Welcome to the second installment of our new feature: Right on Q. Today we talk to Lilia LaGesse, digital strategist, designer and creative director with a long list of association and organization experience.
AMPLIFY: What trends do you see for this year? Is sustainability becoming an issue, virtual reality? How are you looking at 2022?
Lilia: There are two main trends that I foresee in the new year, particularly as it pertains to digital design and strategy. One is the continued growth of video content. Short-form videos are still the most common marketing tool that you’re seeing, but there’s really been a growth in long-form content. Laura Porto Stockwell, a renowned strategist for global brands whom I greatly admire, recently highlighted how platforms such as TikTok, which is the fastest growing social media network ever with a mind-blowing 1 billion monthly active users, extended their video length to three minutes. So video—whether it be live action or motion graphics—will definitely start to replace static assets to become more of a brand cornerstone. You hear a lot about how our attention spans may be getting shorter, but the reality is that we just have so much more content being thrown at us. The focus for associations and publishing in 2022 should be to make sure that this new video content is relevant to and engaging for their viewers.
But before any members decide to throw up a long, unedited video monologue, please make sure that you have a production plan in place and take the time to strategically think through the content creation because it will need to be repurposed across multiple platforms—whether within a publication or onto your social media feeds. All video content should incorporate your brand—that’s where design comes in—so I encourage associations to really think about how they’d like to tell their brand story in this medium in the new year.
AMPLIFY: And the second trend?
Lilia: It’s a little bit further out, but I’m very excited about the metaverse. Although still very much in its infancy and admittedly a bit clunky, you see how many tech companies—whether it’s Facebook, now known as Meta, or Microsoft, which just acquired Activision Blizzard for $69 billion—and game makers are investing in this. So much of our association revenue is focused on these big annual conferences, and we had to switch to virtual or hybrid options during the pandemic. It’s great that we’re getting to meet in person now, but in the years ahead, I anticipate that we will find new ways to re-envision this key aspect of member engagement. The metaverse will most likely be a part of that.
For association publishing, the importance of creating an interactive and engaging experience that is tailored to your readers’ needs will continue to be great. Thinking through how that reading experience translates to the metaverse is exciting. A lot comes back to immersive storytelling and making sure that you have the systems and processes in place to support this growth in content creation.
AMPLIFY: I need to read up more on that, especially hearing you now.
LILIA: It’s been fascinating to see companies such as Nike and some luxury brands get involved. So thinking through how you might build your virtual presence matters, and if we look at the video gaming space and how people engaged in that realm even before but especially during the pandemic, they’re really ahead of the curve. I’m curious to see how all this might translate to association engagement with our members. It could certainly expand our reach.
AMPLIFY: Given all this “meta-ology,” we know that associations still rely on print, so how does that enter into the equation?
Lilia: Oh, it’s definitely still there. I’m a firm believer that print is not dead, and I think that screen fatigue is real. What has changed is how we utilize print as a tool in our overall marketing and outreach efforts as associations. Print is now just one of many extensions of your association brand. You touched on sustainability earlier, and there is an expectation, particularly among younger demographics, that brands and organizations will integrate, if not lead the way on, sustainability efforts. There are so many great, high-quality recycled paper options out there right now. Having been a designer for many years, I’ve seen how much these papers have improved. Using eco-friendly packaging for items such as conference- or member-welcome packages is one way to engage with your members. And direct-mail postcards and brochures—printed on recycled paper—remain very useful tools to reach members. Perhaps we’re not printing the huge reports or magazines of years past, but we can certainly still create direct-mail pieces that highlight key data points or compelling quotes from these publications and then direct readers to access the full version online.
AMPLIFY: It’s also important for associations to let members know that they are acting on these efforts.
Lilia: Yes, one can note that these pieces are printed on recycled content, but sustainability should also be integrated into your value proposition. You need to let members know that you care about the planet. Print is an important way to give us a break from screens (just make sure that you have your members’ preferred mailing addresses in this age of hybrid work!). When you receive something tactile that looks beautiful and has compelling content, it can have a huge impact.
AMPLIFY: What is your wish list when you when you start working with a client—the most important factors to ensure a successful outcome?
Lilia: First and foremost, I am actively listening and trying to understand what the problem or pain point is that I’m being brought on to address. There should also be a willingness to thoughtfully question and reconsider how things have been done in the past. You want to get everyone on the same page, manage expectations, and provide an opportunity to generate new ideas. Sometimes people disagree about the problem we’re trying to solve, so it’s really important to make sure that everyone is in alignment. My final wish list item would be collaboration. One idea that’s driven my creative decisions is the concept of designing with rather than designing for people. An aspect that I’ve loved about my career, particularly as it shifted from design to more strategic and creative leadership roles, is the opportunity to work with individuals from a variety of backgrounds. I appreciate the diversity of ideas and learning something new along the way.
AMPLIFY: Okay, last question. We’re living in such a different world from two years ago. How has that impacted the way you think?
Lilia: I do miss seeing people more regularly and having those networking opportunities, but I’m excited by the changes I’ve seen over the past two years. We’re living through a transformative moment, not just for our country, but for the globe—between the pandemic and the political, environmental and societal changes. Burnout is real—self-care is so important—but I truly believe that this period has helped many people rethink how they do things not just professionally, but personally. I really appreciate how the tech journalist Kara Swisher framed this moment as the Great Reassessment (as opposed to the Great Resignation). Inherent to this concept of reassessment is a greater willingness to try new ways of doing things. So as a strategist and creative director, what’s not to love about helping others re-envision how they might approach their communication projects?
Lilia can be reached at email@example.com. She also wants to remind our readers of the upcoming event: Speed Networking: Meet your Freelancing Match (Virtual Event), Feb. 9 at 4 pm. You can register here.