Associations are facing huge internal and external pressures in the areas of member value and ROI, according to Justin Greeves, vice president and senior account executive of Roper Public Affairs Group. “There’s a lot of pressure to create member value and demonstrate return on investment,” Greeves said to an audience of 140 at the Society of National Association Publications’ Annual Publication Management Conference in Chicago this morning. “It used to be that it was the right thing to do to be a part of your professional society, but that’s no longer good enough. You have to prove what the value of your membership is.”
Internal issues for associations include pressure to generate non-dues revenue, said Greeves, who works with a number of larger associations at Roper, including The American Red Cross and AARP. According to Greeves, several larger associations have even hired individuals whose sole responsibility is to generate non-dues revenue. “Your publication is a critical communications channel, a tangible benefit that reinforces loyalty, generates revenue, and provides useful information,” he said.
In his hour-long presentation, Greeves cited a research study done by Roper for The Custom Publishing Council that investigates Americans’ attitudes toward the usage of custom publications. Greeves used the custom publishing research to provide insight about association members who are recipients of association publications. His speech suggested that custom publications, like association magazines, are sponsored titles reaching a target audience.
According to the CPC study, 84 percent of people who have read a custom publication have read publications that are sent from associations to which they belong. “Custom publications do strengthen the relationship with the sponsoring company or entity,” said Greeves. “Nearly eight in 10 people say that when they receive a complimentary publication, they feel it shows the sponsor believes in its products.”
According to Greeves, the key to success to maximize association magazines is member research. “This is an area where many associations are really not strong,” said Greeves. “Have an ongoing program to evaluate your publication’s impact and success. Develop key metrics and ROI frameworks to show leadership. Know who your readers and how they are using the magazine.”
If larger research budgets are not available, association magazines can use self-administered tools to generate research. Web site intercept studies and in-book tear outs with a business reply envelope are low-cost solutions to reader research. Greeves also suggested asking a research company for consulting advice, or using your annual association meeting as a time to form focus groups. “Even if its convenience research, it’s better than nothing,” said Reeves. “It doesn’t have to be a big piece of research, it can be simple but you need to be doing something.”
Another highlight from the CPC study shows that people who read custom publications have more favorable views of the companies that sponsor them. “Ask yourself ﾑWhat kind of materials do you have in place to measure perceptual return on investment?’ Ask yourself if your members who receive the publication are getting more out of the society.”