In our content series “The Now Normal,” Allison + Partners turns to leading professionals in their fields to unpack the current state of marketing and communications and where it needs to go tomorrow. Today, we speak with Dan Goldberg, director of membership and marketing with the American Nuclear Society, about the unique Now Normal for scientific societies.
In your own words, what does ANS do?
The American Nuclear Society is the premier association for students and professionals in the nuclear scientific community. We want to see nuclear embraced as a technology for improving people’s lives and preserving the planet. We provide forums for sharing information and knowledge within the community. In addition, we increase awareness of the benefits of nuclear technologies through K-12 education programs as well as through our public advocacy.
How does marketing help ANS achieve its mission?
Our external marketing function grows our members’ collective voice, increasing their impact on society. In addition, internal marketing among our members and the nuclear science community strengthens bonds and connections.
What is the secret to getting internal buy-in and support for the marketing function and initiatives?
While our board of directors and membership are very supportive of marketing initiatives, we maintain that support by working closely with volunteer leadership to obtain directional inputs. By working with volunteer leadership, we also ensure messaging is consistent and avoid doing any disservice to the technology with misinformation. We also try to build support by meeting and exceeding marketing metrics, such as growth in membership and member engagement. Additionally, we track website and email analytics, touchpoints in our education program outreach, as well as meeting attendance and revenue numbers.
What marketing functions are most valued by leadership and why?
Marketing the benefits of nuclear science and technology are most valued. Members want us to promote what they do for the betterment of society beyond the ANS community.
What is uniquely difficult about doing marketing for a scientific society?
We are challenged by misperceptions of the scientific nuclear community. Sometimes, members take for granted that people outside can understand the technology, its benefits and its safety measures. We often communicate very technical content that needs to be distilled down for the public to comprehend.
What do you find the most gratifying aspect of marketing for a scientific society?
Working for a passionate and dedicated community that really cares about what they do and their impact on society. Working with volunteers who go above and beyond to further their field.
Scientific societies are well-positioned to address public perceptions. What is the key to doing that effectively?
We have a very clear strategy for communicating what ANS does and what we are trying to achieve. The complexity of nuclear technology makes it challenging to create awareness about what our members do. We focus more on the positive attributes, rather than getting defensive about the perceived negative aspects. When talking about why nuclear society is a positive for society, we focus on the impact that nuclear has on people’s health and other critical areas. As the representative of more than 10,000 nuclear scientists and engineers, we are very adamant that nuclear is a very safe technology but we do not dwell on perceived safety issues.
Policymakers can heavily influence perceptions about science and technology given their platforms and influence. What role should a scientific society play in influencing the policymaking influencers?
We believe it is important to educate policymakers on nuclear science and technology, clarify misperceptions, and open a dialogue. Conversations on the local level are as important as the national level. We engage with a proactive, ongoing communications approach and not just when specific initiatives of importance arise. We are the leader in the nuclear professional field, with a significant membership in academia conducting research, and that lends to strong credibility with policymakers.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the way scientific societies like yours does marketing, and what further impacts on marketing are you anticipating in 2021?
The pandemic presented us with an opportunity to accelerate some changes that were already in progress. We enhanced our online content to reach a broader audience, increased the number of webinars and moved our annual conference online. While we attracted about 800 people to our annual in-person meeting last year, we hosted 2,300 in this year’s virtual format.
How do you create and disseminate content that effectively builds audience for ANS?
In our experience, broader topics perform better than specific topics. The best content is both informative and entertaining. For example, webinars featuring past, current and future initiatives at U.S. national nuclear labs or developments in advanced nuclear reactors attract strong viewership. As we are seeing a lot of webinar and Zoom fatigue, topics that are easy to listen to in the background are best. For many of our members, nuclear science is their hobby as much as their profession. Like a good documentary, our audiences want a broadly appealing subject that offers a break from their day-to-day experiences. In terms of content distribution, we have found success building audiences through co-branded webinars and reciprocal marketing with like-minded organizations, for example, North American Young Generation in Nuclear (NAYGN) and U.S. Women in Nuclear (U.S. WIN).
What can an outside marketing partner bring to a scientific society and what do you do you look for in a partner?
We look for a partner that brings an outside perspective to help determine strategy. Staff at societies wear many different hats in one organization. Partners that offer a specialization and experience with many different organizations offer the ideal complement.
On a personal note, why have you chosen a career in marketing for a scientific society and why do you stay in it?
I truly enjoy working with ANS members who are passionate about what they do, especially those who do a lot to advance their field and improve our society. The scientific nuclear community will have a profound impact on our society and environment. Building a positive reciprocal working relationship with the many bright members of our staff and the larger ANS community keeps me engaged and grateful for the opportunity.