By Association Adviser staff
Like publishers everywhere, producers of association publications large and small are coming to the realization that they will not survive, much less thrive, unless they diversify their offerings to members and move into the digital era. The challenge? How do you know you have the right balance between shelf life and immediacy? How do you know you have the right balance between traditional, print-based member communication vehicles and two-way electronic media? (see related story in this issue). This includes social media and other forms of user-generated content.
How will integrated media impact our future?
Integrated media is our future, and it's also the future of the association publishing industry.
“There are so many tools available to associations today to communicate to members and generate non-dues revenue,” says Alex DeBarr, president & CEO of Naylor, LLC. “But properly utilizing all these tools—and maximizing an association's brand and communication power—requires careful thinking about coordination and integration of the content and revenue opportunities. Done right it really does release the great messaging power that all associations possess but usually do not maximize. And releasing the association's information and messaging power usually opens the door to significant non-dues revenue.”
From content and promotions to distribution and customized sales packages for advertisers and exhibitors, tomorrow's association will produce multiple media that appeals to both regular members (readers) and supplier members (advertisers/exhibitors). “Integrated media is a relatively new concept for many associations and is becoming standard practice in a majority of consumer and business-to-business (B2B) media companies,” adds DeBarr. “But it's not easy either. The road is lined with large media companies that haven't mastered it yet, and frankly, that creates a significant opportunity for associations.”
With an integrated media approach, association publishers can maximize their return on member communication assets. For instance:
- You can repurpose article material from your magazine into an audio or video podcast that is housed on and downloaded from your Web site.
- You can increase the circulation of your e-newsletter by inviting qualified non-members to opt in to the distribution list. The added readership not only makes your publication more attractive to advertisers and sponsors but widens the pool of potential members and conference attendees.
- Development of electronic versions of print magazines is a simple and direct way to extend the magazine distribution significantly for almost no cost. This also delivers the eyeballs of potential members, builds the association brand and adds a non-dues revenue opportunity.
Integration goes even further.
- You can coordinate the distribution of all member communications to help you time and organize certain content or messaging.
- You can extend or “jump” print articles to your electronic media.
- By close coordination of each form of media, you can cross promote each form of media (including your events). Promoting your Web site and online media in your print and vice versa is a great way to build the power of all.
- And last but certainly not least, you can offer your supplier members, advertisers and sponsors an integrated package that spans your portfolio of communication vehicles with a single consistent message.
“Despite today's climate, not every association relies on its member communications as a way to generate revenue,” says Charles Popper, Naylor's vice president of association relations and a 15-year veteran of association publishing. “The future of association publishing is to ask, 'Why not?' By virtue of what an association represents, it has the ability to create a powerful medium for advertisers. Maintaining a strong presence—whether in print, online or through events—is vital to the health of every association, and in the end, this is in the best interest of the associations' members.”
“Integrated media has positively influenced our association clients' futures, and it will benefit advertisers as well,” says Naylor Group Publisher Mark Migliore. “Previously, advertisers were approached about projects on an individual, à la carte basis. Today, the transition has begun to provide an integrated sales approach, and advertisers have the option to choose an advertising campaign package that spans offerings from Internet exposure and booth space at trade shows to traditional print advertising.”
Erik Henson, a Naylor senior account executive, concurs: “Integrated media allows associations to cross sell far more effectively than in the past. Packaging of options with lower rates will also provide our advertisers with a more cost-effective method of implementing an effective, integrated media approach to their media plans. It is our future!”
Why print is still relevant
In the association marketplace, you are dealing with multiple audiences across a vast number of industries, so you must find a way to accommodate multiple needs and wants. Although there are some high-tech associations that fully embrace the digital approach to member communication, associations should be wary of putting all of its member-touch vehicles into one basket—that goes for digital or print.
“Print always will be a key component of an integrated communications package. With few exceptions, association members see a top-quality magazine or membership directory as a tangible and highly regarded benefit of membership,” says Popper. “It's important that they see the benefit in diversifying their communications to suit their unique audience, but balance is really the key to an effective communication program.”
Enter digital magazines, (aka e-zines). Naylor Vice President of Electronic Media Marcus Underwood believes any association that currently has a magazine in print should take the simple step of turning it into a digital edition. “E-magazines are a natural extension of print and make it easy for an association to begin to develop an online presence,” says Underwood.
Naylor Publisher Kathleen Gardner agrees: “I had a state association executive director who received more than 160 e-mails after it introduced a quarterly magazine online, and all were positive comments. Members felt the association was delivering exactly what they needed and that it was moving with them in technological advancements.”
Will the current economy change the way you do business?
Newspapers that have been around for decades are struggling, magazines are fighting to retain market share and publishers of all sizes are re-tooling their businesses to remain afloat, including those in the association arena.
“Advertisers have an overabundance of choices today and the challenge we all have—no matter what the economy is like—is to make sure they appreciate the value of association media,” says Chris Caldwell, Naylor executive vice president of sales and marketing.
“Online advertising via e-newsletters, Web sales and buyers' guides continue to grow and gain ground, but don't let that fool you into thinking they will replace print,” says Migliore. “We see the newspaper world crumbling because companies realize that the dollars they spend in mass marketing are not well spent because it is very difficult to measure impact.
“These companies are looking for vehicles that target their specific audience,” he adds. “They want to be able to measure the impact their dollars are having.”
As the world becomes more technologically advanced and as advertising budgets are more heavily scrutinized, mass marketing of products and services will no longer suffice. There are more targeted options out there. Whether through broadcast, print, online or events, companies have to spend their valued advertising budgets where it counts by reaching the people with whom they want to do business.
Social media is a shift in how people discover, read and share news, information and content. It's a fusion of sociology and technology, transforming monologues into dialogues. Social media has become extremely popular because it allows people to connect online to form personal and business relationships.
Canada Group Publisher Bob Phillips believes that over the next five years social media will see tremendous adoption by associations. “Associations are already talking about how they can adapt these communication opportunities for their memberships,” he said. “Associations should also be building their brands on sites such as Facebook and YouTube. Many companies, including their supplier members, are using these social media opportunities for marketing and recruitment purposes already.”
Savvy associations are constantly evolving and re-thinking the way they service members and reinventing strategies for approaching their industry's vendors and suppliers. Looking into the crystal ball, some of your challenges and accomplishments are clear and easy to see, while other milestones are not quite as predictable and finding the right kind of strategic partner to help you get there can really make a difference. As long as you continue to stand alone by being a step ahead of the competition and providing exceptional member service, the boundaries are endless.
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