Virtual Engagement Strategies, How to Start Networking, and more w/ Pam Rosenberg
Alex Mastrianni: Welcome to The Member Engagement Show with Higher Logic, the podcast for association professionals, looking to boost retention, gain new members and deepen member involvement.
Heather McNair: Throughout our show, we'll bring on some experts, talk sharp about engagement, and you'll walk away with strategies proven to transform your organization. I'm Heather McNair.
Alex Mastrianni: I'm Alex Mastrianni and we're happy you're here. Welcome back to another episode of The Member Engagement Show. I'm so excited today to be joined by one of our awesome customers at Higher Logic, Pam Rosenberg. She is the manager of learning and development at The Risk Management Association. Welcome to the show, Pam.
Pam Rosenberg: Thank you, Alex. Thank you for having me.
Alex Mastrianni: It's great to talk to you again. I know we've met a few times over the past couple of years. It's been a while since I've seen you in person, I think, but why don't you introduce yourself to our listeners? Tell everyone a little bit about you.
Pam Rosenberg: Yeah. So as Alex said, my name's Pam Rosenberg. I am at The Risk Management Association. I've been in association management for over 12 years now. I live in Arlington Heights, Illinois, which is a suburb of Chicago. And yeah, I love associations. I love supporting the industries that our members are, where their careers are. And I love being a member of associations and again, just providing services and tools for everyone on all sides of any professional development, career growth and advancement and so, and so. That's a little bit about my professional history.
Alex Mastrianni: Yeah. That's, awesome. Truly an association professional. When I think about folks in the industry, you definitely come to mind. On a side note, I have to say that Chicago is on my list of places that I want to visit. Again, once I get back on an airplane. I've been missing Chicago and this is a great time of the year there, right? As spring is coming, and summer's upon us.
Pam Rosenberg: Yeah. I think it is finally here.
Alex Mastrianni: Again, I don't know when people will be actually listening to this, but I think we're skipping spring and we're just going right into summer, like most of the country. Forget that season, it doesn't exist. It's either too cold or too hot.
Pam Rosenberg: Well, Chicago is beautiful. I think last time I was there, it was in June. So maybe I will need to hop on another June trip next year or something like that.
Alex Mastrianni: But so we're here to talk about engagement, of course. And I know that community has been a part of different roles that you've held in your current or past lives, in different associations. Why would you say community was important to your association or in those roles specifically that you've held? How did you interact, or manage, or take community into consideration when you were planning different ways to engage with members?
Pam Rosenberg: So before I really even knew what community was, I knew that these things existed, there wasn't a word that I knew exactly what it was. I knew that in my industry being an association professional, there were associations for association professionals. So that's quite a mouthful, but I knew that, that was the only way that I myself was going to learn more about, again, what my industry is and what my place in the industry would be. When I originally started out in my professional career, I thought it was going to be more on the fundraising side of nonprofit management, but through just kind of my early career, I found this fantastic industry. And the people that join associations, they're there to get stuff out of it for themselves, but also to give back, that's what I've heard over and over again from those on my side of association management. But also those that are members of associations that I have worked for in the past. You get more out of the associations when you give more. And that's just a common theme, no matter what industry you're in, whether it's medical, engineering, scientific, educational. Again, the more that I give, the more that I get out of it. And I don't know who benefits from it, more the people that I interact with, or if it's me. Just because it is so enlightening to be surrounded by people that do what I do, but also be able to provide for the industry that I'm serving. So not what I do, but again, the member organization that I'm involved with.
Alex Mastrianni: Totally agree. It's so rewarding when you can give back. And I feel like that is just such a central theme that we see with associations. So was your first exposure to community or the concept of community as a community member?
Pam Rosenberg: Yes. And again, I think it probably just because I was kind of still fresh out of college and kind of figuring out what my place in the professional world was going to be, but yeah. So using what I thought were just generic forums, or just kind of the backend chat of the website, just kind of a chat place. And yeah, I just started to recognize familiar names. And then once I kind of learned what community was, I just had these major light bulb moments and I said," Oh, well if I'm on a professional side, from the organization that I was at, this is just completely invaluable." Because whether the organization is more regional even within a state or a couple of states, or just a statewide association, people can't meet all the time or they just have these quick questions and they also don't know who they don't know. And that's very true about any industry that there are so many people that are knowledgeable and educated on a topic that you have questions about. And they're willing to share that with you and engage in dialogue. So you can learn on an educational level, but also expand your own network. So it's just completely invaluable on a professional life on what I serve and what I do, but also on a personal life, it's just opened me up to such a range of individuals that I never ever would have connected with, had I not had any form of community.
Alex Mastrianni: So tell me more about your light bulb moments. Like when did you realize like," Oh, maybe we need to bring community to our members or maybe this could fix XYZ challenge or help with this issue we're having." Or what was that like for you?
Pam Rosenberg: Yeah. So it's kind of the mentality where in my previous roles about, we keep trying to build this thing. At the end of the day, it is community, because when we don't have it or we're not doing it, or we don't necessarily know what the solutions are out there to fix it. And when I did have that light bulb moment, I was like," Oh, that's what this is." And there's a solution out there for us that already exists. And we don't have to rebuild it from scratch every single time. It just made so much sense to just jump in and go for it. Because we can't have volunteers trying to fix this thing all the time where you constantly try to be engaging on it or monitoring it or whatever the case was. It just didn't make sense to keep going to that same thing all the time and not getting different results. So when we were able to commit to it and get it off the ground, and this may go into what we'll chat about a little bit later, but when we were able to launch it and get it going, the community that I was working with took off. And it was an immediate member benefit. And I can't speak to it right now, but within the first 6, 9, 12 months, it became a top member benefit for those that were using it. Not everybody knew what it was yet because you can't force everybody to know what this thing is. You can't do that with any member, organization, any company. They just have to either be recommended to go use the thing that you're trying to convince them to do, or they just happen to stumble upon it one way or another. And again, I don't know if it's because it was new and shiny, but I want to go check it out or whatever, but it just became such an instant source of invaluable information. And that's the great thing about community is, it's on your phone, it's in your email. You don't have to be at a location to interact with people. It has no physical boundaries. And when we did launch, there was a lot of international members that were engaging and participating in what we were doing. And we had members that were overseas or international, but they never got to engage and interact with any of our other members. With medical, for example, I was at a medical organization, but there's tons and tons of different medical specialties. And I was at an engineering organization and not everybody at every engineering firm knows everything from what our members were trying to do or within engineering, just specialty topics. And you just learn to think out of the box and think also outside of the box, but also how can you make the box better. So that was really cool to witness. Again. Maybe we'll get into this a little bit later, but communities like this for associations, it's not this free for all when it comes to your social networks, your professional networks. It's very targeted, it's very specific, and there's this barrier to entry, a good barrier to entry because this person is vetted there's rules that they have to stick to. So you don't just go to the festival and everybody's there and they can all have an opinion on this, that, and the other. But you know that the people that you're interacting with are like- minded and chances are, have specific answers or can help guide you to specific answers to your questions. And it's not social media where things can just get off the rails really, really quickly. There's a sense of professionalism with community and people when it is a professional community. And I found that even the interactions online were very different in a positive way from necessarily some of the informal more in- person networking and in- person communities. So it was much more specific and targeted. And again, just more professional.
Alex Mastrianni: So much to unpack with everything that you just said. One thing that I want to point out that I just think is incredible about community, and I think we've witnessed it a lot in the past year when talking about events is just that access. But it really just has been there forever when you have a community and you have an international membership base. It's hard to get those people together in any personal or in- person format, right? Your members in different geographic locations just tend to see each other when they are in person. But providing that access for them to the full membership base, to different ideas, different specialties, different experts, it's huge for them. But the other thing that you mentioned that I think we could talk more about is just that idea of the continuous engagement. It's not something that stopping and starting every time you have a new initiative, or every time you have an event, or it's a new year, or whatever makes sense for what you might've been doing.. A community is a great place to continually have members have access to each other, to your organization, to anything that they need really at any given moment that your community can provide. And I know you talked a lot, or we had talked previously about some of the ways that you looked at that continuous engagement when it came to virtual strategy in the past year, 18 months, or so. Can you tell us a little bit about how you transitioned that engagement strategy online and maybe how community played a role in that, challenges you faced, any roadblocks along the way. What was that like for you?
Pam Rosenberg: Yeah, so even before the pandemic hit us like a brick wall, at least in my limited knowledge about it, our engagement tactics were changing. They always are changing or adapting to what the new trends are, and so, and so. That was definitely playing a role in how things were evolving and whatnot. When COVID hit, it became with so much of what all of our industries, no matter what you do, it's it changed so much of what we fundamentally do. We couldn't just blast, here's everything that's going on, just getting flooded, left and right with everything that everybody is doing all the time and just content information overload. And on top of all of the other personal things that everyone is overloaded with. So being much more thoughtful, much more strategic, much more concise, specific small actions that needed to be done so that the members can get something out of it so that we can get something out of it. And I'm guessing it has changed. This is not a surprise or any but it has changed a lot permanently about how we are, and how we interact, and who we're loyal to, what our priorities are. I think that's probably nothing new or groundbreaking or anything, but from a member engagement perspective, just, you have to be really thoughtful and you can't just blast everybody all the time. And, again, that's no secret, that's nothing new, but even more so, someone did this, let's do that. Let's keep them engaged as well. And also with every industry there was things that were coming up that have never ever come up before. Just as a society, as a global functioning society, we had to adapt and figure out how to solve these problems. We kind of had contingency, emergency plans maybe, but when it came to health and safety this was stuff that never comes up. For example, like with education, schools, they go dormant for couple of months over the summer, maybe, but there's people come in and now maybe their school programs and things like that. But I was in the water business before my previous organization and stagnant water and things that had never, ever come up before.
Alex Mastrianni: Wow. Things that you can't really anticipate too.
Pam Rosenberg: Exactly. And buildings that had never been dormant for so long or unoccupied. Things that you knew would potentially be a thing, but it was learning about history live. And that was what so much all of us did, no one was unaffected by it. And that was really the coolest thing that came out of what so many of our people had done was just figuring these things out, writing the playbook as it was happening. You know, there's an example of driving on the road before it's built, same thing. You don't know where the lanes are and you don't know what direction you're going, but you're on it. And you have to figure out how to stay on it and not wreck.
Alex Mastrianni: I'm pretty sure that I heard for the first time, maybe this phrase has been around for a while, but I just heard it for the first time last year. And then I feel like I heard it multiple times, building the plane as we were flying it, that was 100% what it felt like at times. And it's cool to witness it in the community, especially when you have people who are facing these challenges together, but might be alone in their organizations or their companies, or whatever the situation is. And they're like," I need help, so I need to go see what my peers are doing. And run this problem by them, get their feedback in real time, see how maybe they're handling things." And like you said, writing the playbook as it's happening. It's very cool.
Pam Rosenberg: And like I said, we knew what things could happen but on such a global scale, in such a large scale, it was really fascinating to watch it unfold. We were all completely stressed out and burnt out and all the other things that we all felt and are still feeling, but that was really cool seeing it unfold in community. And we didn't have to wait to get to a conference to hear what everyone was talking about, or we didn't just have to pick up the phone. And one of the beautiful things about community is it's this living, breathing thing that is always kind of there to go look for it again. So maybe you had that light bulb moment and it was really impactful on you. You can always go back and find it again and redirect someone there, another person in your network or in your industry, redirect them there. And it's just, well, this is how we were doing it three months ago, but here's what's changed, but I didn't necessarily touch this three months ago, but I want to see what my peers have done now. So it's obviously within some boundaries, some things don't always stay up depending on what the topic is, things do get out of date. Where I am right now, I'm in the banking industry. My members are credit loan officers and credit risk individuals. And they're still very much writing the playbook. A lot of them are having conversations about all the PPP loans and things like that. And they're just, again, I don't even know much about it because I'm not in the thick of it on such that granular level, but seeing the conversations that are coming through about," Well, here's how you did this, and here's the calculation, and here's what to expect, or here's this resource." It's just absolutely invaluable for members to have community.
Alex Mastrianni: And that's so cool to see them helping each other and working together and figuring it out as it all unfolds. One other thing that you mentioned that I love personally as a marketer too, just seeing like, oh, we need to figure out the best way to deliver information to our members because we're a resource to them. We don't want them to get messages from us, whether it's email, social, community, whatever the channel is and say,"Oh, this is too long. I don't have time to look at this." Or" I don't have time for XYZ event or webinar or whatever it is." But changing up your messaging to make sure you are being as clear and concise as possible so that they can get what they need and get on with their day or get the information as quickly as possible when they're there and that information overload.
Pam Rosenberg: Yeah. Absolutely. And it's kind of these micro marketing messages and being-
Alex Mastrianni: Ooh, I love that.
Pam Rosenberg: Being more strategic about how and when, and also maybe considering let's take a breather, let's pause, give people a chance to not just be so overwhelmed with messaging that we're putting out. And I love this, with all associations, trade associations, professional organizations, and so on, and this is getting off topic a little bit, but the best marketers are your members. And it costs more to get a new member than to keep an old member. So those are two different concepts. But if you treat your members right, and you respect their digital presence and what they're being digitally exposed to, I'm just talking on that perspective, they'll do the marketing for your community for you.
Alex Mastrianni: Oh, totally agree.
Pam Rosenberg: One of the things that we found really helpful, and we were kind of thinking about rolling this out before the pandemic hit, was kind of this trial membership, so to speak, for our community. And everyone has different community permissions and who's allowed in, there's a lot of industries that make it open to anybody that's in the industry because it is such a strong community and just for various reasons. But the way that my organization was, we definitely had a paywall so to speak. So you had to be a member to get in, but we ended up opening these free trials for community because we wanted to show everyone the value that we had. And we had to do a little bit of vetting as well, make sure they were legitimate and they weren't going to just come in and start selling and promoting products or promoting companies and things like that. But that proved to be beneficial as well. So even just a short term, temporary access," Oh this is what I could get." Kind of give them a taste of what this is about. So that was a strategy that we deployed that we were successful at.
Alex Mastrianni: Yeah, no, I think that's awesome. First of all, I think word of mouth marketing right now is the best way to get exposure for your organization. No matter what industry you're in. I think people are used to going to maybe certain publications or different resources to find out if they want to buy a product or a service or join a membership or something like that. Whereas now people just are talking to each other and saying," Hey, what do you use for this? What do you think about this group, this product, this service, whatever it is." And people want to hear from their peers that they trust. And if you have your members who are happy and seeing value and talking about the great reasons why they should consider a membership or you get access to this community, if you do this, that's one of the best tools in your toolbox.
Pam Rosenberg: And one of the things about that is, it has to be authentic engagement, authentic and really intentional. Intentional, but also natural engagement because every industry has competitors, the manufacturers, they have their own community and there's nothing wrong with that. But those are really specific, really targeted, but they may kind of get off tangent and be kind of your direct competitors. So when thinking about strategy, it's really being authentic and that's such an overused word, but people are drawn to their own kind and they want to recognize the language that they're hearing and that they're seeing. And I'm not saying that from just like literally English to another language, but the style. And I mean, I think, you know what I'm saying, it's just has to be authentic.
Alex Mastrianni: 100%. You don't want to feel like you're taking in a marketing message or a pitch or something like that. You want to hear, I can't think of a better word than authenticity, but it really is that real human to human feeling, connection, the trust from a person that you know and respect and you trust their opinion.
Pam Rosenberg: Yeah. Authentic and also empathetic because like probably you and many people that will listen to this, just a lot of brain fog. And I knew a thing 15 months ago and maybe I haven't practiced that thing in 15 months. And I know, I know the thing, but having empathy when I trip up or it goes such a long way and making sure that those in the community. And I can imagine that there is any community, at least the ones that you deal with where someone would deliberately just be inauthentic. There's ways of taking subtle jabs online and things like that. But there's a real person behind the keyboard and maybe they're new to the industry. So making sure that authenticity and empathy are the message while still trying to communicate and relay the technical part or whatever that the person is trying to reach or get their solution for.
Alex Mastrianni: I totally agree. Showing your support. One other thing I want to talk about is networking because when I think about folks who are, I don't want to say like a networking pro, but you are a networking pro. You really made time to prioritize one- on- one meetings, talking in small groups rather than bigger conferences or virtual events over the past year or so. So can you tell me a little bit about how you came to that realization and what you did or how it helped you out?
Pam Rosenberg: Yeah. So one of the beautiful things about what we've all been forced to with all these two dimensional conversations and things like that is I feel like I can be a little bit more of myself in a sense. In some ways things are much more rigid because I'm staring at a screen, I'm staring at a microphone I'm not moving around, I'm not go into this networking room or whatever it is. But people are seeing me in my natural habitat, so to speak. And you have to take it upon yourself. It's so much easier just to find someone online through community. This is how I've met most of my recent networking peers is through the various communities that I'm a member of, specifically Higher Logic platforms. But I recognize this name, or you happen to be in a similar industry to what I am, or you have a question about the credential that I have, or you want study tips or whatever. Send them a message and say," I'd love to talk to you for 15 minutes, 5 minutes. You don't have anything to lose. And so much of what our grind has been recently is just meeting, meeting, meeting, meeting, meeting, and it's just not getting anything done. There's no water cooler talk. And because we haven't done anything in over 15 months or whatever it is, there's not, I can't be myself. And not that I'm not permitted to show my personality and whatnot, but it's so much easier just to approach someone in the line and say," Hey, can we talk?" There's no awkward room silence. There's no, I'm standing by myself, I don't know anybody. I can't imagine that if someone reached out to anyone in any industry, any profession that they're in and say," Can I just pick your brain for five minutes about a specific topic?" It doesn't even have to be kind of with the agenda of, I want to know, I just want to meet people. It turns into that organically if you make it so. And it's kind of like blind dating, if the meeting is horrible, you say," Okay, I got to go, I have a commitment." And you would just end it right there. And again, there's no awkward, where's this person in the room, how do I avoid them at the conference or the next meeting or whatever it is, you just kind of sign off. Again, I'm an extrovert and I get my energy from conversations and meeting people. So it's not necessarily for everyone, but again, you do have that ability to sign off, but it really made my days less just routine and it broke it up. I've had to be more thoughtful about, not more thoughtful, but just be really intentional and how I'm setting up these things. And I welcome people to reach out to me. And I love reaching out to people and sharing what I've learned along the way and how our industry has changed. And I keep saying that, but everybody, we're kind of hopefully at the tail end of what has been changing, but a lot of the stuff is permanent. It is sticking around. So it's really simple, whether it's even just on LinkedIn, someplace that is doesn't necessarily have that paywall or whatever it is. They'll direct you to what you need to know. And you don't find opportunities looking on a job board. You could get great answers to your questions in publications and in journals and things like that. But you do so much of your growth through conversation and through interactions like this. And again, if it's terrible, you just leave and that's it, and you move on, but you've at least expanded your network and you never know what's going to come from these little interactions. And it's really easy. We're chatting, you just write something down and it clicks and you just send a thank you follow- up and maybe you'll reference it later, maybe you won't. One of my consistent networking friends, that I've never met, is in Colombia. He happens to be a US resident, but he's Colombian, and we connect all the time now. And I wouldn't never met him, never. If it just weren't for me to send him a quick message in one of the networking groups that I'm in to say," Hey, let's chat." Or say" What's up?" And so you get to bridge on any in- person virtual networking, whatever it is. You get to bridge your personal with your professional. And this is who your people are, and this is going to help go to bat for you or help guide you. And I went off a little bit of a tangent there.
Alex Mastrianni: No that's okay. Again, so many things are running through my brain. I think it's so true though. Like, when you think about your schedule, you just get so used to," Oh goodness, I've got a packed schedule today, full of back- to- back Zoom calls. Barely have time to get up and get a snack or step outside for a second, just get away from my computer." But when you have these little additions to your schedule that are quick connections with folks you've met or seen online in some capacity, it's a really nice little bright spot in your day. And you can get some of that energy or get a little rejuvenation in your day from chatting with a peer for 15 minutes and just seeing what's going on.
Pam Rosenberg: Yeah. And one of the other things that I'm such an advocate for, for networking is, I can't speak for everybody necessarily, but so much of at least what I've experienced, there's so many emergencies that come up. And" Oh I have to get this in the emergency. I can't carve out time to meet with someone." Well, if you meet for someone for 30 minutes, chances are in an hour that emergency, or even the next day, that emergency is not an emergency anymore. And that's not a blanket statement for everything, but it's just so much more meaningful and it really helps connect you to the industry that you're in. It really helps you remember why you're in it, or maybe why you don't want to be in it. It really will help give guiding light in either direction. Because you're not an expert on everything. You can't know everything. And someone else is going to know something and having these natural mentoring relationships is what's come out of it. I've got a couple of mentors and they probably don't realize they're my mentors, I've just kind of given them that role, but they're also friends at the end of the day. So, again, emergencies are not always emergencies, there are things that really are emergencies and can't be moved or they're really absolutely critical. But setting time aside to worry about yourself in a sense will help so much growth internally.
Alex Mastrianni: So many amazing tips there and just how to get started with networking. And I hope Pam has inspired you to reach out to someone that maybe you would like to chat with. But before we wrap up, I have to ask you, our question we ask all of our guests here on this show is, what is your favorite engagement tactic?
Pam Rosenberg: So when I'm hosting a personal or professional engagement tactic, I love doing this word scramble. So this works a little bit better with groups that are 30 or less, but people that don't know each other. I set up and again, this is nothing new I've just happened to use this more frequently is, you create very easily a word scramble for words that are specific to what your attendees are doing. And this is if you were the host. And then you throw everybody in the rooms and whoever comes back the quickest with the right answers wins. And it's just this really high energy. And I can't tell you who hasn't benefited from it. When we're so sedentary right now, and we're just so two dimensional, it has really" Oh team, this we won." And it really changes how the rest of the program goes because you've built these bonds with people that you competed with. And it just, at least recently that has really worked very, very well, very simple tool.
Alex Mastrianni: Yeah, that's a great idea because I feel like that's a fun way to do team bonding or an ice breaker or something. And then they have this little connection to their group throughout the rest of the event.
Pam Rosenberg: But it doesn't involve people. Tell me about yourself. Tell me two truths and a lie.
Alex Mastrianni: I was going to say, if I have to think of three facts, I'm like," Oh God, I don't know what I'm going to say." And I'm panicked until it's my turn, but yeah, definitely like a low barrier.
Pam Rosenberg: Low stakes on high energy.
Alex Mastrianni: That's awesome. So thank you so much, Pam, for joining us today. Before we end the show, I want you to give an opportunity, where can people find you on the internet? Are you active on LinkedIn or what communities do you hang out with? Where can people find you?
Pam Rosenberg: Yes, you can find me on LinkedIn, Pam Rosenberg, very simple, I'm at The Risk Management Association. And feel free to find me on Twitter, RosenbergPam, or on Facebook if you'd like to connect. But most of my professional stuff is obviously through LinkedIn, but also I am on Hug a little bit here and there. I'm also involved with collaborate for ASAE and also my forum for association forum, which is a Chicago land based association for association professionals.
Alex Mastrianni: All right. Well, thank you so much, Pam. That's going to do it for another episode of The Member Engagement Show and we will see you all next week.
This week, Pam Rosenberg joins the show! Pam, manager of learning and development at The Risk Management Association, and an expert in community, is here to discuss engagement, networking in communities virtually, and the engagement strategies. Tune in now!