initially serving on ASAE’s Component Relations Section Council was an extremely “meta” experience for me . I was used to putting together the schedule for my association’s councils, not serving as a council member. However, once I served as a council member, I began to better understand what a council member looks for from the association.

In the meantime, you will still learn what it is to be a member of an association. How much marketing impacts you, how well your milestones are tracked, what it’s like to deal with customer service; all of this will become research fodder for you in your work as an emerging association professional.

Rule #4: Expand Your Network

Proactively work at building relationships and expanding your circle professionally, so that you are constantly learning from those people around you. In addition to all of the networking benefits you will receive in the form of job offers, brainstorming, and reputation building; you will also cultivate your conversation skills and improve on your experiential knowledge.

You should start working to build your reputation early on by meeting as many people as possible and sharing with them your projects and stories….the types of things that will help leave a lasting impression of you. As time goes on, you will find that your reputation will carry more weight than your resume.  Don’t expect this to happen over-night,  but it will happen.

Your association is not the only place to connect. I am particularly fond of other ways to network, like Association Chat, for example. Association Chat, originally created by industry leader Jeff De Cagna and hosted by yours truly, KiKi L’Italien (@kikilitalien), is a weekly chat on Twitter that hosts discussions about the topics of the day for associations. The chat uses the hashtag #AssnChat and happens every Tuesday at 2 pm EST.

The final tip I’ll leave you with today:  Find a mentor!  Find two…find twenty! Mentors are worth their weight in gold because they can provide perspective in tough situations, as often they have been through similar struggles. Mentors can also help guide you to new opportunities you might have never otherwise known existed.  They’ve walked the walk, and talked the talk.  Lean on them whenever possible.
In the comments, please share your own advice, or ask questions if you like. I will answer as quickly as I read them and I am sure readers will appreciate the thought.

KiKi L'Italien. She's the Senior Social Media Consultant for Aptify and the weekly coordinator of #Assnchat, the weekly Tuesday afternoon Twitter conversation about association news and matters. If you'd like to join us on Twitter for #Assnchat, it's Tuesdays at 2pm. Check out her blog here.  

Monday, 3 February 2014

Your non-members - friends or foes?

Working for an association that does not have a certification or compliance function means being challenged daily to demonstrate a tangible return on investment to renewing, non-renewing and new professionals who do not feel the need to belong.

I believe that associations ignore opportunities to engage with non- members at their peril.  In 2011 my association (The Canadian Library Association) took a brave decision to directly engage with non-members through a new concept that now stands at  twenty four (24) groups and growing.  These discrete units mix members and non-members who share ideas and best practices, develop programs both for our annual conference and for a series of webinars throughout the year and lastly they take advocacy positions on issues of particular interest to them.  

Unofficial surveys of these non-members indicate that there is an awareness of the CLA and the role it plays within the library community in Canada.  Our newest network will look after the needs of new professionals just beginning their careers. The expectation is that at least 10% (approximately 60) of the non-members in these networks will eventually engage as members.  Plans are in train to reach out to these non-members to invite them to join.

I should  perhaps define what I mean by a ‘non-member’.  In my opinion, there are at least four categories of non-member:

  1. The former member (non-member in the sense that they have deliberately let their membership lapse).   We have contacted them on four or more occasions and they have indicated they will not renew.  Their reasons range from budget constraints, no longer in the industry, they have moved and lastly attempts to reconnect with them have not been successful
  2. The episodic non-member.  This is the member who has let their membership lapse only to reactivate it when the annual conference or some other association event is of interest to them.
  3. The peripheral member.  I call these ‘members’ in the loosest sense of the word.  They may or may not be former members who have found ways, perhaps through social media to engage with our association.
  4. The potential member.  The non-member in the industry who has not considered joining to date.

Where the first three categories above are concerned, a critical key to success is the maintenance of an up-to-date database.  I would argue that this is as important as the member database itself as it provides valuable data that can be used to contact individuals who have demonstrated varying degrees of openness to belonging.  Of course messaging would be different depending on which group is being targeted.

I keep a close eye on these membership campaigns, noting feed-back and also paying attention to results particularly renewals from lapsed members.  There are two main reasons why former members will decide to renew.  As stated above, a) our annual conference is taking place in their province and it is worthwhile to re-join for this reason alone or b) one of our advocacy initiatives has raised their perception of our association and they decide to give us another chance.

I would respectfully argue that the fourth and last group is the one that will require the most resources, both in terms of financial and human.  This last group of potential members will be the hardest to recruit.  Studies have shown that targeting lapsed, episodic or peripheral members will yield more immediate results than trying to break new ground with potential members.  In today’s tough budgetary climate where association dollars are closely monitored, potential members will need to ‘kick the tyres’ so to speak before making a commitment and this is where a ‘try us for a month/or three’ might bring some tangible results.  We will investigate and research this option and would be very happy to share results with readers. Conversely, if you have had some success with this approach targeting new members, we would love to hear from you.

In conclusion, I submit that our non-members are very definitely our friends and a careful, measured and thoughtful approach to engaging with them will bring tangible results, perhaps not today or tomorrow, but in the future.  If nothing else it will demonstrate that we care.

This post was provided by Geraldine Hyland, CAE, Member Services Manager with the Canadian Library Association.  She has worked for over fifteen years in the charities and not-for-profit sector in Canada and received her CAE in 2004.