Association Leaders: What I Wish I’d Known Before the Pandemic

For businesses and associations across the globe, times are challenging, chaotic and unpredictable. But, as we’ve all heard, in the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.

GLC spoke with several association executives about the challenges and opportunities presented to them now, the need for consistent and strong content, as well as advice about how to prepare for the unknown.

1. How do you view your organization’s responsibility/expectation with regard to providing content and information to help your members navigate this crisis?

As a non-profit organization representing a specific industry, our members look to us for content about the industry. That said, as COVID-19 has a direct effect on our members, early on, we provided links to the organizations that provide the best resources about the pandemic such as CDC and WHO. — Karin Soyster Fitzgerald, COO, United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation

We know that our members are being greatly impacted by this virus in so many ways. The regulatory world surrounding their practices and hospitals continues to shift, and they face new stressors and demands from their colleagues and families. The Academy’s goal is to help guide them and advocate on their behalf during this trying and difficult time. — Anthony Piore, CMO, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

These days, there is an overload of information, especially during a crisis. I think our organization has a responsibility to keep our various audiences and membership informed by delivering important, relevant information, and by anticipating their needs and bringing new content, information and services to market as quickly as possible. — Keith Tristano, CFO, COO, Residential Real Estate Council

2. What steps are you taking to ensure your members feel connected, supported and informed? 

We have a strong social media community. We use several platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. We have several different sites on each platform with targeted information and interests. Social media, particularly in this time of physical distancing (note the term “physical” vs. “social”), helps us all stay connected. We are now in a world of 24-hour, instant information. Hopefully, social media will help people through the unknown and uncomfortable self-quarantining and feelings of helplessness. — Soyster Fitzgerald

We’ve developed a web-based hub where AAOS members can easily access a wide range of relevant and credible COVID-19 resources and information. This new resource contains information on COVID-19 topics that many of our members have identified as significant to their profession and well-being. We are monitoring the COVID-19 situation and updating the hub on a continuous basis as new and relevant information emerges. And we are alerting our members of this information regularly through email, member newsletters and social media. — Piore

We are staying connected to the membership through social media posts by our president and CEO, by reminding them of our many online options for learning, and by encouraging them to reach out to clients, family and one another while sharing information on staying safe and healthy. On our social networks, our amazing members and volunteers are sharing ideas and information that can keep their businesses, their clients and themselves safe.

I think this crisis presents an opportunity to transform our organization and demonstrate its incredible value to the industry.  Over the last two decades, we’ve developed a variety of online self-study and group learning resources for content and certifications, so we are well positioned to serve our membership and the industry with new information through these well-established channels.  — Tristano

3. Even in times of crisis, there is opportunity. Where do you see the opportunity for marketing and communications for your organization?

We are a very small organization and have talked about providing more online and virtual content. Time (and a financial investment) has stifled us moving in this direction. Now, with the sudden need, the silver lining is that our hand is being forced. In the long-run, we will be able to provide better and more timely content to our members and provide different avenues that match each specific preference for seeking knowledge. — Soyster Fitzgerald

4. Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently to prepare your organization for an event such as this?

We were all accustomed to working remotely from time to time and had tested business continuity during snowstorms. However, no one could have foreseen such a long-term need, which, even now, does not have an end-date known. I think all businesses will move to more online and electronic business practices. — Soyster Fitzgerald

RRC established its first Business Continuity Plan in 1996, and since then, we have worked to eliminate a reliance on our physical infrastructure and location. Our office has been 100% laptop-based for more than five years, and all infrastructure decisions have been influenced by the question, “What if we can’t get to the office?”

RRC financial operations have been cloud-based and paperless since 2015, and since then, RRC has transitioned all other essential systems to a cloud-based environment: CRM, telephones, call center and productivity tools. We’ve been using Office 365 since 2015, which includes the Microsoft Teams application. The Teams application has become our most important tool during this time to keep our staff connected in new and better ways.

During this crisis, on our first remote workday (March 11, 2020), we had a 95% success rate in staff accessing the network. — Tristano


How are you managing during COVID-19? Do you have tips to share with others?