Saturday, January 31, 2009

Attn Members: Go ahead and misbehave

The 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale / FBR Open is different from other holes in golf tournaments. It's enclosed with seating (like a stadium) and rather than the enforced silence at all other holes, this one allows (and even encourages) viewers to yell, boo, sing, and chant at the players. Which does change up the game - even if for only one hole, only once a year.

What if every association had one meeting that's the 16th hole? And rather than a respectful town hall forum, encouraged the attendees to just say whatever they wanted (from their seats) or boo at will? Would it change up the game and bring them back for more?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Info is spread if it's interesting enough to spread

When the members, the public and the media aren't talking about something the association is interested in, is there a chance it's because it's just not interesting?

The NY Times published an article about interest in a recipe for a "Bacon Explosion" which includes "two pounds of bacon woven through and around two pounds of sausage and slathered in barbecue sauce." With 5,000 calories and 500 grams of fat, the recipe has had many hundreds of thousands of views and 16,000 blogs (now 16,001) have linked to it.


1. What can an association report that would make hundreds of thousands want to read it, link to it, forward it?

2. Are we interesting?

3. For associations that do recipe books for fundraisers - have you thought about doing one online; or if you do cooking challenges as fundraisers - what can challenge creativity?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Rules of Engagement

A staff person of a committee of the Legislature emailed these "Rules of Engagement": [bolding by me]

"1. There is no food or beverage allowed in the committee room by the public.

2. Please turn off all electronic devices. Violators of this rule will be fined.

3. If you are testifying or providing information to the committee, you must, provide 20 copies of the testimony to the committee clerk. They must include name and affiliation of the presenter as well as the date and which piece of legislation it pertains to. You can simply add the [reference] number to the top. Please note extra copies are a courtesy and not a requirement.

4. If you would like to speak to one of my members please approach my desk and ask to see them. I will be happy to get them for you. It’s inappropriate to approach the horseshoe.

5. If you have any questions or concerns please don’t hesitate to contact me."

So what do you think, should association groups have "rules of engagement" too? Do you already have some?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Just Fix It ... (like Obama)

It's remarkable that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the President of the United States - two highly intelligent and skilled men - could screw up something as easy as just reading and repeating the exact words in the Oath of Office. But they did. And this gives me hope too, and I believe gives good insight and example for us all.


1. Even the smartest people can make very easy mistakes with very public display of that mistake. Unfortunately, association executives can make very easy mistakes that are very public too. And there actually isn't much that anyone can do to prevent it - it just happens. To everyone.

2. If there's a potential to ensure that the fix is really the fix - then fix it. I loved that the outcome was to repeat the Oath of Office in a private ceremony just to be sure that there was positively no question that the verbatim oath actually did happen. There are multitudes of examples in our careers were we face the "well this is probably okay" evaluation of a decision or a situation - if there's any way to turn a probably into a definitely then it's worth the extra call, the extra checking, the extra fixing, the do-over to be SURE that it's right (or fixed).

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A social media friend - until you get a better offer?

For some reason I've been incredibly entertained by the entire Facebook flap involving a Burger King campaign. Burger King offered a free Whopper to anyone who would defriend (i.e., remove) 10 of their Facebook friends. As an added bonus, the people who are defriended got a message that their "friend" selected a Whopper over them. After 233,000 plus friends are quickly eliminated, Facebook decides that it can't allow that application to exist, including for "privacy" reasons (i.e., we're not supposed to be "notified" when we get dumped by a "Friend" on Facebook).


1. Quantifying the value of a relationship - Everyone wants to measure social media relationships. I'm thinking if you have an online relationship that someone will give up for a free Whopper, maybe rethink it. Might want to go for the friends who will buy you dinner.

2. Media campaigns getting funner - Because social media opens up so many more (and less expensive) options for getting a message out, there's opportunity for associations to be more fun than they may otherwise appear to be. And opportunities on Facebook.

3. Enough with the thoughts of privacy - The fun part about Facebook is that it's not private. I genuinely enjoy all the things I've learned about association members and colleagues that I absolutely, positively would not have known without Facebook. But there are still those out there who believe if they post a video, picture, thought online that it's somehow still private. The Terms of Service may give others rights too. And the thoughts you don't know you've been dumped unless someone tells you - well, maybe we actually can tell.

4. Follow Me, Follow You - Apparently with Twitter if you "follow" someone (who isn't otherwise famous), then there's pretty much an assumption they're going to "follow" you back. So depending on how much extra time you have in your work day or life there are people who do this with more than 1,000 people. In an interview with Lance Armstrong he explained that thousands follow him, but he doesn't really follow anyone. That I get. The part where a bunch of people follow each other just to be followed back - that I don't get.

Are you building relationships or building counts with social media friends?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

How to turn off happy members

Yesterday I received a letter indicating in ALL CAPS: "This is your FOURTH RENEWAL NOTICE"; and enclosure starts with - "This is the 4th notice we have sent to you about your [magazine] subscription. We need to hear from you!" .... and then continues.

Almost made it seem like I wasn't just slightly past due for renewal but way, way, way past due. But I'm never past due. Says in small print my expiration date is JULY 09.

There's a chance I was a charter subscriber of the magazine (they had me at hello) and have been a loyal and happy subscriber. But now I'm mad. They're telling me that they've already told me over and over about my renewal and they NEED to hear from me. What they're forgetting is that I don't need to hear from them and have the option to just drop them.

Do we do this with our dues billing process? Have we figured out how to turn off happy members just with our repeated reminders about dues deadlines that may be months away?

1. Member convenience - We intentionally back up dues billing four months earlier than the due date because we hear that end of year is a terrible time financially.

2. Repeated reminders - Due to routine heavy volume of "I never got it" we're more likely to send reminder notice a few times prior to the dues deadline so we can legitimately say that there were multiple attempts to give them the bill. But what about the part of the membership who actually prefers to pay close to the deadline - are they thankful for all the reminders or does mentioning dues four times turn off those who otherwise may not be annoyed?

3. The tone - Creating urgency or implying the members are screwing up by not wanting convenience of an early payment may be a risky approach. Does the tone of our dues billing communications turn off happy members?

They don't want the dues bill anyway, so is it possible to make it even worse by how we say it?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Quote of the Day: Now

I put this quote on my profile the day I joined AOL in 1995. It's still there. And still believe it.

"Anything worth doing is worth doing now."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Changing the Experience

I went to a Desert Botanical Garden (in AZ) to see a Chihuly exhibit. He's an artist who makes large glass sculptures that are then placed throughout an existing space, and may even be lighted at night. And it was really crowded.

1. Art can be a draw. One of our local associations offered a social program at an art museum and it was very well attended. Quite different from having meetings with industry speakers.

2. Change the experience. So many things we do have the opportunity to be re-launched or made more interesting by directly seeking out ways to change the experience for the attendee. If a program launched poorly, why not think re-launch - but be fun, interesting and meaningful this time?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Granted, it's easier to just sit ...

Association management can often be sitting at a desk and sitting in meetings ... or even if out ... it's driving, sitting in other meetings, sitting at restaurants. A lot of sitting.

In deciding to do a desert walk the parentheses said it was for intermediate to advanced level. Walking the dog and walking across the office to get coffee may not be the right training for an advanced hike. As I looked at each hill ahead it was fairly clear how much time has been spent on fitness. Not to mention the pain afterwards.


1. People really do make time for what they want to make time for. Is it really impossible to get more fit?
2. The hardest things can sometimes be the most rewarding. It might be easy to skip the hard parts, but there could be a reward at the end of it.
3. There's always value in training. Not just fitness, but professional skill building. Don't skip training.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Pay attention, and breathe

While at a resort, ended up with my own personal meditation class. After explaining no I haven't meditated and no I've never tried yoga, the instructor immediately turned off the lights, turned on spa music, arranged my position, made me breathe a specific way and insisted I look directly at her (or the floor) for the next hour. And she talked.

From memory, here's her advice (as there's no way it would have been okay to pull out paper to write notes) ....

1. Live in the moment - stop always planning ahead or looking back;
2. "Be blessed, not stressed" - at times of transition or stress, you need to stop, breathe, and experience gratitude that you're able to feel. And spend time thinking about gratitude;
3. Pay attention - even if it's easy to multi-task you'll be surprised at the rewards of paying complete attention to someone who is talking to you. Look at their eyes entire time; or if you're on the phone don't look at your computer, blackberry, television, anything else at the same time;
4. Find joy.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Media pulling quotes from association blog

An association paid tribute on their blog to a past president who passed away. Because his tragic death made national news, a few quotes from those posting comments on the blog were included in national media reports. For example, CNN online relayed, "On a memorial blog set up by the Chicago Association of Realtors, for which [Steve] Good once served as president, friends and colleagues described him as a gregarious man with a big personality. He was a savvy businessman who built his company into a major national real estate company that did deals with Donald Trump, they said."

1. Associations should do immediate online tribute, especially for past presidents;
2. The association focus is him as a person, with his industry and association contributions;
3. Posted comments included association staff, his company colleagues, other members, friends, and the public. When you post on public sites do you consider CNN might be reporting too? In this instance, both the post and the comments provided positive information for the media about someone who made a significant difference to the industry and association.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Dress for success - says who?

My home for the holidays daughter asked me if what I was wore to the office today was "a bit outdated." So I explained the concept of "timeless." She was clearly not buying into that idea.

1. Dressing for success is likely being either redefined, or there are very different perceptions of what that is;

2. How many association programs, products or even policies are considered timeless by some and outdated by others? And who makes that distinction - Are both descriptions right? Are both wrong?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Another year, another vacation skipped

In a reflective moment as I spent the entire day at the office on another Sunday it crossed my mind that I let another year go by without taking real vacation time. Unless it counts to take four days off for food poisoning and a week off to pack/bring my daughter to college. Those were sooooo relaxing.

However, this terrible practice does not rub off on my staff as they know to take every day available. And I'm not at all learning.

There really is a price to be paid in the "not getting re-charged" department. So here I sit, in my office, thinking about 2009. One long weekend planned so far.


1. It really isn't possible to catch up;
2. There's never a good time to take a vacation - problems just replace each other;
3. Whose fault is it? I know it's not my association or officers - it's my fault;
4. Take your vacation time - all of it. Or you'll miss it. I know this.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

You Go Girl: Carol starts an association blog

My longtime friend and fellow REALTOR Association Exec Carol Van Gorp has started a blog.

One of the first things to decide when starting a blog is who your audience is, and this is how Carol describes it on her blog: "My intent is to speak to my members (and anyone else who is interested) on issues that we deal with at the Columbia Board of REALTORS [Missouri] - both on a staff level and on a volunteer leadership level. Maybe we can answer the age-old question of 'What were they thinking?' I’m going to try for a few weeks and see how it goes."

I think Carol's decision to do this type AE-to-member blog communication makes her unique, and worth watching ... Here's a few examples of what she's posted so far:

1. A YouTube video of her explaining how the association is going to use a NAR grant they received;

2. An explanation of a decision by a local newspaper to stop delivering their association consumer publication, and what they're doing in response;

3. Thoughts on dues collection, budget and explaining hard look at services for the New Year. Post includes this classic comment [emphasis mine]: "Everyone asks me how we are doing. It’s really hard to tell because you all pay at the last minute .... The dues being due right after Christmas is a hard time for everyone. It’s a slow closing period which makes it worse. In Miami, we billed in the summer for the following calendar year’s dues ... Everyone hated that too because they didn’t want the association to hold their money that long. My guess is that no payment date would be any better than the next. New Year’s Eve will bring about a third of our membership in to the office to pay. It’s really kind of fun to see everyone!"

Three words, Carol: You Go Girl! Can't wait to see what else you post ....

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Check out these "Unspoken Truths for Association Leaders"

Association management blogger Kevin Holland has a great series of "Asides" on his blog called "Unspoken Truths for Association Leaders" ..... With his permission, I'm posting some of my favorites below, but you can get all of them at this link.

Unspoken Truths for Association Leaders: (by Kevin Holland)

# 6: Reaching the right decision is more important than reaching consensus.

# 7: A committee should not exist solely because it existed last year.

# 9: Sometimes it really has been tried before, and sometimes it really didn’t work.

# 12: "Making information available” and “communicating” are two completely different things.

# 13: Having opinions, and voicing them, does not disqualify one from being a leader, but it doesn’t qualify one, either.

# 15: Don't cling to things that should work, but don’t. Move on.

# 16: A chairmanship should not be a reward for past efforts. It should be a request for service from someone who brings wisdom and talent to the task.

# 17: In an ideal world, confidential things would be kept … confidential. We do not live in an ideal world.

# 19: Be wary of people who value being “right” above all. They make good actuaries, perhaps even good attorneys, but they make lousy association leaders. (Even if you are an association of actuaries or attorneys.)