Lamaze Adopts a Two-Audience Strategy
It is common practice for many nonprofit associations to focus their resources and energies on a single member segment within their industry or profession. This, of course, can enable the association to serve the one group very well versus attempting to support multiple segments less effectively.
Associations like Lamaze International, though, have enthusiastically accepted the challenge of serving two related but significantly different target audiences and member types. Lamaze, which supports both parents and educators, is successful because of its strategic framework—a forward-looking plan that encompasses the organization’s vision, mission, priorities and goals. Each is aligned and promotes the organization’s core focus—pregnancy, birth and early parenting through evidence-based education and advocacy.
Managing efforts related to two audiences while staying true to the strategic framework is not an easy task. The parents and educator segments have distinct needs.
“Our ultimate end-user is the parent,” said Robin Elise Weiss, president of Lamaze. “But, to get to the parents, we have traditionally worked through the educators. A decade ago, it was a direct relationship. The educators were the focal point for everything. But social media has really changed the landscape. Now, there are multiple ways to get directly to the parents. Our challenge is to reach the parents through an array of tools that cultivate engagement and communicate the value of our educators. In the end, Lamaze’s vision is ‘knowledgeable parents making informed decisions.’”
- Parents: Every year there are 4 million new pregnancies in the United States alone. Expectant parents are the ultimate beneficiaries of Lamaze’s world-renowned education and advocacy. However, their ongoing relationship with Lamaze varies dramatically based on factors such as number of pregnancies (e.g., new parents tend to look for more educational content compared to parents who have already experienced the birth process) and parents’ desire for education and advocacy beyond the birth (e.g., information about breastfeeding, postpartum depression, returning to work). In addition, the parents’ needs are focused on things like online education, mobile apps and social media communities.
- Educators: Lamaze’s educator segment is a global community of 2,500 Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educators (LCCE) who serve as the local faces of Lamaze to expectant parents, offering classes and one-on-one counseling to parents preparing for childbirth. As one might expect, the educators’ relationship with the organization is longer-term than that of parents, and educators are the association’s membership base. Their needs focus more on certification and education (e.g., new tools and resources, standardized education and training programs, stronger partnerships with hospital systems). In fact, over the past 55 years, Lamaze has certified more than 15,000 childbirth educators worldwide.
How Lamaze Does It
First, the board agreed that a strategic framework that has one focus was critical and that having separate strategic frameworks for parents and educators would be unsuccessful. Then, in 2014, the board conducted a comprehensive review and realigned its strategic framework document. This is when Lamaze redefined its focus to providing evidence-based education and advocacy related to safe and healthy pregnancy, birth and early parenting. And although Lamaze serves two audiences, only in a few select areas within its strategic framework will you find the words “educator” or “parent.”
“As educators, our goal is to teach,” noted Weiss, who also brings to the board more than 25 years of experience in maternal child health and building online communities, as well as the knowledge gained by being a mother of eight children. “Nothing can replace the personal connection and expertise that a Lamaze certified educator offers parents. So, we teach the educators how to build optimal value into what they do with expectant parents. And then we supplement what the educators do by offering parents specialized online courses and communities that enhance the value that the educator delivers.”
Second, the board ensures that both audiences are represented in the boardroom. For example, the organization’s bylaws require at least one parent/consumer and Lamaze-certified educator serve on the board of directors to be ambassadors for these key stakeholders and communicate the unique needs of their respective communities.
“We’re always trying to think of things as dual-purpose,” Weiss explained. “If we are reviewing an issue or topic that is unique to the parents, we’ll always ask ourselves ‘How would the educators see this?’”
Third, to provide a system of checks-and-balances, the Lamaze board established committees to advocate for each audience. For example, one committee is focused on parent needs, while the certification and education committee targets delivering new value to educators. Every board member also serves as a liaison to a committee to ensure two-way feedback. In addition, board members regularly attend committee meetings to represent the board’s point of view, and the committees’ points of view come back to the boardroom via the board member liaisons. Weiss said that the board also routinely asks committee chairs to present updates to the board.
Is it working? Is the dual-purpose approach from Lamaze creating demand for its brand and extending its education and advocacy efforts to more parents and educators? Metrics from Lamaze’s parent and educator websites and social media efforts suggest that the new strategic framework is already delivering benefits to the organization.
Advice for Other Boards
- Unique website visitors for the parents’ website is up 58 percent; while unique visitors on the educator website is up 56 percent.
- Twitter followers for the parents’ channel have increased 44 percent; compared to 48 percent for educators.
- Unique blog visitors to the parents’ site jumped 89 percent, compared to a 137 percent increase on the educator site.
Weiss offered the following advice for associations attempting to meet the unique needs of multiple audiences:
Lamaze is proving highly effective at managing multiple member segments, but it did not happen by accident.
- Bring the voices to the board. Ensure each audience you serve has a seat at the board table.
- Establish committees. They become the advocacy groups to represent the unique points of view for each audience. Test their recommendations against the strategic framework.
- Stay hands on. Get board members involved as a communication link between the board and committees. Rotate assignments to ensure board members have multiple and broad points of view.
- View it as a marathon. Take small steps toward progress and keep moving forward. Build momentum behind strategic priorities.
- Be decisive. Indecision kills. Study the situation, consider what is best and make a decision.
“For us, this strategic framework is our new foundation,” Weiss said. “It took us several months to build it, debate it, discuss it, embrace it…and then introduce it to our members. It is one of the best things we’ve ever done. Everything we do as a board moves through the strategic framework and is constantly tested against it.
“And at the end of the day, it comes down to execution,” Weiss added. “There are distinct strategies and tactics to address the unique needs of the educators and parents. But, although the strategies are different, the primary objective is always the same — to advance the vision and mission of Lamaze International.”
JANUARY 2015 EDITION
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