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One of the most popular pieces in our inventory is a humble little pamphlet, inexpensive to produce, but containing some of the most sought after technical information in our industry. It’s a simple, tri-fold brochure that is given out to new members, tradeshow visitors and sold to our membership for less than a dollar. This pamphlet explains an industry standard with helpful tables and references. Technicians who use this information take it with them on the job, on the road and whip it out when trying to explain the principles to interested customers.

Every industry has information that would be helpful if available at the fingertips. Whether it’s technical renderings, graphs, standards, guidelines or principles, if you are able to put this information into a convenient and portable medium, your members will promote it.

Once we realized how popular this information was to our community, the Board requested that we post it on our website. We added the key words to our SEO metadata and published it’s availability in Facebook, Twitter, our magazine and e-notices. We are now considered “experts” in this standard. When searching the keywords, our organization shows up in searches. Our outreach to the public increases with each passing year.

What information does your membership consistently ask of you? What questions do you find yourself constantly fielding? Consider putting this information in a pamphlet, you can add your contact information, website and list of other publications. Tables, graphs, formulas, phone numbers all can go on a pocket sized guide for sale or as an additional giveaway. Do your members go on field work? What information would be handy to them on the job? Make it available online so it’s easy to download.

If your organization specializes in the food industry, make a cheat sheet of cooking terms, weights and measures or conversions. Are your members scientists? Add graphs or formulas they use daily. What do graphic designers find handy? A color wheel. Travelers will surely appreciate a quick reference guide featuring “hello,” “thank you,” and “good-bye” in a variety of languages. The ideas are limitless.

Add your organization logo, contact information and list of other publications, you now have a valuable tool to giveaway, post on your website or sell.

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in Member Retention 295 0
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CAE brochure

So, you’ve committed to taking the CAE. Congrats! [Reality: Insert state of panic here!] Now direct your attention to the CAE Exam Content Outline and this guide. Seven steps stand between you and the designation. Here I offer for you a deconstruction of these “simple seven,” presented in reality from my experience.

Step 1: Review each competency statement. [Reality: A foreshadowing of the content that will be on your mind and in your nightmare dreams until exam day.] 

The composition of the CAE exam is supported by research on job tasks and knowledge needed by association executives. You can learn about that research here. Fundamentally, the CAE exam content is organized into nine domains, which are further ordered into 159 essential association management competencies. Plan to set aside a good amount of time to read these [Reality: I spent 2 hours.] because . . .

Step 2: Rate your confidence on each competency as “high, medium, or low.” [Reality: “I know this and could teach it,” “I pretend to know this and hope no one calls me out,” and “No clue what this means, is it really on the test?!”]

Here’s where I plug the value of the CAE Study Guide, which has a nice worksheet of the domains and a rating area to identify your confidence in this self-assessment (see Section 1: Getting Started, pages 11-24). After reading each statement carefully, take your time to really think about what it means and mark an honest assessment of your current understanding. After going through this once, I went back a second time, adjusting several to a lower confidence level. Be careful about making overly generous assumptions about your on-the-job experience. It may serve you well to initially underestimate your expertise and then discover through your studies that you actually know more.

Step 3: Note related professional development you have completed in the past five years. [Reality: Wish you’d actually been tracking this over the past five years.]

Here’s a puzzle: How many people does it take to help you track and validate the 100 hours for your CAE application? Answer: 10 or more. One, your association friend who trick-encouraged you to apply in the first place, to seek advice on where to start. Two, your nerdy MS Excel colleague who shares their tracking spreadsheet with you. Three, your brilliant co-worker who suggests who you look through your calendar over the past five years to identify webinars and programs you attended. Four, your secretary who actually looks through your calendar and catalogues these for you [Reality: If you’re that fortunate]. Five, your contact at ASAE who shares that your member profile contains a historical listing of all education through ASAE (see > Login > My Account > Education History > Mind blown). [Reality: Why didn’t I know this already existed?!] Six and beyond, the ASAE Approved Providers that will be inevitably re-sending you the “course completion certificates” to validate how many hours your coursework acquired [Reality: I took courses with 15 different providers.]

Step 4: Develop a plan to strengthen areas of lower confidence and complete professional development requirements. [Reality: Find a way to squeeze in 20 more hours before the deadline to ensure you meet the 100-hour minimum.]

So you’ve tracked your hours, and perhaps you are short a few, or courses you took are not actually applicable for credit (converse to what you initially thought). Don’t panic. Now’s a great time to sign up for a quick webinar, attend a one-day training program, or work with a mentor to meet the requirements. Also, I suggest you go back to Step 2 and review your weaknesses; these are the areas in which you’ll want to dedicate the majority of your study time.

Step 5: Complete all requirements before submitting an application. [Reality: By now you should be eligible, or know when you will become eligible.]

Find a list of the eligibility requirements here. If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to read through the several pages on ASAE regarding the CAE. So much valuable content here!

Step 6: Plan to submit an application three months before you sit for the exam. [Reality: Put “submit application” on calendar two weeks before deadline. Calendar notification arrives, you laugh at your ambitions. Eventually and frantically submit at the last minute; 5 p.m. on deadline.]

Here’s where you need to know that the application review period is lengthy, and you’ll need to allow time to be approved and allowed to sit for the exam. You’ll likely check your email every day periodically to see if you’ve been approved. Give it time, you’ll be notified.

Step 7: Mark your calendar. The CAE Exam is given on the first Friday in May and the first Friday in December. [Reality: Countdown until this day arrives and the exam is over.]

This will be a day of excitement, nerves, and most importantly, celebration! Because regardless of whether you pass the exam or not, you’ll enjoy that this is behind you, and you can return to your regularly scheduled life. Good luck!

Note: This is the second of a two-part blog on preparing for the CAE exam. Read the first one here.

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in Workplace Issues 315 0
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content creation tip

In my role as editor of the quarterly magazine publication for one of our clients, I am responsible for sourcing and curating content. One of the enduring challenges for marketing and communications professionals is struggling to come up with enough quality content to fill their needs. Here are some of the strategies I use.

Where does the content come from?

My top five tips for filling pages with really strong, relevant and timely content:

  1. Monitor what questions and pain points are posted in industry discussion boards or communities. This can be a great source for content ideas that address what members are grappling with right now.
  2. Work with an editorial council or board. Members of an editorial council can help recommend or provide feedback on topic ideas. They also help provide a wider network from which to draw, reaching out to contacts and connections as potential authors.
  3. Pose a question or topic in your own association discussion board. Every one of your members is a potential source for both inspirational successes, as well as lessons learned the hard way. Your members are experts in their industry, so look to them for answers. They love to share what they’ve learned with their peers, either by providing ideas and suggestions that can be compiled into an article, or by submitting their own full-length article on a given topic.
  4. Ask speakers for an upcoming event to provide an article that is structured around their planned presentation. This can help to build anticipation and drive registration for your event. Alternatively, ask speakers from a recent past event if they would author an article. This helps to extend the momentum for attendees, as well as facilitates sharing useful information with members who were unable to attend.
  5. Not all your content needs to be original. It’s OK to source articles reprinted from industry experts. Our members appreciate when we can bring great content forth, helping them sort through all the mediocre information they come across each day. Just be sure to secure appropriate permission first.

And, what do we do with it now?

Really strong, relevant and timely content is awesome! But once a magazine is published, please don’t leave all that valuable content hidden away between the covers. Repurposing content from publication articles helps build social media presence and drive traffic to your website.

My top five tips for repurposing article content:

  1. Post each article, individually, to your website or blog. This is different from posting the entire publication as a .pdf file or as an online version of your magazine. Posting as text helps your SEO! At the end of your article, include links to other related content or articles for those looking for additional information on that topic.
  2. Use the information in the article to create a short video or podcast to reach additional audiences.
  3. Tease paragraphs in your e-newsletter, linking to the full article on your website.
  4. Select two or three snippets from the article and strategically post about them to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn at set intervals, again including a link to the full article.
  5. Tag and compliment the author wherever possible. The author will receive notice, and will often like, comment on or share your post. Their connections are likely to take notice, as well, driving post engagement up.

Bonus tip: Bring your process full circle by tracking analytics to determine what content readers really respond to, and building on that for your next issue.

Please let me know if you have any other content tips of your own!

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validation 1614001 1920

When it comes to a certification program, perception is important! If the program is not seen as being meaningful and valuable to those seeking certification and to the industry in general, it probably won’t be successful. The value of the program extends beyond its content; how it is administered is also a factor. Having assisted in managing several certification programs over the years my focus is often on program administration: guiding candidates through the certification application process, maintaining files and serving as a resource for anyone with questions about the program. Here are some of the practices I have found most helpful when it comes to program administration.

Facilitation of a consistent experience for candidates is a primary goal. From application through certification achievement, the intent is that everyone has access to the same information, follows the same steps and completes all the required paperwork. How? One word: routine! Following an established routine has proved indispensable. Not only does it help ensure a uniform experience for those going through the certification program, it makes it much easier for staff to be certain that all necessary steps have been completed.

One side note about routines, though. As a program administrator one should not be afraid to modify the procedure to make it work better. In my experience, something might seem perfect in the development stage, but once in practice some adjustments may be needed. Keep an open mind, listen to feedback and make adjustments when necessary.

Closely related to following an established routine is documentation and record maintenance. When it comes to managing a certification program I’ve found that the details are crucial. Keeping notes and consistently maintaining a step-by-step application checklist in real time have been worthwhile practices. This is especially true if there is any variance from the routine or if any unusual circumstances occur. It is true that note taking and checklist maintenance are not the most exciting tasks and may be easily overlooked. Yet, time and time again they have proved to be incredibly beneficial, especially in the long term. If questions or issues arise later the notes will be there to provide answers.

Serving as a reliable resource for anyone with questions about the program is also important. To accomplish this my focus is on consistent and responsive communication. Keeping the application process moving along by turning around forms quickly, promptly communicating any delays in the process and responding to individuals’ questions or requests as soon as possible are just some of the ways effective communication contributes to program quality. It is also helpful to remember that communication extends beyond those seeking certification. Making sure that all interested parties are informed about the certification program is beneficial, so regular, proactive communication with a larger audience (e.g., colleagues, the general industry) should never be neglected.

How a program is administered matters. Having a cohesive administration strategy goes a long way toward delivery of a high-quality program that is viewed by all parties as valuable to their own experience. Perception is important and in the end, even the smallest details and tasks matter!

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We are evaluating marketing automation software and have listed our desired specifications in a spreadsheet with attributes like “must have” and “nice to have.” This sheet helps us easily compare features and see which platforms are lacking our requirements. Plus, after doing 4-6 demos, it helps organize what could be an overwhelming process.

However, choosing a new software platform or AMS or deciding whether to implement a proposed program initiative on behalf of our clients goes beyond a specified list of features.

Using only a spreadsheet to compare features seems sterile and robotic until we ask ourselves nine questions from our project decision matrix document. The questions demonstrate that we actually think about our clients’ missions and goals when making impactful decisions.

When your leadership is considering a new “toy,” be certain it fits in with your goals, objectives and mission. Ensure that you will be able to sustain the initiative beyond the initial excitement and implementation.

When considering a new initiative, ask your team the following nine questions:
1. What are we trying to accomplish?
2. Does this help reach our goals and further our mission?
3. What does success mean for this initiative?
4. What is the desired timeline for this project?
5. What does our resource pool look like?
6. How will feedback be provided by the client?
7. What is the long-term effect of this project?
8. Is this plan sustainable?
9. What are the major risks of the initiative?

These questions deliberate the process to give your organization and board the time to think about the initiative.

Questions like “What does success look like?” are painfully obvious. Yet, how many projects have you implemented where you have not planned to measure when you have achieved success?

Creating a presence on a trendy social media network where your members may or may not visit might be easy to do. Asking yourself, “Does this help our goals and further our mission?” may at least help you decide if it is worth the resources to maintain.

You might be surprised at how these questions could either green light or sideline a project depending on how well vetted, or thought-through it is.

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