Secrets Of ASAE’S Gold Circle Awards – The Highlight Reel

If you didn’t tune in for Association Chat (#assnchat) Tuesday, you missed some extremely helpful tips and secrets that could possibly help your association win one (or three, as we heard from one association that did just that) of The American Society of Association Executives’ (ASAE) Gold Circle Awards!

ASAE’s Gold Circle Awards were created to shine a little light on the amazing efforts put forward by the hardworking teams that make associations what they are. The goal of these awards is to recognize the best of the best in marketing, membership, and communications programs in the association and nonprofit world.

We welcomed two brilliant guests onto Association Chat:

Paula Gonzalez (@PaulaG_PMA) is the director of member relations for the Produce Marketing Association (PMA), a global trade association representing the fresh produce and floral industries and she is currently serving as vice chair of the ASAE Gold Circle Awards Committee.

Chris Young (@decachrisyoung) is high school division director at DECA Inc. He has more than ten years of professional experience in association management, specializing in the education sector. As a member of ASAE, he (and his organization) is a three-time Gold Circle award winner. By the way, Chris is also a 2016 USAE and Association Forum Forty Under 40 honoree!

Ready to learn a shortcut to success? We’ve got you covered!

The Topic: Secrets Of ASAE’S Gold Circle Awards

Check out the highlights of the chat below or listen in to the replay here:

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Host KiKi L’Italien, began the chat with a pre-chat poll asking viewers if they knew anything about the Gold Circle Awards. The votes hovered around “Not a Bit” and “Maybe A Little” so KiKi asked Paula to explain the awards more in depth for our viewers.

“They [the Gold Circle Awards] recognize extraordinary marketing and communications efforts of associations, in eleven different categories,” Paula said.

The categories mentioned are as follows:

  • Convention/Meetings Campaign
  • E-Magazine
  • E-Newsletter
  • Integrated Communications Campaign
  • Media/Public Relations/Advocacy Campaign
  • Member Retention Campaign
  • Member Recruitment
  • New Product/Service Launch Campaign
  • Print Magazine
  • Rebranding
  • Video
  • Website

“The award winners are announced every year at ASAE’s Membership Marketing and Communications Conference (MMCC). It’s really a wonderful opportunity for people to showcase their best work,” she continued.

But what makes these awards so special?

“What makes the awards so special is the fact that marketing and communications in membership are really at the heart of associations. Without memberships, associations are nothing. We don’t exist. We need marketing and communications in order to function and let the industry and professions we represent know what it is that we’re doing. We let the rest of the world know what our best practices are so that they can learn from us,” Paula said.

Chris, whose association won in the convention and meetings campaign, video, and website categories, was nodding his head in agreement that the awards are very special.

KiKi asked Chris what his biggest takeaway was from winning three Gold Circle Awards.

“It was great to see what other associations are doing and learn from them that way,” Chris said. “I would say that one of the big takeaways for us, both personally and our association, was that process that you go through to get ready to submit the awards because you have to have that reflection and that look back to where you were a year ago and that journey with whatever it was.”

He went on to admit that his association would not typically write about the website creation process, “but because of the gold circle awards it made us think about that reflection piece and put it on paper to see the results of it. It was a great opportunity to really see our bench market from a year ago where we were.”

Association Chat viewers wanted to know whether nominees submit an application or are nominated by others.

“It is an application process because there’s a lot of information that you need to submit that you as the project manager would know,” Paula confirmed.

Apply for the Gold Circle Awards HERE.

There’s different information that you have to submit, such as:

  • What were your goals and objectives?
  • What strategies and tactics did you employ?
  • What were your metrics?
  • What were the end results?

“You really have to be the person who was involved most intimately with that project in order to supply that information,” she said.

KiKi, who is always one with follow-up questions off the tip of her tongue, asked, “Did gathering this information or reviewing it impact the way you’ve put projects together moving forward?”

Chris replied, “I don’t know if it specifically has, but I think the experience of going through that process definitely helped. We really didn’t think about the strategy, tactics and where we want to go. Those are all questions that we answered. It was a good experience to reflect and go forward with it.”

His statement continued with a huge and helpful secret for future Gold Circle Award applicants, “I do believe that all the briefs are on ASAE’s Gold Circle website and you can go on there and see all of the winners from the previous years. It has a lot of that application information that we had to submit about what our strategy was, how we achieved it, and the metrics. That was a good resource to look at both for applying and to get new ideas and think about what new ways we can market our association in the future.”

KiKi was over the moon with this secret, “I love that idea because you’re actually going to the winners and you’re asking, ‘What did they do that really stood out and won these awards that we might be able to apply?’ I think that that is a pretty solid approach at getting some good ideas.”

Click to view 2016’s Gold Circle Award recipients.

The Association Chat hour flies by when our guests are spilling so many juicy secrets, so we kept the chat flowing with another question:

“What goes into judging? How many submissions do you normally get?”

Paula took the reigns to answer this question, “You only judge one category and you’re only judging the submissions for that one category. The amount of submissions vary from category to category. Some categories have several submissions and some have only a few. There are some categories that are more popular than others. It depends on which category you are judging and how much work you have to put into reviewing.”

Every single submission is judged and then a conference call takes place with all of the judges to make a decision for that category.

However, if the panel doesn’t feel like it’s merited, no winner will be chosen for that category. And sometimes there’s more than one winner because sometimes they feel that two really stand out and they can’t pick between one or the other. Sometimes there’s a clear winner with a close second, so they might give a merit award.

It’s reassuring to know that there are several different possibilities for each category.

Chris added, “ASAE did set standards of criteria. I think as someone who is going to apply for the Gold Circle Awards can use that information to figure out what best fits your category and as you write your information, it’s important to make sure you’re answering the questions within that criteria. From the judging side, that’s exactly how we judge. It takes you through an online portal and it puts the criteria up and you rate it. So that’s where the rating pieces come for that conference call. It’s that end-in-mind design. Look at what you’re being evaluated on and use that to submit your application.”

Another helpful tip from Chris is to, “make sure metrics are in there because you want to have good work. Something that’s innovative and unique or impactful. Looking at those metrics and seeing the value and impact is very good, too. It comes together once you start putting everything together.”

Metrics ended up being a very hot topic of discussion during this chat because how would you measure the metrics of one campaign versus another?

“It’s going to vary depending on what category you’ve entered,” Paula said. “The measurements and impact for video campaign are going to be very different from the measurements for a media and PR campaign. The judges will probably be looking for how many viewers did you get for your video and how many clicks for your links from your e-mails, but for a PR campaign it’s going to be very different. How many people did you reach? How many impressions did you get in your social media campaign? In a membership campaign you’re going to be looking for membership recruitment and membership conversion rates and how many new members did you get? It helps to know how it compares to previous campaigns. It’s going to be very, very different.”

A bonus tip from Paula regarding metrics is: “We don’t always see how does it compare to previous years and that is a question that we often wish that we could answer. That’s something that I would include.”

Chris wanted to add, “I think you should also think of some secondary metrics, too.  For example, with our video, obviously we used the views that we could track through Youtube or the hosting site, but the purpose of it was really for membership recruitment and membership promotion. So we pulled in our membership numbers from that year that we used the video for that membership cycle and compared it to the previous years and those types of things are also helpful.”

“It’s not specifically the clicks or the views, but the bigger picture in the association,” Chris said.

Karen, an Association Chat viewer, commented, “For metrics, how do small orgs fit in? Our metrics totally don’t look like a big org’s numbers.”

“That’s something that you can include in your application. Give us a little bit of a background about your organization and about your history. Let us know what your campaign is like and let us know what your goals are,” Paula encouraged. “If your goal was to recruit 50 members and you recruited 100, that’s outstanding. We take that into account when we review the applications. What’s the size of the organization? You can still have outstanding results as a small organization, and big organizations can have lackluster results, too.”

The chat was flying by and it was time to get weird, so naturally KiKi asked, “What is the weirdest entry you’ve ever seen?”

Chris knew exactly which entry came to mind when we asked this question, “One of the entries that won was a 60-second video. I think it was about the floral industry… It was kind of like a love, sex, and death video. It was catchy because it took those topics that’d you’d see in a soap opera and put it in the association. It had an impact because it was so different and it won that year.”

Interested in watching the American Floral Endowment “Murder Sex & Greed” video that won in 2014? Click HERE.

Paula also had a campaign in mind, “One that surprised us was a soil science society. It was a PR Advocacy Campaign. You wouldn’t think that would be successful or fun, but they had a successful campaign and they won.”

KiKi was intrigued!

“It’s good to be unique and if you need any ideas, you go and figure out what the winners did that helped them to win. I love the idea! I’m not all about shortcuts all the time. But I love it if you can shortcut to success,” she said.

So, what’s next for the ASAE Gold Circle Awards?

“We’re having an educational session at MMCC and we’re hoping to have more educational sessions at other events. We’re doing virtual lunches and webinars throughout the year. We’re planning on doing a live chat on Collaborate and getting more involved in social media. We want to get the word out on what the winners are doing because they have a lot of really good ideas to share,” Paula said.

And is the three-time champ going to apply for this year’s awards?

“We’re kicking around some ideas… But we might be submitting, a couple, maybe,” Chris said.

Sounds promising!

We concluded the chat with a little word game, in which KiKi royally messed up Chris’ word ‘weird’ by calling the guest himself ‘weird.’ It was pretty funny, though. Sorry, Chris! We heart you!

Before the chat could end, Richard, an Association Chat viewer, asked if anyone could become a judge for the Gold Circle Awards.

The answer? YES! The Gold Circle Awards are in need of more volunteers to judge the submissions.

Interested in becoming a judge? We’ve got you covered. Click HERE for more information.

We signed off with Paula and Chris after all their Gold Circle Award secrets were spilled.

Want to stay in touch with Paula and Chris? Engage with Paula on Twitter @PaulaG_PMA and Chris on Twitter @decachrisyoung.

Is your association or nonprofit organization planning to apply for the 2017 Gold Circle Awards? We want to know. Tweet @assnchat using #assnchat to share your plans!

Be mindful the 2017 DEADLINE is February 6, 2017!

Check out the full stream and conversation here:

Secrets of ASAE’s Gold Circle Awards

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