This is the eleventh in a series of Q&A's with speakers at the Folio: Association Media Summit on May 3rd in Washington, D.C.
“More” and “better” often go hand-in-hand when the subject is excelling. But when trying to stay within budgets while meeting bottom-line goals, they can also describe two very different and opposing approaches.
That’s often the case for associations that understand the value of communication, but struggle with how to fund something that sometimes lacks clear payback metrics and competes fiercely with other priorities.
At Associations Now, the member communications arm of ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership, editorial managers approach the challenge of meeting goals with a heavy emphasis on creativity and smart tactics. Julie Shoop, VP/editor-in-chief of Associations Now, will reveal some elements of that strategy as panelist during the “Succeeding in a Resource Poor, Idea Rich Environment” session at the Folio: Association Media Summit in May.
Here, enjoy a sneak preview of some of the insights Shoop will offer.
Folio: How are you doing more with less, or at least less than you’d probably like?
Julie Shoop: To me, “doing more with less” is a fallacy. All associations have to deal with limited resources. Doing significantly more usually takes more investment. The question is, do you really need to do a lot more, meaning in terms of volume, or can you do a little bit more and do a better job of delivering it with the resources available to you.
In this business, good journalism or other editorial content doesn’t grow on trees. It takes the work of a talented team, and I think that’s an important message that any editor needs to communicate to leadership.
One of the tactics that we’ve used to gain efficiency is to rely on a beat system, like the classic newspaper model where someone covers the courts or city hall or the local art scene. Each editor is responsible for covering certain association management topic areas, and they feed that content into multiple channels. They get really good at multipurposing—ike turning one interview into three different stories for three different channels—and they gain deep knowledge of those subject areas and build relationships with the best, most knowledgeable sources. This really has our team cooking with gas.
Folio: How have you, personally, come to develop a strategy along these lines?
Shoop: I learned a lot during the recession of 2008–2009. I was working at a different association at the time, and we had to make some extremely difficult decisions about what our publishing program could produce on drastically reduced resources.
That experience made crystal clear to me that “we’ve always done it that way” was the road to failure. I learned to take a cold, hard look at what was working and what wasn’t, which products were producing results commensurate with cost and which were not, and where we had not kept pace with our readers’ needs. I can’t claim that we solved every problem, but I think I started to learn the right questions to ask, and that it’s important to ask them before you’re facing a crisis. You can always be more deliberate and thoughtful when you’re asking challenging questions from a position of strength.
Folio: Where does Associations Now fit into ASAE’s overall mission?
Shoop: It keeps growing in importance as a method of audience engagement and a driver of business in other areas of the association. Of course, we aim to maximize direct revenue through advertising, but creating and delivering meaningful content and a great user experience gives us the best opportunity to help all boats rise.
If people read Associations Now Daily News every morning, or even once or twice a week, they’re reminded of their connection to ASAE, and they’re continuously exposed to our community and ASAE’s other offerings, like books, research, and events. If we do a good job of building credibility and value in our media brand, we help showcase the value of the organization as a whole.