“But We Have to Look Professional”
For most associations, the crux of the fear is this: we are a professional organization, and we can’t appear to be anything but professional. Your worth, your membership retention, and your events are all tied up in this idea of professionalism. The problem is that most associations we’ve encountered have a very narrow definition of what professionalism means.
It means not stepping outside of what is sanctioned or expected. It means the lowest common denominator. It means walking only as far as the accepted edge, and not sticking as much as a pinky toe over it. It means pulling back, building walls, and drawing distinct boundaries around personal and professional.
In your marketing, it means being guarded and thinking you have to talk to people in a stiff, formal way—instead of a human, conversational, and lively way. It means being careful about what you show. It means repurposing the same marketing and the same ideas over and over again—because you know that although they don’t get very good results, at least they don’t offend anyone. It means relying on posting links on Twitter instead of telling stories about people. It means a well-manicured appearance that is mostly just . . . uninspiring.
It hardly ever means being truly human, and connecting at the level of imperfection, messiness, and emotion. Because to do that is to be vulnerable, and in most associations’ eyes, vulnerability = weakness.
But here is the central problem. Among people, it’s vulnerability that truly forges connection.
All you can do is create professional-looking disconnection.
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