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Sarah El-Rasoul from the ERA (Executive Research Association) talks about its member award programme that is just entering its second year.clapping  hands

About the ERA
The ERA is the membership body for those carrying executive research to support the senior recruitment process. It is a fairly niche organisation and it lead by a volunteer committee of members.

Why did the ERA introduce an award?
As a profession executive research can be left in the shadows by the more high profile role of headhunting. This is despite the fact executive researchers often work alongside headhunters. One of the remits of the ERA is to raise the profile of the profession and we knew from member feedback that an award would be a good way to recognise excellence in our sector.

Sadly one of our committee members, Stephanie Pratt, a young and promising executive researcher died in 2011 from cancer. So it felt it was fitting to create an award in her memory. Her employer, NBI kindly agreed to sponsor the awards to honour Stephanie.

How did the ERA design the award process?
We decided that the ‘ERA Researcher Of The Year Award 2013’ would be presented at our annual conference which takes place each April. The Managing Committee then worked on an application form. We decided to ask for 3 examples of assignments (which are anonomised) that the award applicant had carried out. The form was offered online on the ERA website.

The judging of the applications was carried out by 3 high profile researchers, covering in-house, agency and somebody from the committee.

How was the award received by members when you promoted it?
Very well. We promoted the award via our social media channels and our website. We were pleased with the take up, c20% of members took part in the first year. It definitely created a buzz. It also gave an additional focus to our annual conference, which is our largest event of the year.

We get the sense that members appreciate the award as it highlights what is great about our industry.

What did the award mean to the winner?
The winner of the ERA inaugural award was Sheana Dudley she said:

“I was so pleased to receive the award. I know a number of people took part so there was lots of competition. It was great to have external endorsement of the work I do.

The executive research industry needs greater recognition and this award is a great way to achieve that. The announcement about my Award has attracted interest from people who perhaps had not heard of the ERA before this was launched”.

Will you be changing anything for this year’s award?
We are making a few tweaks to the process to help make it even easier for applicants. We are expecting even more people taking part this time. It has been a great activity for our organisation, I would encourage other members organisations to think about offering an award.

To find out more about the ERA’s Researcher Of The Year Award please see here.

The Government is considering creating a Statutory Register of Lobbyists. This will obviously affect lobbying firms and consultants, As Lobbying is something that many membership bodies do on behalf of their members, and indeed their own members may also carry out their own lobbying, it is something that the membership sector should think about.

There has been much media debate about the topic. Those in favour welcome the transparency of a potential Register. Those against feel that the proposed Register won’t be able to provide the complete transparency it was seeking to deliver.

Will it affect your membership body or your members?
The Government consultation is seeking views on how far the Register should go including asking the questions:

  • Should lobbyists or firms acting on a pro bono basis be required to register?
  • Should organisations such as Trade Unions, Think Tanks and Charities be required to register?

So in theory, it could affect membership bodies. This could be an opportunity for your to seek the views of your members, like the Trade Association Forum have done recently.

If you think it is an issue your organisation should be addressing, you can read about the position taken by a number of umbrella organisations on the Register:

Association of Professional Political Consultants

Chartered Institute of Public Relations

Public Relations Consultants Association

NCVO

Have your say
You can contribute to the Government consultation here. The deadline is 13 April.

 

Thanks to Amy from GALA, a US based membership body who shares information about their successful webinar programme.
By Amy Ephrem, Membership Coordinator, GALA

Webinar imageThe Globalization and Localization Association (GALA) is the largest global non-profit association within the language industry, providing resources, education, ideas and research for companies working with translation services, language technology and content localization.  GALA member companies are vendors and buyers of language services and technologies.  They deploy sophisticated multilingual strategies and proven tools to take content and products to markets around the world.   GALA is comprised of over 300 companies from more than 50 countries.

Using Webinars
Launched in 2008 as a way to provide an efficient and cost effective way of gathering worldwide groups of language technology and services professionals together to have a discussion, watch a presentation, or view a tool demonstration, the GALA Webinar Series has become one of our most popular member programs:

  • GALA hosted more than thirty webinars in 2011.
  • Close to 1000 people participated in these sessions.
  • Over 300 people have already participated in GALA webinars in 2012.

Our webinar series includes four different types of sessions:

  • Expert presentations on industry topics
  • Sponsored tool demonstrations
  • Advanced tool training sessions
  • Premium professional development webinars, sessions with an interactive workshop format that give participants the opportunity for more in-depth learning on focused topics

With members spread out across the globe on every continent but Antarctica, it is important for our association to be able to offer programming that is accessible for a global audience.  The GALA Webinar Series does just this as it provides opportunities for our members to connect with industry tools, technology, ideas and discussions in a sales-free environment right from their desktops.

It also offers our member companies a place to showcase their technologies as well as a chance to share their industry knowledge and expertise with colleagues around the world.

Highly valued by members
When asked what they consider to be the greatest benefit they receive from their GALA membership, members will often mention our webinars. Members who are unable to attend our live webinar sessions due to time zone differences are also able to download past webinars from a library of recordings that we keep on our website.    

Where to start
Providing online training opportunities is relatively inexpensive and easy to coordinate with the technology that is available today. 

The technology
Organizations should begin by researching and testing out the different webinar platforms that are available to see which one best meets their needs.  With our international audience, it was especially important for us to use a webinar system that allowed participants to connect through their computers with VOIP rather than having to make long distance phone calls.  GALA currently uses the GoToWebinar platform from Citrix Online (http://www.citrixonline.com), which we have found to be quite affordable and user-friendly for organizers, presenters, and participants.  

Choose your topics
Organizations will also need to know what topics their members are interested in and will then need to vet interesting and engaging presenters who can speak on these topics. GALA regularly issues calls for webinar presentations, and we also poll our members for topic ideas and suggestions. 

Provide an interactive element
Finding ways to make the webinars sessions engaging and interactive for participants is key and one of the greatest challenges when using an online format. 

We have found that allowing participants to ask and answer questions during the webinar sessions either by chatting through the platform’s IM feature or using its polling question feature to be helpful in getting attendees more engaged.  We also encourage our presenters to extend the life of their presentations by continuing the conversation with webinar attendees through email follow-ups, social media, and GALA’s blog.

Conclusion
Coordinating and conducting webinars may seem like a daunting task at first, but there are many resources available to help organizations through the process of getting started.  Webinars are an excellent and efficient way of providing accessible information and training for members and something that every membership organization should consider.

More information about GALA’s webinar series is available at http://www.gala-global.org/call-presentations.

Recently I helped the MemberWise Network with their membership body survey, looking at how the current climate is affecting the membership sector.

Below are the results displayed as an infographic. How does your organisation compare?

Thanks to Ian Harrison for the design.

MemberWise Survey Results

My friend Richard (who is during the day is an experienced membership body professional and outside of work he runs a very successful free network for membership body professionals called MemberWise) told me about a new membership book that has recently been published by the ‘association for associations’ in the US, ASAE.

The End of Membership As We Know It book“The End Of Membership As We Know It” is written by Sarah Sladek and basically gives a wake up call to all associations – what worked for your traditional members to date, won’t necessarily work going forward. Babyboomers (those born post World War 2) will start to be replaced as members by those in Generation X and then Y, the later two live in a different world to their Babyboomer forefathers (and mothers!) and not all membership bodies are ready for this challenge.

It isn’t just about offering an app or a QR code for your younger members (generation Z), they aren’t as loyal to membership bodies as previous generations. They are also more comfortable sharing information online, so will want true engagement from their membership body in a place where they are – eg on social networks.

The book offers a mixture of practical advice and case studies from US organisations that Sarah has worked with.

The main message to all membership body professionals is that change is happening, and you have two choices; adapt or wither. Her main advice is fairly logical, but it is good to think about it;

  • look at what your members need
  • change your services to adapt to these needs
  • increase your marketing to promote your new services
  • review and enhance your offering over time

It also offers a few practical tools, including a tool to review your benefits in light of the generational shift.

I found it an interesting read, and although American, it provided enough food for thought for the UK membership sector.

If you want to order a copy of the book, you can do so here.

freelance worker at homeWhat is National Freelancers Day? ‘National Freelancers Day’ is a day to celebrate the value of freelancing to the UK economy, last year it took place on 23 November 2011.

As a freelancer I already knew about the 20,000 strong PCG – the membership body for freelancers. I was really impressed by their recent 3rd National Freelancers Day campaign, so I wanted to reflect on what other membership bodies could learn from it, should they decided to hold a “day” too.
The PCG said the aims of the day were:

  • To help freelancers talk knowledgeably about the value they bring to British industry
  • To help British industry tap into that value
  • To secure the support of ministers who can help stimulate the sector
  • To create a useful flow of information and a more sophisticated talent market

What did they offer?
PCG offered a range of activities to celebrate the day including:

  • A lecture in London (£20 entrance)
  • Free webinars which were available online on the day and since (for members and non-members)
  • A competition to win a free web short (eg online video)
  • A freelance focused quiz
  • 3 regional events outside the lecture in London

They also launched some research which highlighted the role and importance of the UK’s 1.58million freelancers. The research helped gain them press coverage.

What promotional activities did they carry out?
I think what was most impressive was the integration of their activity. They used their campaign specific website, emails, facebook, Twitter and PR to promote the day. They were particularly good at promoting the day on Twitter and their members also helped spread the message. They also sought endorsements from key people, including the Prime Minister.

It was also interesting to note that third parties joined in, and this insurance company offered a NFD competition which helped them collect data and produce a nice infographic about the freelance market.

Was it a success?
The PCG seem to think so. They achieved lots of press and social media coverage. 1800 people took part in the quiz. And importantly they have used the opportunity to create an online forum in their online members’ only area for members to discuss the issues the day raised.

What can other membership bodies learn from this?
I think the key reasons for their success were:

  • They offered a good range of activities and content as the basis of the campaign – there was lots to engage people
  • They offered benefits to members (both on the day and afterwards) as well as reaching out to non-members and the public
  • They intergrated their marketing communications and used all channels
  • They created a specific brand and website
  • As this was their 3rd National Freelancer Day it is obvious that they are building up a profile for the day

It is clear that the organisation had the resource to organise the Day, but I thought it was a really good all encompassing campaign.  I’ll be watching with interest to see what their 4th National Freelancers Day brings!

So, could your organisation benefit from a ‘Day’?