Tuesday, April 28, 2009

4 Reasons I'll Use Twitter ... and more reasons others will

Here are 4 reasons I'll use Twitter:

1. Announcements: This appears to me to be the best function of the system. The one-way announcement feature. For example, letting members know a Hill Visit meeting time has changed, weather conditions have canceled a course, or reporting industry news. I'll use it personally ("to follow") as one of my teenage son's teachers is sending homework assignments out on Twitter; a spa is sending last-minute openings for various appointments out if/when they happen; local news uses Twitter; and our state government has Twitter as an option for citizen alerts.

2. Members are using it: I'm not a fan of doing a whole program to serve 6 members but now it's getting really mainstream. Every event and every program is now including Twitter discussion. And for better or worse, it is a new way for people to comment or complain. I read a story about a guy whose date sent a tweet (message) out to thousands of people (while at the table) saying she didn't like the chicken, but never bothered to tell her date - and he was the only one at the table with her. So now we need to seek out for ourselves that members don't like the chicken if they don't/won't tell us directly?

3. Those who teach should also "do": Because part of my job is explaining trends, it's nearly impossible to continue to leave Twitter out. And I find it's hard to teach things I don't personally use.

4. Oprah uses Twitter: Hey if Oprah's there, I'm there to see what she's saying. Same reason I tape her show every day and subscribe to the magazine. But social media (like Twitter) can actually be as one-way as watching television and reading a magazine; even if it "could" be conversational. And it has an audience. Ask CNN, Ashton Kutcher, and Oprah.

These are among other reasons to use Twitter from blogger/author/speaker Guy Kawasaki :

1. Sales and support: Another way for customers to connect with you;

2. Competitive intelligence: Don't just find out what people say about you and your company - check out the competition too. What are their customers saying and what does that mean to you?

3. News: Are you a news hound? Chances are good your favorite news source uses Twitter;

4. Hashtag discussions: Events or topics may use a hashtag (#) that brings people together to discuss that event or topic;

5. Ask questions: Can easily get fast "wisdom of the group" by asking a question.

I did check out a hashtag discussion for one conference I attended, and one that I didn't. Had details like "had pancakes for breakfast" and comments about the AV, etc. along with anything an attendee thought was a "meaningful quote". While reading along I wondered if those same attendees would communicate any of it to each other in real life - given the chance. There was likely really relevant info in there too - but I wasn't finding it (yet?) But maybe I'll play along next time. Pass the syrup.

Note: If you want a "how to" on Twitter, Judith Lindenau posted an easy-to-follow one on her blog here.

And I find I already have followers on Twitter, though I've yet to tweet anything: @cindybutts

Friday, April 24, 2009

Another speaker gift idea

Although I've questioned if speaker gifts may be better or more usable without the logo of the organization or conference, here's an exception: A box of brownies with one frosted with the sender's logo. This I like ... (and the brownies are seriously decadent ... and reasonably priced .... )

Monday, April 20, 2009

Robocall Case Study - Part 1

At a recent conference several association speakers relayed success with robocalls, where there's a recorded message sent to members via auto-dialed phone calls. They've been used with grassroots political activity, reminders about dues bills, notices of upcoming meetings, and likely other reasons too.

Case study: A colleague decided to try using robocalls for an upcoming membership meeting. She has 800 members and cell phone numbers for nearly all of them. Used cell phone instead of office phone number.

A few lessons she learned:

1. If you're going to make a robocall, email to let them know first so they aren't surprised;
2. Test it on a small group first - not just supportive Directors but a few random members who aren't predisposed to liking it;
3. Good to use a familiar voice on the call. In this case, it was the chief staff person;

4. Have enough staff in the office to take the calls about it - specifically the "missed call" that may show up on their cell phone log (with the association phone number);
5. Members may be on vacation or out of the country - one member got a call at 4AM in Vietnam, and spent $18 to call to say the incoming robocall cost $8;
6. Since the call started at 4 on a Friday (potentially not a good time to use in the future), a whole group at a happy hour (at 5PM on a Friday) got simultaneous calls;
7. Use the feature that stops the dialing after a particular time and day. In her instance she was glad she switched the default from ending at 8PM to 6:30PM, and did not have it resume the next day.

The outcome:

1. Twelve of the people who called the association office the first hour inquiring about the robocall signed up for the meeting on the call;
2. They had highest sign-ups for any membership meeting;
3. Several members did call really angry and asked to be removed from future calls - but not a significant/large number;
4. They are now polling members about continued/future use of the program.

Have you used robocalls in your association? How did you use it - and what lessons learned?

(More on other association robocall uses in a future Part 2)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Susan Boyle, Bo the Dog, and Being Happy

As I type this over 14 million people have already watched Susan Boyle, the 47-year old never-been-kissed contestant on "Britain's Got Talent" who wows YouTube watchers throughout the world with her voice and story. I know I've already watched the clip at least a dozen times.

Then there's Bo, who joins the White House as First Dog. There are those who question why the nation cares (a lot) about the Obama dog when there's so much bad news and problems we can focus on instead.

What the public is proving to the media, and to themselves is this: We want to be happy. We like having things to cheer about. Joy can be a goal, however we decided to find it.

At a meeting yesterday, the facilitator started by asking everyone to tell a story about something really good happening in their businesses. And everyone had a story. Then we were taught the rest of the day how to use our stories. I really liked that we were all really happy from the start of the stories, through the rest of the day.

Let's give ourselves permission to be happy. And our associations permission to be happy. Even if it's simple things like watching a crowd cheer for Susan Boyle (you go girl!), or watching Bo sniff out the First Lawn, or spending 10 minutes at the start of a meeting discussing happy things. Life is good.

Monday, April 13, 2009

What do you mean "too busy"?

The assistant at my veterinarian's office would not fax a copy of my dog's rabies certificate to the town office explaining (in a tone), "We are far too busy an office to send faxes." She did photocopy it and leave it for me at the desk to pick up, but faxing was out of the question. I explained it meant I had to drive across town to pick it up, but that changed nothing.


1. Are you "too busy" to fax? How about too busy to answer email? Do you tell members that? I don't think callers need to know about the staff workload. Maybe if the request would take hours to compile, it makes sense to explain an inability to do something -- but not things that could take 1-5 minutes to handle.

2. Does something happen to your tone when you're really busy? (Aren't we always really busy?) A little friendliness in the voice and "happy to help you" can go a long way.

3. Why make it harder for someone to get what they need? My first problem in this scenario is that my town hasn't activated online dog license renewals, as many other towns have done. The faxed form was only one way that could have saved me time in the process. Do we have unnecessary impediments to providing members with anything they may need?

4. "I'm sorry to bother you, but ... " I always cringe when members start calls or emails apologizing for bothering me. I do remind them that they pay a lot of money in dues, and it's no bother at all, they can contact me as often as they want. And I mean it. I'm grateful for my job, and I only have it because I'm willing to help a whole lot of people when they ask. And that's what I'm paid to do. Not a bother.

And separately, I did think it takes longer for the vet's office to photocopy a form, leave it in an envelope, then interact with one more person in line ... than to just fax it. But hey, why not make it harder for herself too?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Random Tip: Use the Salt

Here's a random tip (from a lobbyist) - When meeting others for drinks, do you sometimes find when you lift your glass/bottle, the napkin or coaster comes too?

Sprinkle salt on the top of a cocktail napkin or paper coaster - and it will stay on the table, instead of sticking to the bottom of your glass.

(Side thought: Couldn't someone think you're just randomly salting the table, if you don't instantly volunteer the reason?)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

More Great Templates from Bob Harris, CAE

I'm a huge fan of Bob Harris (a governance GOD) ... He recently sent me info about new templates and updates to documents that are now available on his website (free) ....

Can't link directly to documents, so you need to click TABS on his site. The good news is you'll also find many other documents that may interest you while there too.

Here's the latest ... (verbatim from Bob) ... At this link ...

OPERATING FRAMEWORK - updated 4-09 - The mandatory, primary and secondary systems and documents applicable for nearly every association. Ideal to inventory, assess and improve.
Left Tab: Mgmt Tips & Templates; Operating Documents; "Operating Framework 09"

COMMITTEE REVIEW ANALYSIS - created 4-09 - Too many committees? Sacred cow committees? A template for reviewing authorization, effectiveness, ROI.
Left Tab: Mgmt Tips & Templates; Committees; "Committee Analysis"

MEETING AND EVENTS REVIEW - created 4-09 - More meetings than you have staff? A template to review all programs, events, activities measures against four performance parameters.
Left Tab: Mgmt Tips & Templates; Meetings; "Activities Assessment"

BOARD JOB DESCRIPTIONS - created 2-09 - Generic job descriptions of officers and board.
Left Tab: Mgmt Tips & Templates; Board; "Board Job Descriptions"

INCREASE VOLUNTEER LEADERS - created 3-09 - Increase flow into the leadership pipeline; ideas to attract and develop volunteers. A collaborative effort document.
Left Tab: Mgmt Tips & Templates; Board; "Leadership Pipeline"

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Down for the Count

Monday morning, 3 AM, I wake up sick. Really, really sick. Which led to being either asleep or sick for the next 36 hours. So my thoughts after a miserable two days ....

1. What happens if you're too sick to do anything? Weirdly, I didn't have any meetings on Monday (and had to cancel a trip on Tuesday) ... but it could have been a disaster if I actually needed to speak somewhere. It's possible to do so much that it's easy to overlook the possibility that you won't be able to show up. Do you think about back-ups even for some of the more routine things you do? Who would go in your place?

2. Things really can wait. I had a whole list of things I absolutely had to do on Monday. Now they won't be done until Wednesday or Thursday and it's actually no big deal. Everything waited. How many self-imposed deadlines do we have of things that really can wait?

3. Do our bodies tell us to slow down? If you're finding the only time you're taking off is due to illness, think about that. If you're dreaming of a trip but not taking it because you're too busy, imagine if you woke up sick. You'd have no choice but to take time off. Enjoy your health.

4. Don't do unto others. Even if you want to work at the office when you're sick, there are others who really need you to not do that. And they need to not do that too.

5. Dogs know. My pup stayed by my side for 36 hours, only leaving for very short walks. They know.

6. Chicken broth is tastier than I remembered. Have you tried it lately? Why is it better?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

In the Navy

I recently had a Navy Blue conundrum: Exactly what color shoes to wear with navy blue? (Don’t know what the deal is with avoiding that color suit all these years.) Google was no help at all as totally conflicting advice – aside from universal agreement not to wear blue shoes with a blue suit.

So I asked colleague Nancy, who spent years in fashion (including shoes) at Neiman Marcus before her association exec career. She didn't hesitate to give this advice, with certainty:

If you wear navy pants with a light shirt - brown shoes
If you wear navy pants with a dark shirt - black shoes

If you wear a navy blazer with lighter pants - brown shoes
If you wear a navy blazer with dark pants - black shoes

She added this: “I would put a reminder that your shoes and belt should always match in color. If you are wanting to make an accessory pop (such as great shoes) then it would be OK to wear a dark shoe with light pants otherwise you would want to wear shoes that match as close to the pant color as possible.”

Being in the navy is one thing ... Might be a few more years before I work on making accessories pop.

Thanks Nancy!