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Dear KCSAE Colleagues,

Recently, it seems every other association industry advice article focuses on value statements and the struggles many associations have in communicating them – with the answer usually arriving on some version of “more, clearer marketing.”

While the topic is vital, I think that answer is off the mark. The issue is likely deeper than that.

I offer that if associations have a “more” problem today, it actually is that – in wanting to offer or be “more” in effort to remain relevant and grow – they lose, or have lost, sight of their core mission and purpose.

Short-term membership incentive programs built for quantity boosts instead of long-term quality.  Events not built to tie into the mission or strategic plan in a meaningful way. Loose awards and recognition programs that don’t reflect or celebrate achievement within the core mission or purpose.

All of those things can mean well, but if they aren’t centered, they simply add confusion – for everyone – when it comes to understanding the value of your association. When it comes to “more marketing”, loudly drumbeating that confusion makes the confusion noisy.

So … what to do about that? Everyone involved, from the Board down, needs to stay core strong.

For our Boards: If you’ve served on a Board or ever been in a Board room, you know conversations can, literally, go anywhere at any time. It’s wise to keep conversational guiderails in place to keep agendas on track and, more importantly, in line with the mission and vision. If you’re a CEO, you can sometimes help do this directly with timely interjections and recommendations for moving on to other items.

In general, everyone in the room periodically remembering why you’re all together in the first place (mission/vision) is never a bad thing!

This helps keep meeting results, and resulting actions, in the mission/vision sandbox.

For us, as association professionals: With the Board’s thoughts and actions in line, it’s up to us as staff to operationalize that sentiment and those things coming our way. This is where marketing comes in. Staying in the same mission/vision box lends itself to common language and common communication.

As a communications/marketing professional, I can tell you it is MUCH easier to clearly and congruently communicate those things that stay in the same sandbox! The same is true across all departments.

For our volunteer leader groups: Depending on your organization’s scale, there may be some overlap here with the Board. In any case, your Committees, Work Groups, etc., all should be on the same mission/vision-centric wavelength as your staff and Board. As a staff liaison, you can help make this happen and should do so for all of the same sandbox reasoning above.

For our members: With all key stakeholders toeing the same line, messaging (i.e. “marketing”) becomes much, much easier. With members hearing and seeing the same mission and vision from staff and leadership, they can home in on the clear value your association brings because they see, read, hear, and FEEL the “why we exist”.

At that point, how often you communicate is up to you and your marketing staff. But the quality and clarity of message will be there for you to use as you see fit.

If you want to talk more with me about this – I’m game! I’ll be at the KCSAE Annual Meeting in September at the Hotel Kansas City, on September 20. Come celebrate and honor those deserving individuals who have carried high the association management banner in Kansas City and beyond, take part in the always awesome silent auction, and welcome in incoming KCSAE President, Jim Penrod, CAE!

I hope to talk with you soon!

Curtis Kitchen, CAE
KCSAE President

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