A newsletter published by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) announced that an unprecedented 40% of emails are being opened on mobile devices. In other words, for the first time ever, more emails are being opened on mobile devices than desktop computers. For associations who publish newsletters and other media products, these statistics may be startling. In fact, associations who dabble in publishing are now considering the time and investment required to ensure they meet the needs of their target audience.
Recently, I have had numerous conversations with communications directors and executive directors who are concerned about mobile applications and their ability to ensure the association’s publications are accessible to the market. But with limited staff and resources, the cost seems high and the task daunting. For many, the association publishing effort is already a huge burden on staff and budget; and adding the need for mobile applications may be the tipping point that association executives cannot reasonably address without sacrificing other aspects of their association.
Unfortunately, if associations choose to remain entrenched in practices of the past, they may find themselves irrelevant in the marketplace. Kevin Williams, professor of marketing at the University of Texas, put it like this: “Organizations can choose to innovate and differentiate on their own, or be forced to do so by competitors.” What we know is that doing nothing will leave the association empty-handed. The publishing effort made by associations today is requiring creativity, innovation and flexibility.
There are multiple solutions to consider when addressing this dilemma. I speak with many associations who have hired new employees that have experience in technology enhanced publishing efforts. However, this is difficult because the best talent is working its way into large digital publishing companies, and associations rarely have budget to attract the needed talent.
A second and possibly more viable solution is for associations to partner with digital publishing companies who understand both associations and digital publishing. This approach is proving successful for associations who are able to leverage the staff, knowledge and resources of a 3rd party. Some of these publishers are dedicated to association publishing efforts and do not cost the associations anything. In fact, as part of some partnership agreements, associations gain access to the staff and resources of the 3rd party publishing team at no cost, and then leverage the sales arm of the publisher to generate non-dues revenue.
With solutions like this available to associations, it is only a matter of time before early adopters will push resistors out of the market and keep the audience and influence for themselves Rather than waiting around to see what others are doing, take the proactive approach and bring your association’s publications up to speed. If you are using the excuse that your membership isn’t ready for innovation, remember that often the marketplace doesn’t even know what it wants when it comes to innovation. In many cases, your membership (and board) will be more stuck in the past than the association itself. Make the move and the watch as your membership move with you.