(Disclaimer: Gloomy, rainy Mondays cause me to play spotify in the office all day. This is post is a little tongue in cheek and serves as a chance to play some music that I like - most of the links are to songs. So, if clicking, adjust volume as appropriate and enjoy the show)
Last week I was reading a great post by Jay Daughtry about what the association world can learn from Regis Philbin as he retired from television. Jay's insights stuck in my mind throughout the weekend, along with Regis' voice. I commented to Jay that one of the lessons we could learn from Regis was the power of voice recognition amongst our members - and as I continued to sound it out, I realize that is only the first of a number of goals associations could have for making an impression on their constituents...
1. The Voice - When associations talk about their members recognizing them, it is often a matter of having a unique and clear voice. For Regis, it only takes hearing his distinctive voice to know who is behind whatever message is being expressed. Regis is often impersonated because of this recognition - a recognition not tied to a brand or a product, but to the speaker. Ultimately, this inherent connection is what associations are looking for when they talk about branding or becoming part of their members' vocabulary. If upon reading a professional article or news item, attending a meeting or learning in a continuing education setting a professional automatically thinks in terms of their association, then innate branding, or 'the voice' has been established.
2. The Song - Of course, words and voice are just the beginning - they can lose meaning without context or a point of connection for a listener. In our running metaphor, this would be taking the voice that is recognized, and letting it tell a story or sing a song to connect to listeners, who then become fans. We all have songs that evoke memories and emotions. From a good Monday morning wake up song (which for me lately has either been Foo Fighters or LMFAO ) to that song that tells a story that you want to know what happens (Tim McGraw excels at this) or a singer who can take another artist's song and give it a very different feeling (late great Johnny Cash stands out to me), each tune works because it elicits an emotional reaction. If associations can not only be recognized for their voice, but with that voice produce a feeling of confidence and community in its members, that is an even greater success. Perhaps this is done by focusing an association's messaging away from product sales and instead creating a narrative of the life of a professional. Each member is a character in that story, intertwined with the offering/products/services/community that are discovered along the way. What is more emotionally compelling than our own story?
3. The Video - And finally, what if we can provide a multi-sensory experience? In a world of facebook, twitter, private social networks, google+ hangouts, skype and more - are we really still limiting our interactions to blast, one-way messaging? What if we can tie the story we are telling to a member by including them as an active, and not passive character - essentially making them the author. Engage in conversation with what they need, and what they would like to see. Transform customer service from a general 1-800 number to a specific person assigned to each member, with a picture next to their contact information. Change the narrative the association is singing into a music video - invoking sound, sight and thought can make a much deeper impression. Some may do this for novelty, just to grab attention (OK GO is #1 at this whether on treadmills or being painted) while others use it to better engage you in their story (Lady Antebellum with a happy ending, Foo Fighters with a different one). And then there are those that take on a life unto themselves and change paradigms (MJ - Thriller). Whether trying to grab attention, create a compelling narrative or shift expectations, combining sight, sound and narrative is a recipe for maximizing communication involvement.
So should associations put marketing funds into a music video? Probably not. Should we start to shape our message to be memorable, personal and interactive? Yes. It's time to start being a little more fun. It's time to be interesting. It's time that associations start to rock out. Maybe they won't win an astronaut trophy, but they can win over the commitment, enthusiasm and loyalty of their professionals.