Monday, January 9, 2017

Communication clutter!

ASAE logo

You will be happy to know that GCSAA “puts its money where its mouth is” and supports all employees to be active members of the American Society of Association Executives. It is the equivalent organization for people who work in the association management industry and provides very useful professional development, education resources, and a community to exchange ideas and expertise with other members. GCSAA has an Organizational Membership which allows all employees to utilize the website and access to all of these resources.

Recently, I took advantage of this opportunity and participated in a webinar titled “Breaking through the clutter – New, more effective ways to communicate with your members”. I chose that webinar because I believe communication is the most important tool that chapters utilize in all aspects of their chapter operations. It is the key to everything a chapter does from recruiting and retaining members to promoting attendance at chapter meetings. And honestly, something all chapters could improve.

The webinar was taught by Mr. Dave Stevens who is the Managing Partner of Stevens & Stevens, an award-winning company dedicated to helping associations improve their marketing and communications results. He did a great job and hit on several items that I believe can help chapters with their communication strategy. The information was also very useful in everyday communication whether you are dealing with golfers, customers, employees or coworkers, or even everyday interactions. Following are a few items that I thought interesting and useful.

  •          Communication with members is now more difficult than ever. We have more technology and tools, but individuals are constantly bombarded by marketing and communication. The presenter compared the effort required by your members to find your message is similar to “Finding Waldo”. All of us are hit with hundreds of messages every day that include modern technology (email and social media), dynamic graphics, and “younger” and rebranded marketing.
  •          The presenter suggested every organization should decide and create a “value proposition” or “brand statement”. This is similar to an organization’s mission statement but targets specifically their marketing and communication. One simple example made was “The National Association of Widget Makers will help you make more money.” So, every communication made by the NAWM should pass the test that it communicates that message.
  •          Here’s one I know is very true – Keep your messages short and simple. I know because I violate this advice every day (you know that if you are still reading this blog). This sure isn’t a new thought, “The more you say, the less people remember. The fewer the words, the greater the profit” Francois Fenelon, 1651 – 1715.
o   Chapters could certainly benefit by using this strategy when announcing meetings to their members. I think the challenge is tailoring your messages for all chapter members.

o   As someone who has attended hundreds of chapter events in my career, I look at an announcement and really only need to know: date, location, cost, speaker and/or education and golf. Like many engaged chapter members, that is all of the information I need to decide about attending.

o   But what about a new member or one not very engaged? They certainly need more information and probably even a little coaxing.

o   I think it would help to consider that some members will want to show their supervisor or owner the notice to get approval for attending.  For that reason, information heavy on the education, networking and value. It seems like most meeting announcements are geared toward over-informing. Probably somewhere in the middle is the best compromise.
  •          Another good thought I found was to focus on what your organization provides that can’t be found on Google or other easy technological avenues. This makes a lot of sense to me. Google has changed the way we find everything including fertilizer rates, pesticide labels, you name it.
  •          And finally a few short and concise bullets of other useful items and tips:
o   Keep your messages short and concise – bite size
o   Use simple graphics in groupings
o   Tolerance for long text is very low – use text as if it is only being skimmed
o   Differentiate yourself – focus on your unique benefits
o   Track your email open rate and unsubscribe results
o   Email subject lines are important – keep short but informative
o   Keep in mind that a very large amount of messages are now read on phones and mobile devices – use templates

I hope you find some of this information as useful as I do. There are some very common sense pointers that can help chapters get their message to their members in an effective manner.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Finish your race

Chances are that everyone reading this blog has been touched by cancer either personally or by someone very close to them. I think we all find inspiration through these very tough battles even though some of them don’t turn out the way we hope. I find inspiration every single day from my wonderful wife Carol who is a 16-year cancer survivor and, even more incredible, a 34-year survivor of me! She is my hero.

I also want to tell you about another inspiration of mine that has had a profound impact on my career and my life. Don Armstrong is a former golf course superintendent that I first met in March of 1980 when I went to work at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth (at the age of 8…right?). I was right out of high school trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. He was the assistant superintendent at Colonial from 1978 – 1981 and went on to have an outstanding superintendent career that included returning as the superintendent at Colonial where he hosted the PGA Tour from 1982 – 1987. He has been in the golf course maintenance industry for 38 years and has been a golf course consultant with his company Golf Resources, Inc. since 1987. For five years in the 2000s, he had his own financial management company in Fort Worth. His advice and the example he has set for me as one of my professional role models has been an inspiration to me throughout my career. I ask his advice every time I see him even to this day.

But the much more meaningful inspiration I have received from Don over the past 36 years has nothing to do with fertility, pest control, management, or anything else related to growing grass. Don celebrated his 10-year cancer survivor anniversary in 2015. In 2005, he was diagnosed with Leukemia and went through five chemotherapy treatments and a stem cell transplant. He was the picture of health before his diagnosis and we were all stunned. The story regarding his battle to survive is remarkable, but what he has done since his diagnosis to create awareness, raise money for blood cancer research and to inspire others is truly incredible. He has become an author and motivational speaker and still works in the golf industry in Texas and Oklahoma. He is an avid marathon runner and trains others to run marathons through his organization known as Team in Training which is a fundraising campaign for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. He also organizes and manages an annual fundraising event called the Honored Hero Run which raises money for blood cancer research. He has even inspired yours truly to get off the couch once and a while and participate!

Now, Don has taken his efforts to the next level. He has written a book about his life, appropriately titled, Finish YOUR Race. It goes on sale on January 24 on Amazon and I can’t wait to order one of the first copies. Below is some information about the book. I encourage you to take a look and get to know Don a little better. I hope you will find his story as inspiring as I do and will consider going to Amazon on January 24 and picking up a copy for yourself.

Don Armstrong was first diagnosed with leukemia, a blood cancer that threatened to end his life, in 2005. He endured five rounds of chemo in eight months, culminating in a successful stem cell transplant on May 12, 2006. This was his new “birthday” and his second chance at life.

This journey was filled with uncertainty as well as life lessons and huge victories that changed almost every aspect of his life. Don discovered that adversity affects us all, but it doesn’t define us — it’s the way we react that determines and changes the outcome.

Well into Don’s journey with leukemia, he decided he had to give back and make a difference. Since his diagnosis, Don has run 18 marathons (4 internationally), completed a triathlon and a 100-mile bicycle ride, and raised over $100,000 for blood cancer research.

Don decided to write Finish YOUR Race to share the extraordinary lessons and strategies he learned while his life was on the line. The strategies he discovered aren’t just for cancer patients — everyone can use them to empower their lives.

When you read this uplifting memoir, you will be captivated by Don’s story, inspired by his determination and encouraged by his example. You’ll learn that it’s possible to transcend even the most challenging circumstances and find your life purpose and live it with passion in the process.

Don Armstrong is a leukemia survivor having endured five (5) rounds of chemo and a stem cell transplant in May 2006.  He is an avid marathon runner having completed over 20 marathons to-date.  10 since his stem cell transplant.  Don is also an author and motivational speaker.  He teaches others to win their race in all areas of life with courage, confidence, grace and a positive spirit.  Don resides in Fort Worth, Texas. You or your organization may contact Don at or 817-917-5919 for information about his speaking availability.