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Associations Making Meaningful Progress with Digital Transformation

Sara Tetreault

Director, Brand Strategy, Forum One

You’ve probably heard people talking a lot about “digital transformation” nowadays and wondering what you can do to get started. For associations, digital transformation should be solidly based on how you can best serve your membership with the platforms you use internally and externally. A successful digital strategy should be flexible enough to accommodate technology and organizational changes and specific enough to chart a clear course that serves the heart of an association: the membership. We’ve highlighted two associations who are making meaningful progress with digital transformation within their organizations.

Atla: Strengthening the brand experience 

Atla—a professional association of scholars and librarians formerly known as the American Theological Library Association—was looking to overhaul how their brand was experienced across all of their platforms. They embarked upon a strategic alignment project to match the experience and tools they were providing their users with what they needed and scaling their organization to meet their long-term vision. 

A major part of achieving digital transformation was ensuring that they had a design system that was modular and scalable across all of their digital offerings such as their website, emails, member portal, and journal products. They wanted all of their digital platforms to not only feel usable for their audiences, but also cohesive across all of the systems to create a seamless digital experience.

Understanding how users interact with the organization

Atla spent time thoughtfully developing a strategic vision and determined that in order to truly achieve it, they needed to address how users were interacting with their systems. We worked with the Atla team to understand key audiences, review comparators and competitors in their space, and assess the limitations of their current systems in conveying their key messages. This research helped inform the tone and purpose of their new brand, and how they could use it to reach audiences and create a cohesive experience across all of their properties.

The Atla brand system is scalable and allows them to create a continuous brand experience whether someone engages with their research products, a webinar, their online member portal, or comes across one of their member committees. This is a vital element in developing meaningful digital transformation. Externally, because the organization’s digital branding communicates that Atla is a community who can be trusted to provide quality tools and services and internally creating an easy to use modular system across all of their systems.

Implementing an impactful digital experience

Atla reviewed a number of their systems and determined that their website and CRM were in need of updating. They considered what features and functionality the new website needed to better connect scholars and professionals with resources, research tools, and fellow experts to advance their studies. We worked with the Atla team to overhaul their web content, devising a simplified content strategy, information architecture, and messaging architecture to help audiences quickly and easily find the right information, and clearly communicate Atla’s new organizational identity. 

The Atla website is also linked with their CRM and delivers a seamless experience between the website experience and MyAtla by using the elements of their updated design system. The site features a logged-in “My Atla” area to access members-only content and integration with Salesforce to help the Atla team better track, manage, and centralize their member engagement activities.

Atla’s digital transformation journey has made a meaningful impact in their members’ lives and the organization’s ability to execute their vision through listening to their users’ needs, aligning them with business goals, and executing an experience that would help achieve their mission.

CASE: Goal-driven strategic planning

CASE (the Council for Advancement and Support of Education)—a global association of educational institutions— was looking to develop and implement a three-year strategic roadmap to improve their digital ecosystem to further their goals to transform lives through education. Forum One helped the CASE team think holistically about their digital efforts and develop a comprehensive, modern digital strategy to support their new strategic plan goals and increase membership and retention.

Focusing on a plan to achieve digital transformation

Before getting started, CASE wanted to gain a true understanding of how they could use digital to reach their audiences. This meant they had to get direct input on what they cared about and why. Using a combination of member and stakeholder surveys, interviews, workshops, and analytics assessments, we developed a thorough understanding of CASE’s audiences, clarified organizational priorities as they relate to digital strategy, and mapped the current business landscape. 

Using this information, we defined the strategies and tactics that CASE could use over the next three years to meet their organizational goals. Together, Forum One and CASE’s executive team crafted a digital strategy roadmap that guides the implementation and operation of a new digital ecosystem. This included recommendations on digital product mix, design direction, content strategy, governance, supporting technology, and implementation/budget plans.

Reshaping the digital ecosystem to benefit members

The first phase of implementing the roadmap centered on redeveloping and redesigning case.org. Not merely a website but a true digital ecosystem, CASE’s new digital presence features single sign-on integration with seven partners, including Personify, Higher Logic, Infomz, and other systems for member profiles and content, an e-commerce “store” for member products and resources, association management, email marketing, and more. It was crucial to serving their membership to ensure that all of these platforms worked together seamlessly.

CASE now has a flexible and scalable suite of content types and a cohesive design system to develop and share tailored resources with members. An important part of a long-term digital strategy is measuring and adjusting how their platforms are serving their needs. We have worked with their team to develop branding, communications, marketing, advertising, and analytics strategy to help the CASE team track their progress and make data-driven adjustments to grow their membership and achieve their key measures of digital success and engagement.  The next phase of our work with CASE will include developing additional functionality, site enhancements, and products to deliver ever more customized resources and greater value to members. 

Written By

Sara Tetreault

Director, Brand Strategy, Forum One

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