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Believing in Print and the Cohesiveness of Their Membership, Association Media & Publishing’s New President, Erin Pressley, Talks about the Future of Associations and the Importance of Quality Content – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Erin Pressley…

May 28, 2014

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“We did a reader survey last year and I was convinced that digital has been around for a long time, we have mobile apps, digital editions, social media; I thought for sure more of our membership was really going to express a preference for those digital platforms as a way to get their information. And it was almost 40% of the members who said that they really just wanted print.” Erin Pressley

Membership and content are two very important facets for the new president of Association Media & Publishing, Erin Pressley. The AM&P is the premier membership organization that serves the needs of association publishers, business operation executives, communications professionals, designers, and content generators and the media they create.

And while digital is an important part of their business, Erin is extremely pleased by the love and loyalty their members have for their print products, especially since she pleaded ink on paper’s case in front of her CEO and the board of directors.

And her entreaty for print has really paid off since a large part of their membership still revel at the feel of a magazine in their hand and the investment for that tangibility is proving most successful.

So get ready to learn a lot about association media and the points that make it tick as you enjoy the Mr. magazine™ interview with Erin Pressley – President of AM&P.

But first The Mr. Magazine™ Minute with the newly installed president of the Association Media & Publishing Erin Pressley and listen to her dream and mantra for AM&P.

And now the sound-bites:

On the current status of the Association Media & Publishing: Association Media right now I think is really undergoing an evolution. There’s a tremendous amount of opportunity that’s out there, but there’s also a lot of choices to be made.

On the platforms Associations prefer when it comes to their content: It depends on the association. I think some are a little more thoughtful and progressive than others. I know some have experimented by dropping print altogether. We still invest in our print and we still believe it’s a valuable member benefit.

On her most pleasant surprise when it comes to her career with the AM&P: I thought for sure more of our membership was really going to express a preference for our digital platforms as a way to get their information. And it was almost 40% of the members who said that they really just wanted print.

On her biggest stumbling block: A stumbling block? I think it’s the same with many associations; it’s resources. It’s financial resources to invest in new innovations and properties, it’s human resources to have the team to really execute on a lot of what we need to really get done.

On what keeps her up at night: I’m well aware of the resources that we have at our organization and that gap seems to be getting wider and wider. And so my struggle is to figure out how I can lessen that gap.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine interview with Erin Pressley, President of the Association Media & Publishing…

Samir Husni: You’re the new president of the AM&P and your background is in editorial. Can you briefly tell me about the current status of the Association Media?

Erin Pressley: Association Media right now I think, as I’ve heard many people speak today at the conference, is really undergoing an evolution. There’s a tremendous amount of opportunity that’s out there, but there’s also a lot of choices to be made. And I think that most associations are headed in the right direction, but there are too many tools to choose from and too many paths to go down and I think what most association publishers need to do is really sit back and think more strategically, develop a content eco-system, learn who their members are and what they want, do an audit of the communication resources that they have and really be more strategic before they continue to go down the road.

I think a lot of associations are just so used to doing the work, getting the work done, pumping the work out; it’s all tactics. And I think when you have few resources, whether it’s budget or human resources, you just get in this mode of status quo and whatever is the easiest. And it’s just hard to sit back and think more strategically about what you need to do. But I think that’s the only way associations are going to stay relevant in the years ahead.

Samir Husni: Is there a divide in the associations about whether they should go print, digital or both? Or is there a united front when it comes to platforms?

Erin Pressley: It depends on the association. I think some are a little more thoughtful and progressive than others. I know some have experimented by dropping print altogether. We still invest in our print and we still believe it’s a valuable member benefit, but I had to get up in front of our board of directors and in front of my CEO and really defend that proposition.

There are so many options out there and I think the breadth of membership that we have in our association and what we call the male-stale-and-pale, the old guys who have been around a long time and who still their love print, is strong. But we want to be in business for the next hundred years, if not more. So we want to make sure we’re bringing these millennials and these other folks in.

So there is a sense that you need to be on all platforms, be everything to all people and I think again it goes back to the strategy of really thinking through what your members want and where you want to go. It might mean a lot in print and a little in digital, it might mean a little more in digital and I think it’s different for every association.

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant surprise in your experience when it comes to Association Media?

Erin Pressley: For my association we did a reader survey last year and I was convinced that digital has been around for a long time, we have mobile apps, digital editions, social media; I thought for sure more of our membership was really going to express a preference for those digital platforms as a way to get their information. And it was almost 40% of the members who said that they really just wanted print. They knew that we had digital options; they knew we communicated that way, but they really loved having the magazine in their hands.

That’s very heartening to me and I’m also talking to advertisers, it’s good information to share with them. We’ve had advertising growth over the last few years, small, but it’s growing. And we’ve actually had circulation growth with our print publication too.

So there’s a lot of organic growth and loyalty around the print publication. And it’s really easy to fall prey to the myths that are out there or colleagues who are in the publishing sphere who talk about the death of print, advertisers who say they just want digital, but to have that kind of concrete numbers showing that our members still really love print, I think was really surprising. And I was very thankful to see that too.

Samir Husni: What has been the biggest stumbling block and how did you overcome it?

IMG_5346 Erin Pressley: A stumbling block? I think it’s the same with many associations; it’s resources. It’s financial resources to invest in new innovations and properties, it’s human resources to have the team to really execute on a lot of what we need to really get done.

The way I’ve tried to overcome within the organization is just to really get more people to understand what we’re up against and the importance of content. And I think more and more if you can draw that content up to the strategic level: how it can help drive membership, how it can help influence events, how it can advance advocacy in legislative things that you’re doing; I think then more people in your organization see the value of that content and then they’re willing to kind of join you in the content crusade. So I’ve really tried to work on that internally.

Samir Husni: What is your Association? What is NACS?

Erin Pressley: NACS is formerly the National Association of Convenience Stores. But over the years we have developed an international presence and we’re also fuel as well, so we’re the Association for Convenience and Fuel Retailing and we’re also convenience stores and gas stations.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Erin Pressley: What keeps me up at night, again, is really resources. I know who my competitors are; I see them as these for-profit publications and websites that are out there and I know even though we’re an association publication that’s where I want to be. And that’s very far-off in the distance.

I’m also well aware of the resources that we have at our organization and that gap seems to be getting wider and wider. And so my struggle is to figure out how I can lessen that gap.

© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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