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Marketing and Communications: The Age of the Audience

Audience members have moved to the front and centre of association and event marketing, with a new generation of communicators deploying a powerful set of techniques for defining, segmenting, understanding, and reaching the unique, often demanding individuals in your membership.

From inbound marketing to outbound email, from blogging to social networking, an explosion of new tools is changing the way the most innovative marketers think about and practice their craft. At the Engaging Associations Summit in July, you’ll get a first-hand look at emerging marketing philosophies that point toward a more open, balanced relationship between associations and their members, participants, prospects, and other stakeholders.

Panelist Rachel Stephan, Principal of sensov/ event marketing, urges clients to check all their assumptions before launching a campaign, beginning with how and where a target audience congregates and which platforms they use to communicate.

“You certainly don’t want to market to an audience where they can’t be found!” she states on the sensov/ website. “To figure out which sites you should use and how, audience mapping will allow you to determine your best course of action” for any organization or event.

For panelist Jeff Hurt, Dallas-based Executive Vice President, Education and Engagement at Velvet Chainsaw Consulting, a crucial step in effective marketing is to recognize that the audience is in charge.

“Audiences are not owned,” he wrote in a recent blog post. “We like, follow, and subscribe to brands, organizations, and people…when it brings us something of value, saves us money, or provides timely content.” That dynamic has shifted the emphasis from traditional media and advertising to a constant commitment to building loyal audiences.

Hurt cited six key audience types defined by author Jeffrey Rohrs: Seekers, Amplifiers, Joiners, and three categories of “VIP Joiners”: Subscribers, Fans, and Followers. One challenge for conferences, he said, is to turn Seekers and Amplifiers into VIP Joiners who commit more deeply to an organization or an event.

Panelist Mitchell Beer, President of Smarter Shift, focuses much of his work on “narrowcasting” specialized messages to small but influential target audiences.

Many organizations “have important stories to tell. Their target audiences are usually policy-makers or other subject specialists, not a wide group of consumers,” he wrote. “To have an impact, they have to deliver their content and messaging above the lowest common denominator, at a level of detail and complexity that conventional marketing usually avoids.

“That means trading breadth of reach for depth of understanding. So landing at the top of a Google search may or may not be a measure of success.”

Stephan, Hurt, and Beer will talk about association marketing and communications at the Engaging Associations Summit, July 24-25, 2014 in Ottawa. Click here for details.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /