As previously mentioned, we'll be covering the American Society of Association Executives Annual Meeting here this week, and don't forget to follow @WileySocieties for regular updates from the meeting.
Here in Nashville, the ASAE Annual Meeting is in full swing and buzzing with positive energy. The society and association professionals in attendance have a lot on their minds, but all of the major ideas are centered around the meeting's music-themed tag line: Pause, Play, Forward.
At the heart of this theme of moving forward is a topic everyone can relate to: how to advance or totally reinvent an organization's brand and message through a well-cultivated digital presence. In the Learning Lab session "Create Your Digital Strategy," presented in part by Wiley colleagues Martin Davies (E-Learning Director, Professional Innovations) and Davina Quarterman (Senior Manager, Society Innovations), this potentially daunting subject was broken down in a visually clever and accessible way. Davies started off by inviting the audience to think of digital strategy within the framework of a "blueprint" for a building. While many organizations may still have a disjointed digital presence consisting of multiple components, those who deploy a successful strategy will have realized several truths: it's not all about the technology (even the best online platform can't make up for a poorly executed digital identity); design is important, but it shouldn't be all about branding (users should feel a consistent experience throughout); and the work doesn't end with creating the blueprint (you must have a process for review and revision, and assessing which trends are important and which are mere distractions.)
Quarterman's segment expanded on the blueprint framework with a discussion of its six components: People, Purpose, Big Picture, Plan, Produce, and Perfect. She underscored the importance of starting with a strong foundation consisting of a group of people willing to think critically and champion the approach, advising that as a starting point it helps to rewrite the vision statement with a digital-first mindset. It's also useful to segment the strategic roadmap into manageable milestones and tasks, starting with the big picture and then taking it one step at a time.
Michael Clarke, President of Clarke & Company, offered an illuminating analogy comparing the digital user experience with an anecdote about attempting to purchase a raincoat in a large Parisian department store. He noted that the standard method of displaying products - arranged by brand rather than type of item - was similar to some web sites' inefficient way of siloing information around content categories rather than subject verticals. Using an example from the medical field, Clarke envisioned a user experience where someone looking for information on hypertension, rather than rummaging through the virtual racks and bins of an association's web site, would be guided to all of the relevant content across all categories - articles, meetings, conference proceedings, videos, etc. This vision is all part of the universal need to go beyond search and instead commit to "surfacing" relevant materials for a more seamless digital experience.
Finally, Quoc-Dien Trinh, Assistant Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School and Associate Editor of BJU International, brought it all together with a case study explaining how BJUI deployed a team to revamp the journal's digital strategy with the ambitious goal of making it "the most widely read surgical journal on the web." The core objective was actually quite simple: by taking their poorly maintained and incoherent social media accounts and unifying them to reflect the journal's branding with a cohesive look and feel throughout, they were able to substantially drive usage and brand awareness, completely reinvigorating their digital presence simply by strengthening connections that weren't previously apparent.
This well-attended session was a terrific showcase of how professionals in any type of organization can utilize straightforward strategic frameworks to solve tough problems in the digital space. The solution needn't be complicated nor expensive; in fact, by distilling the problem and your goals into their basic components, any association can achieve a successful digital identity that will hit all the right notes with members and other users.