Linda Conway’s new membership portal is a classic case of looking for a particular answer only to find a much bigger solution.
The executive director needed a better membership database for the New England Newspaper & Press Association.
Instead, she is now launching a new association hub for 400 newspapers in six states that also can be used by affiliate groups and sponsoring vendors.
“I stumbled upon it,” Conway said, adding that after seeing a demonstration and conducting comparison research she hired Tradewing to provide the new networking, resource-sharing and virtual events platform.
San Francisco-based Tradewing calls itself the “leading community and video platform for associations designed to drive member engagement.”
Conway isn’t wasting any time to put the portal in play. Members must use it to register for — and attend — the association’s convention April 8-9. The portal handles all of the processing including the sign-ups and credit card payments for a transaction fee.
After the event, Conway said her team will shape the portal — the NENPA Online Community — as the place where an estimated 2,000 individuals can collaborate on solutions, discuss issues, share materials and content, participate in training, hold events, and learn about business services and products.
The transformation in New England coincides, Conway said, with a pandemic that has left a lot of people feeling “disconnected and isolated” — especially in an industry where getting together for awards ceremonies, workshops and association meetings were a big part of work life.
Conway thinks the portal will adapt the many lessons learned from virtual meetings and allow publishers and editors, for example, to build their own “community groups” to stay better in touch and help each other.
The NENPA Online Community permits members in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine to:
- Ask questions of peers.
- Share important resources.
- Get and give answers.
- Conduct events.
- Follow topics of interest.
- Share conversation-worthy articles.
- Create profiles for reference and engagement.
The format is similar to what you see on Facebook and Linked-in. Conway said she is eager to turn the portal into revenue for the association. That can come from: user fees paid by affiliate associations, such Massachusetts publishers and a First Amendment group; sponsorships of programs and conferences; and various directories, such as those listing vendors and business partners.
Instead of appearing only at a convention, participating vendors can stay on the portal to seek sales to help association members and meet with clients — moving from one-and-done arrangements to yearlong opportunities.
“I’m looking forward to using the portal to work more with our high school journalism affiliate group,” she said.
Conway also thinks she can save costs, such as not needing to rent audio-visual equipment that was used for a recent conference. The portal might even replace Zoom and the monthly bulletin as well.
As with any major change, Conway acknowledged she’ll need to stay on busy members so they stick with the portal — seeing it as a time-saver and solution source. Ultimately, she believes the ability to aggregate resources and conversations in one place with many options will be a valuable service.
Conway added she is open to having NAM and its association leaders experience the portal by holding meetings or hosting events on the New England portal.
I asked Conway for any major takeaways from committing to the new approach.
“Don’t be stuck to one idea when seeking solutions,” she said during a telephone interview. “If I only wanted a data solution, I might not have been open to the portal. We’re all learning about the virtual space everyday.”