Cummings Printing

Cummings Printing

'If You Have a Good Story, People Will Read It'; AM&P Shows Off Its Impressive People and Stories in Triumphant Conference

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by Ronn Levine

The story remains the imperative, said AM&P 2020’s two thought- and idea-provoking keynote speakers, summing up this week's incredible three days of learning, listening, Zooming (of course) and feeling the love from colleagues and peers who we greatly respect and miss seeing in person.


“The challenge before you as you craft your narrative,” DEI expert Leslie Mac eloquently said Wednesday morning, “is how to motivate in a way to lift humanity and be bold as you go about your work. This is not the time for casual work. Together is where we can create change.”


“What is the takeaway from all this?” Mario Garcia (pictured above), the esteemed Columbia professor and author, asked. “The story. After 50 years in this business, I can tell you that if you have a good story, people will read it no matter what… Make it easy to find, make it easy to read, and make it attractive. That’s my mantra. Your job is to facilitate for people to get through to your content.”


Let’s do a Best-of-What-I-Saw-This-Week, though I need to watch so much more in the On Demand, which I highly recommend especially if you were not able to attend. More on how to do that later!


Think user experience. “Designing for the small screen is very different” Garcia told us. “How do you best tell the story, with the grids, the typography and the color? Is there a color that will be used as a branding element for your company? Anything with this particular story? USA Today has different colors for the sections. This is extremely important for mobile. And what about the user experience? How easy will it be to navigate this? The user experience is even more important than the aesthetics… Also do audio whenever possible—25-35 year olds love to listen and have their hands free. Visually on mobile, use one image per screen.” He showed an example of a phone with multiple images vs. one image. “One simple image; don’t try to do too much—four seconds is our attention span. On the phone using many images doesn’t work. We love Instagram because of the simplicity.”  


Show the faces of your members. Well-known consultant Amy Africa told us this years ago, insisting that we use real faces from our businesses instead of canned ones. Lilia LaGesse, senior creative strategist, GRAPHEK, agrees. “It’s always nice to feature the faces of your members and [worth the effort] tracking down those photos,” she said during the Eye on EXCELence session, that continued the tradition of evaluating member publications. Rich Luna, director of publishing and editor in chief for Meeting Professionals International, also emphasized the personal aspects of publishing during the pandemic. They show wonderful member faces on their site, and he said they try to engage by asking fun questions. “What was your first car? Who would portray you on the screen? What is your favorite holiday gift?” They’ll also put new staff baby pictures up and herald the new “member.”


Try to get executive buy-in to DEI. Leslie Mac told a great story about a university where she helped conduct some diversity workshops. The heads of the department told her, “We want to spend time with you.” And she said, “That’s great, we’re all going to the workshop.” That was not in the department heads’ plan. “I stopped them,” she said. “’You have to come to the workshop, too.’ They looked at me with [deer-in-the-headlights] eyes. ‘There’s no way unless you come. You need to be there, you need to participate.’ They were really afraid of saying the wrong thing, of being uncomfortable. They came up to me after: ‘I never had the this kind of conversation with staff and graduate students,. The walls came down. Thank you.’ We can’t silo this kind of work,” she said.


When possible, show don’t tell. “What are the needs of your audience?” Jess Siswick, digital content editor, American College of Radiology, asked in a session titled The Visual Web: Using Video in Your Social Media Content. “You want people to be able to relate to what they’re watching. Show don’t tell. It’s a visual medium. You’re trying to connect with your audience. Video is perfect way to do that. Avoid repetition. You don’t want a click that leads to the same video. And what unique angle can you bring to the story? What is a creative and unique way to communicate that? Build on something already happening. Listen to your audience. What are your members and audience talking about?... Experiment. Take things in a different direction.”


“What are the pain points that we can alleviate in design?” asked Yumi Belanga, senior director, digital programs, office of the CIO, Military Officers Association, in an excellent session with Mark DeVito, president, Beyond Definition, titled The 2020 Association Brand Experience. “It did take time to get the approval to get a new website. We had focus groups and a wide variety of perspectives. But I’m so glad MOAA did it. We started to understand our members more and how important data is in making these decisions. ‘Do we have data to probe that will be beneficial?’… We also learned a lot more about what everyone;s individual goal was. Sometimes we don’t listen. Listening and not just hearing gets to true collaboration. Step outside yourself to put yourself in their shoes.” DeVito, who worked with MOAA on the transition, did a great job of letting Belanga tell her story.


“We focused on what members wanted to see,” said Haley Blum Carrier, presenting with former colleague, Bridget Murray Law, editor-in-chief, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), in another great session titled Content Strategy and Crisis Communications: A COVID-19 Crash Course. “ASHA Now became this centralized place for communicating to members. If we hadn’t done this consolidation process, it would have been at best a headache and at worst chaotic. It helped to make sure that we were delivering the same message to all our members, getting out the information they needed.” Murray Law explained their crisis responses, how they showed empathy and took immediate responsibility for anything that triggered negative responses. “Apologize first, next show empathy—that establishes trust. And respond quickly—45 minutes is ideal; over 6 hours equals 3 days of fallout.  Don’t play the middle; you’re not Switzerland."