By now, associations are all too familiar with the quick shifts and vast changes that occurred in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. After over a year in the pandemic world, how did these responses address member and stakeholder needs, and as vaccines continue to roll out around the world, what does the future of education offerings and resources look like for associations?
We sat down with Jena Eberly Stack, executive director for the Society of Interventional Oncology (SIO), to learn more about how the society met member and industry partner needs throughout the pandemic and what’s next for these opportunities in a post-pandemic world.
The Society of Interventional Oncology supports and promotes the field of interventional oncology, advancing the practice as the fourth pillar of cancer therapy alongside medical, surgical, and radiation oncology worldwide. SIO serves interventional radiologists who specialize in oncology, PhD-level scientists, nurses, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, research assistants, and health specialists who support the field.
The medical community was significantly impacted by the pandemic, and this allowed SIO to fast-track the opportunity to offer new virtual educational events, funding opportunities in grant support, and a revenue replacement strategy to meet member, society, and industry partner needs.
Meeting Member Needs
To create a new suite of educational offerings, and receive grant funding in the process, SIO first identified society and member needs to understand the best forms of education delivery. From there, SIO developed podcasts, roundtables, a virtual 2021 Annual Conference, and a new masterclass series presented over Zoom. This series included 60-minute small group educational sessions all the way up to one- or two-day masterclasses that met a high-level need of learning. These sessions were offered free or paid to members, depending on the society’s grant funding.
In addition to offering new virtual education, SIO went beyond its traditional email and social media communication methods to develop a bi-monthly, education-focused newsletter. “We had so much education that we needed to consolidate some of our messaging and start to train our audience on an expected newsletter that condensed these opportunities,” Eberly Stack says.
SIO took these marketing efforts even further by establishing a voice on social media that SIO did not have prior to 2020. This voice aimed to communicate these new opportunities while reminding the society that its long-term, strategic initiatives were still top of mind each day. “Our commitment to the field still needed to be established, and probably be stronger than it ever was in prior years, so we amplified that with some member testimonials and quotes,” Eberly Stack says.
Meeting Industry Partner Needs
Beyond meeting member and non-member needs with additional programming, SIO created new opportunities for its industry partners. Creating new offerings allowed industry partners to reach SIO members, as they had lost access to physicians for most of the year due to the pandemic.
SIO’s industry partners provided grant funding for the new educational programs in 2020, so the society created a corporate membership program that launched in 2021. Although nothing can replace the value of in-person, one-on-one networking, SIO continues to offer opportunities for industry partners to connect with members and contribute to the programs’ content, which offers a level of education and communication with the frequency they did not have with in-person events.
These additional opportunities further the conversation with industry partners engaged in research. By maintaining these crucial relationships, SIO amplified the speed at which it is engaged in research initiatives, showing the society’s agility. “Pandemic or not, we are not stopping our efforts on behalf of interventional oncology,” Eberly Stack says.
Eberly Stack predicts that SIO will continue reaching new heights of creativity to reduce virtual burnout and meet members’ expectations of what a return to in-person events will look like. She also recommends engaging the board and “VIP volunteer leaders” at a high strategic level to get their buy-in for new and continued programming, as their support can help organize efforts around grant funding or new revenue opportunities.
Although 2020 was a difficult year for all, Eberly Stack encourages association professionals and their members to focus on their resilience. “In a lot of areas where we planned for the worst and hoped for the best, we got an outstanding resolve that many of us did not expect,” she says. “There are some really valuable leadership lessons that we can carry forward.”
Hear more from Jena Eberly Stack, who also serves as executive director for the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (AALNC), in the spring 2021 issue of Associations Now. Here, Eberly Stack dives into the new program and revenue opportunities AALNC created in response to the pandemic.