Navigating the Storm – Preparing Your Association for Disruption

Adrienne Segundo (@adriennesegundo), IOM

Limitless Association Resource

CSAE Annual Conference

Crested Butte, CO

June 26, 2017


Kiki L’Italien, Amplified Growth, Scott Oser, Scott Oser Associates; Lowell Aplebaum, Next Connextion; Bennett Napier, CAE, Partners in Association Management; Thad Lurie, CAE, CIP, MSEd VP Operations and Chief Information Officer, EDUCAUSE

This invigorating panel will guide you through the silent changes impacting associations. These changes include such areas as succession planning, association management, new marketing and selling strategies, the true relevance of social media, and the future roles of board leadership and volunteerism.  This deep dive panel will guide and navigate your association to not just prepare for the storm but to be ahead of it.

CSAE Prepares Associations for Disruption

Kiki L’Italien (@kikilitalien) kicked off this seminar on dealing with disruption by listing noise as a key disruptor. It’s no longer enough to depend on a single platform or message to penetrate noise; only providing truly unique value will penetrate noise.

Bennett Napier (@BennettNapier) discussed the need for solid succession planning.

Scott Oser (@scottoser) identified the tremendous number of marketing choices and tools as a disruption because they can distract you from the most impactful course.

Lowell Apelbaum (@Lowellmatthew) cited short-term perspective as a key disrupter: long-term planning is more important than ever.

Thad Lurie (@ThadLurie) blamed a failure to keep up with technology as a major disruptive influence. Amazon’s technology budget is $14.2 Billion, which explains why everyone else’s website often fails to perform as well as

Adrienne asked the panel what the role of data is in the midst of disruption.

Thad said that the first step to using data to improve revenue is to look at where you are currently using data. It’s vital to be, perhaps not a data-driven association (because there are other important drivers besides simply data), but a “data-guided” association. Scott echoed this and added that every piece of data collected needs to have a purpose. He mentioned how grocery stores collected purchase data for years but are only now beginning to utilize it effectively.

Adrienne asked if five-year strategic plans are still relevant given the amount of disruption and the speed of change.

Lowell noted that the number of years varies by industry. Perhaps three years would work for most, but utilize a mission and vision in every strategic discussion.

Adrienne asked if the tendency of younger professionals to resist joining organizations is a disruptive element, but Scott responded that he feels that that apparent “tendency” is largely a myth. As information grows, people are becoming more strategic about where to invest their efforts instead of joining a group simply out of tradition. He pointed out that National Geographic Magazine collections are continually given away for free because too many people were collecting them. Society no longer follows as many traditions without considering the costs, opportunity and otherwise. The response to this seeming trend is to provide stronger value propositions to younger prospects and, indeed, all prospects.

Kiki suggested that a key factor in becoming more relevant is to take time to consider your organization’s value and push to ask better questions. We must resist the temptation to focus only on the short-term tasks at hand. That agreed that we can’t say we want to be innovative but only punt the ball with studies and focus groups. We must think like predators, not like prey.

Lowell added that being innovative means not just asking the right questions and thinking like predators, but to help amplify users’ positive experiences in an error when self-promotion is received very skeptically. Bennett said that a key to all of this is controlling the narrative by defining what your brand is in this new world and knowing that while you can’t control everything, where is the line in the sand circumscribing the elements of your message you must defend.

Adrienne asked what association leaders need to think about given these trends. Thad emphasized the need for data security as hackers run crawlers against sites looking for specific software vulnerabilities and not at all evaluating the value of the content, its interest level or the revenue of the organization. Lowell discussed the importance of continuing user testing after the launch of the redesign or the Association Management System instead of ceasing testing at launch.

Thad compared a software rollout to a pregnancy: 10 months of increasing discomfort followed by strong directive to “get it out” on what is called the Delivery Date, pointing out that this whole process is no longer half dependent on the quality of the code base and half dependent on the quality of the governance, but now 80% reliant on the latter.

Scott described positive disruptions that associations can use, like highly segmented advertising that is much more cost-effective than direct mail or email or other traditional forms and marketing automation that increase your reach and impact. Lowell talked about the importance of tracking metrics leading to engagement. Kiki added that leveraging the engagement of micro-influencers is too often overlooked: “People are too obsessed with social-media timing. The best time to get out a tweet doesn’t matter if you’re message isn’t any good!”

Thad said to put all excellent producers (in your face-to-face conferences or on social media) of content relevant to your audience together with your consumers in order to be engaged drivers of the discussion, wherever it goes.


Subscribe to our newsletter!

Fields marked with an * are required


About NSI Partners

A digital marketing company with almost two decades of experience, NSI Partners helps clients achieve robust results in search marketing, social media, and other digital marketing spaces.

Leave a Comment

More from our blog

See all posts