Archive for the 'Insights' Category

Measure It All

By Carla Kalogeridis

This year being a “census” year in our nation, it got me thinking about association publishers, and when and how we take a “census” of our members and readers—not just counting them, but actually gathering useful information to help us plan and create better media products.

The bottom line is that publication performance data is your ultimate tool for competitiveness and survival. Knowing exactly how you are performing and competing can tell you when to take action to prevent losing clout in your industry or funding from your association—if you have the numbers early enough to do something about them.

I happen to live and work in Michigan. Michigan is not going to be a shining star in the 2010 U.S. Census. How do I know that? Well, last December, the U.S. Census released preliminary numbers related to the U.S. population, and it does not look good for Michigan. The only three states to lose population from July 2008 to July 2009 were Michigan, Maine, and Rhode Island. This means that Michigan will lose a Congressional seat and our clout in Washington, DC. We also will lose federal funding to those states that gained population.

Now, suppose that Michigan is one of your association’s publications. If you’ve got accurate and recent data, you know what challenges are coming, and you can take action to deal with them. If your publication is well-read and respected, the survey will confirm that—and if the opposite is true, the survey will open your eyes to that fact as well. Then, if you are tasked with cutting back, you know without a doubt, which publications are scoring well with your members and which are not.

Just as the U.S. Census sticks to its 10-year schedule without fail, gathering information about your association publications’ performance and competitiveness on a regular basis (every 12 months for sure, six months is even better) will also allow you to take stock of where you were and how it compares to where you are today.

Using an expert’s help to craft and conduct a reader survey is recommended. When you write the survey yourself, you’re just too close to it, and you will (either on purpose or unknowingly) write the questions in a way to elicit the response you are hoping to get. Furthermore, surveys conducted by an independent expert hold much more clout with advertisers than those conducted by the association itself.

However, if you really do not have the funds to conduct a well-executed reader survey, doing your own survey is better than nothing at all. At least it tells the members you are listening. Ask your association colleagues to share samples of their reader surveys to give you some ideas.

And remember, the most important question is not: “Rank our publications in order of their usefulness to you.” The most important question is: “Where do you get your information?” You need to know what information sources (and delivery choices, e.g. print publications, newsletters, newspapers, blogs, social media, etc.) your members turn to most. That will tell you much more than holding a popularity contest among the association’s own publications.

Your publications land on your members’ desks and in their inboxes every day—there’s no better door-to-door than that. Measure everything about your publications that can possibly be measured—your future depends on it.

Carla Kalogeridis
President, ARION Media Services

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That Dog Looks Fat

By Carla Kalogeridis

“That dog looks fat,” I said to Anthony, my husband and business partner of more than 20 years.

He stopped and gave our dog the once-over. “Sorry, don’t see it,” he said, and of course, he was right. Sophia tilted her head at us, a chocolate fluff of Cocker Spaniel perfection. OK, she’s not perfect – Sophia has a bit of an under bite, which makes the tip of her tongue stick out, even when her mouth is closed. With her tongue stuck out like that, she looks like she’s giving me “the paw”—but she is definitely not fat.

“Why are you picking on the dog?” my husband frowned at me.

“Gotta write that blog,” I explained. “We’re launching the new site tomorrow, and I’ve got to do a blog entry.”

“Oh,” Anthony said, practically running from the room, and not daring to point out that other than the obvious rhyme, the dog had absolutely nothing to do with the blog. Sophia stuck her tongue at me again and then darted after him.

With no other potential objects of frustration left in my home office, I turned back to the laptop and took a deep breath. We had just come back from my son’s buddy’s graduation party. (Our son’s own party had been the previous weekend, and let me point out, it is much more fun to be the guest at a graduation party than it is to host one and watch the gorgeously thin high school girls flitter in like butterflies and refuse to touch the pasta, chicken tenders, dinner rolls, or cake.)  But the party had gotten me thinking about my own high school years and remembering what my dreams had been back then.

The graduate’s mom had asked, “Are you staying for cake and coffee?” and I heard myself say, “No, thank you. I’ve got to get back home and write a blog.”

How did I get from aspiring novelist to blogger??? Blog, blog—where’s that dog?!

I opened a folder on my computer and named it “Blog.” I’ve never done that before, and I must admit, it was pretty satisfying. Maybe not as satisfying as seeing your name in bold all-caps on the front of a hardcover novel in Borders, but still—pretty darn good. Don’t get me wrong—this is not the first blog entry I’ve ever written. I’ve written blogs for several association clients. But those were their blogs, and this one’s mine. Holy moly! This one’s mine?

I think picking the name for this blog was one of the hardest things I’ve done recently. I tried to be clever; I tried to make a play on words. I’m a pretty darn good headline-writer most of the time, so I thought naming a blog would be a walk in the park. It wasn’t.

So, after an hour of googling and ogling, I settled for the obvious: The Association Media Blog. It’s a good choice, I think. With the exception of the occasional B2B magazine over the years, all of our clients are associations, and all of our work for them involves conceptualizing, creating, writing, designing, and selling their various media products. Oh, the stories I could tell about association publishers!

Before you get too excited – this is not a kiss-and-tell blog about clients, and I have no Julia and Julia-inspired notions that our blog will one day be made into a movie starring Meryl Streep. Anthony and I are starting this blog with the hope that it will be fun for us and you, and that we can share some association publishing insights and inspirations along the way.

So, I hope you’ll check back each week or subscribe to The Association Media Blog. And if you feel so inclined, we’d love to read your comments on the blog topic du jour.

And now, I’ve got to go apologize to the dog.

Carla Kalogeridis
President, ARION Media Services

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