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Executive Director's annual report

Tom Slaughter
Tom Slaughter

For an association such as ours, there's nothing more vital than the opinions of our members.

That's why we routinely launch an all-member survey every spring. This year was no exception. We received nearly 260 responses to that survey and the responses serve as a roadmap for much of what we do.

The questions in the survey covered virtually every aspect of Inland's services and offerings. I'll get to the specifics in a moment, but here are some key takeaways from this year's survey:

  • Members were emphatic that we must offer a good mix of programming around both print and digital issues.
  • Our in-person meetings and conferences are well-liked, but increasingly members acknowledge cost as a hurdle to participation in these events.
  • Inland's webinars are one of our most valued offerings and 70% of respondents said they attended an Inland webinar in the last year.
  • When asked about topics of interest, 80% cited business strategy and planning, followed closely by audience development and niche print and digital publications.
  • Email is now seen as the most effective communication channel for us to reach our members, followed closely by print and e-edition versions of our monthly newspaper, The Inlander.
  • And, finally, Inland got high marks from its members with nearly 80% saying they found Inland very or extremely valuable and would recommend Inland to a colleague or business acquaintance.

Before going deeper into the survey results, let me paint a picture of the survey respondents. Nearly 70% said they work on a daily; 70% said their paper had circulation below 25,000; and 83% said they belonged to their state associations. And many others said they had affiliations with other industry organizations.

We asked several questions about our meetings and conferences. Forty percent of those responding said they, or someone at their paper, had attended an Inland meeting in the last year and those conferences were rated highly. But, when we asked respondents why they hadn't attended a conference, 56% said cost was a factor, followed by location.

That's important feedback and we'll keep it in mind as we structure future programs.

As I mentioned earlier, nearly 70% of respondents said they'd attended a webinar in the last year and those webinars got very positive reviews. And, the key takeaways that we distribute to webinar participants were seen as enormously valuable, receiving an 80% positive rating.

There were several questions about our programming direction on the survey. One, which we've asked in every one of these surveys for the last three years, remains interesting. The question was: should the direction of our programming be mostly digital, with a little print; mostly print with a little digital, or a good mix of both. Nearly 66% answered that it should be a good mix, 19% said digital, and 16% said print. Those relative responses have changed little over the three years. For us, that helps set the focus of our programming.

We also asked several questions about the ways we communicate with you. Eighty percent of respondents said email is the most effective way to reach them. That was followed by the print and e-edition versions of The Inlander at 68%. All our social media channels rated in the 30% range-another rating that has remained fixed over time. Finally, 74% of respondents said we keep them well informed about the association.

And, as I mentioned earlier, Inland gets good marks from its members for value with 80% seeing Inland as valuable. And, those members who are active-attending conferences, taking advantage of webinars, and participating in other ways-tend to rate the association more highly than those who do not.

These surveys are a key tool for us each year and we take your feedback and suggestions seriously and remain totally focused on helping our members succeed in this challenging industry environment.
Inland benefits from supportive members, most of whom have longtime and deep relationships with the association and the friends and colleagues they've met over the years. We also have an engaged board of directors. They devote their time to support Inland's mission and are committed to its successful future.

I've been lucky to work with Inland President Doug Hiemstra over the last year. He's always focused on making Inland better. Doug helps establish priorities and sees that they are followed through. It's been my pleasure to work with him.
Inland also is fortunate to have a small and efficient staff, all of whom have a passionate commitment to the association.

Finally, I thank you for your continued support of Inland and its mission.

Tom Slaughter
Executive Director