The Attention Economy & How Associations Can Benefit From Integrated Media Plans

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June 2, 2022

For most of human history, access to information was limited. But in today's digital age, the only thing in short supply is the human attention span. Modern economics is driven by how well companies capture and retain the attention of the market. Known as the Attention Economy, consumers are literally trading their attention as if it were a commodity.

“Since there is a surplus of information, more information flowing through our society than any of us could ever hope to process or understand, the new bottleneck on our economy is attention …” Mark Manson said. “This is why today we are each bombarded with over 3,000 advertising messages per day. It’s also why these advertisements get zanier and more nonsensical — like the Geico gecko or the Old Spice guy — because the goal of advertisements is no longer information, but simply attention.” 

So, how do associations take advantage to earn the attention of their industry? By thinking like a media company. That’s right … a media company. Just like Apple, Netflix, Disney and other major players capitalize on media consumption and distribution, associations can also use them to grow and generate revenue for their organization.

4 Commonalities Between Associations & Media Companies  

  • Content: Whether its broadcasting news, publishing articles, or producing the next binge-worthy series, media companies are constantly supplying the market with fresh content. Similarly, associations provide members with new content in the form of printed journals, newsletters, webinars, podcasts, and more.

  • Audience: Known for their large subscriber bases, media companies have a loyal following who pay to access the information on their platform. Associations, likewise, have a highly engaged and diverse audience, referred to as members. Members subscribe, join, and pay dues to associations because they want the content, education, and networking opportunities they provide.

  • Distribution Channels: This refers to any owned medium (asset) a company uses to deliver content to its users. For associations, this includes its digital assets such as website, newsletters, podcasts, etc. The more channels used, the further the reach, and the greater the opportunity to make your association the trusted source and thought leader in your industry.

  • Advertisers: No media company is sustainable without the support advertisers. Through the sale of advertising placements, media companies are able to fund their operations and maintain the platform. In the same way, associations can generate revenue by monetizing their assets and allowing suppliers to reach their members.

Now that you recognize your association has the same components of a media company, what’s next?

Thinking like a media company, you must be quick, agile and creative about how to add value to your audience. For example, Walt Disney made hundreds of films, but he wanted people to experience the magic of Disney outside of the theatre. That's why he created Disneyland. Similarly, you can create new and exciting experiences for your members and vendors by developing a 365-strategy. Taking an integrated approach that combines both traditional and digital media, encourages interaction and engagement all year long, not just during a tradeshow. 

Think bold. Think BIG. How about product placements in webinars and podcasts? You can have a logo on a bookshelf, the speaker can drink out of a branded cup or mug, etc. What about virtual reality and the Metaverse? When they become more mainstream, your audience can join an immersive experience for your industry. Picture your members wearing headsets where they are fully immersed in a 360-degree tradeshow. Your vendors and suppliers brand can literally be on anything inside that virtual world.   

This may seem like a lot to think about, but if you can begin to change your mindset and think about your vendors and suppliers in a 365-approach, you’ll be set up for success. You’re changing the conversation and creating a custom experience instead of saying “here’s the tradeshow floor, pick your booth” or “buy an ad on our website.”  But it all starts with a conversation.  

Gather your staff and discuss the ways you can create an integrated media plan through your distribution channels and audience. From there, sit down with your vendors and suppliers to determine what their needs, goals, and initiatives are. With the ideas generated from your staff, you’ll now be able to customize the experience for your vendors and suppliers. 

The possibilities are endless, and now is the perfect time to be proactive. With the value of content, the attention that members are literally giving to associations, and advertisers wanting to hit more niche audiences, changing your mindset to think like a media company will create endless ways to get those sponsorship dollars.


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