Serving the needs of large, diverse groups under one big tent is an inherent challenge for industry and professional associations. And no team within an association feels that challenge as acutely as the media group.
The media team at the American Psychological Association is no different, and its deputy executive director of communications, Kim Mills, has been a key point person in its efforts to best balance the various, evolving interests of its members. Mills, who will be a panelist on the “Defining Your Mission: Member Benefit or Industry Voice?” session at the Folio: Association Media Summit in Washington, D.C. in May, spoke with Folio: about association communications challenges and gave a preview of some of the insights she will bring to the event.
Folio: Who is the APA audience and how is that changing?
Kim Mills: We’re trying to educate the public about psychology’s application to everyday life; reach members—practitioners, academics, researchers, businesspeople—with the tools and information they need in their jobs; provide information to psychology students and teachers; and engage constantly with the media. And we’re now trying to reach out to former and lapsed members to bring them back to the group.
Folio: What are some emerging communications challenges for the APA?
Mills: One is providing members the benefits and services they want and need, especially in the age of social media. Associations like ours used to be the top place to network and make professional connections. Now, younger psychologists are meeting up in virtual spaces. They feel less of a need for or allegiance to a national association. So we’re looking at new ideas for how to make the APA relevant to existing and potential members. We’re working with a lot of data that tells us what members value. Some of our actions have been misunderstood by the public and the media. This has led to a retooling of our work and our being much more “plan-ful” in how—and how often—we communicate.
Folio: What form has that taken?
Mills: We’re making a concerted effort to be transparent in all we do as an association. That’s meant more, and more frequent, communication with members, staff, and the public. We’re posting more association-related information on the website, sending more communiques to members and reaching out more to the media. We’re also devoting a lot of effort to changing the public’s view of psychology. They don’t view it as a hard science, so we’re trying to position it as a STEM discipline.