Roslyn McQueen, PhD, CCRC, ASCLS President
ASCLS is a premier organization whose mere existence enhances the quality of laboratory medicine and the quality of healthcare. We are the “best and the brightest,” yet we still struggle with membership participation. We are not unique with this problem, as other scientific and professional organizations also cite lack of recognition and membership apathy as major problems.
An essential responsibility of our organization is to provide timely, accurate, and essential communication to keep our membership informed and involved. I am a true believer that a dedicated member is one who is actively involved in the organization, informed about its business, and committed to the ideals of the organization. Therefore, communication is an essential responsibility of the national organization to maintain continuous participation of our members. ASCLS has been working hard to enhance and expand modes of communication to the membership. This column will highlight the “Communication” target identified in the Sustainable Excellence program.
The Role of Communication
We frequently hear that our profession does not receive the desired respect from members of the healthcare environment, that there is a lack of recognition by the public, and that we face threats from other professionals. We must be our own advocates for the profession. Therefore, we must tell our story of what we do, who we are, and how we benefit the healthcare profession. We must promote our profession within the organization and externally to the public.
An excellent project to gain this awareness was the “Road to Understanding” project initiated by Alice Hawley and the Promotion of the Profession Committee. They are to be commended for sparking the support and participation from the membership. Additionally, the Story Slam initiated at the 2018 Annual Meeting was extremely successful and will be repeated at the 2019 Annual Meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, June 23-27.
The fundamental principal for creating an informed, active membership begins with member contact from, and connection to, the Society. ASCLS has been actively working to enhance and expand our avenues of communication, both internally to our membership and externally to the public. As stated above, communication is essential for the success and recognition of our organization. In this time of social media, instant messaging via the internet allows for real-time, quick, meaningful communication. We no longer must wait days for letters and written documents to be delivered.
In the last two years, ASCLS has implemented new membership software, rolled out communication projects, and hired a director of marketing and communication to provide information to meet the needs of our diverse members. The diversity I’m referring to is our members’ preferred methods of contact. The diverse communication needs of the membership range from:
- the tech-savvy, text and Twitter group; to
- the email me only group; to
- the “I want to speak with someone live” on the telephone members.
Estimably, I have observed a tremendous improvement in the level and scope of communication within the organization. Thanks to Executive Vice President (EVP) Jim Flanigan, ASCLS members can communicate freely and immediately through the ASCLS Open Forum or ASCLS Connect. ASCLS members can ask questions about pay differences, new procedures, roommates needed for hotels, and have real-time conversations across the country. We will continue to fully use these programs and make these avenues available to our officers, committee chairs, and staff to provide our “loyal and faithful” members with quick, accurate, and meaningful information.
Director of Marketing and Communications
Last year, the 2017-18 ASCLS Board authorized the hire of a director of marketing and communications. Unfortunately, the first director had to resign, but another was quickly hired, and we welcomed Julia O’Donnell as our new director of marketing and communications at the July 2018 ASCLS Annual Meeting. She was only on the job a few days before the national meeting. She “hit the ground” running and has been a tremendous asset to ASCLS. She assembles the Society News Now e-newsletter, publishes the ASCLS Today newsletter, and authors many other forms of communication to the membership.
Marketing and Communications Committee
Even more exciting, the board approved the creation of a Marketing and Communications Committee. Dr. Kyle Riding was appointed the chair with Rebecca Rogers as vice chair. This was a remarkable step in furthering our level and quality of communication to our membership.
The Marketing and Communication Committee assists the Society with identifying and implementing marketing and communication strategy. Committee charges include:
- To equip all members with tools to promote ASCLS and the profession.
- To build the ASCLS brand around the value of the organization and the profession.
- To effectively leverage professional networks and integrate marketing and communication across all platforms
Our committees are comprised of members who geographically reside across the United States. Our ASCLS national committees/boards/forums can now have monthly, face-to-face meetings. This is achieved not by boarding an airplane and traveling to a meeting site, but rather through Zoom teleconference meetings. “Zoom offers communications software that combines video conferencing, online meetings, chat, and mobile collaboration.”
Every regional director and ASCLS committee chair received Zoom accounts. Through Zoom, committee members can see everyone in the committee via their computer. Members can work on a document during the meeting, have everyone view and edit the document, and provide feedback. Additionally, free conference calls and webinars are also an option.
Higher Logic Marketing
ASCLS has a contract with Higher Logic, a broadcast email/digital marketing platform that will provide several important benefits. Our organization uses Higher Logic software for a variety of things. According to our EVP, “we will have the ability to create highly customized, automated emails similar to what we are doing now in the community, with automatic welcomes and member onboarding. The new platform will be able to customize who the emails come from.” It can send out customized emails to new members, inactive members, and serves as an excellent recruiting tool.
During my president’s speech I suggested that we improve the existing new member’s welcome package. Through Higher Logic we can develop a customized welcome message, a new member orientation, a welcome telephone call from the Membership Committee, and new member listing in the constituent society’s newsletter.
We also use Higher Logic to manage our online forums and our volunteer application process. The volunteer module was implemented last year. It allows members to select the committees/forums they which they would like to participate on. There are many more functions we will roll out with Higher Logic soon. Currently, we are using Higher Logic to make indexing compatible for PubMed.
Cvent is new software that we used for abstract submission, review, and acceptance for the Annual Meeting. Currently two of our constituent societies have already used it and have given their affirmation of the program. According to our EVP, “we are negotiating a master agreement that would give all our constituent groups access to the lower national pricing. At a national level, the system will allow us to directly link to our member management system and upload membership lists from partner societies for the meeting, allowing us to offer member and non-member pricing for all attendees.”
ASCLS Connect Mobile App
The ASCLS board approved a mobile app for ASCLS Connect. This new mobile app will be used for the ASCLS Connect communities. Rollout should occur before the end of 2019.
Traditional Communication Continues
Society News Now: We have re-instituted the Society News Now as one means of increasing communication to our membership. Former ASCLS President Susie Zanto established the e-newsletter to address the question of, “What is ASCLS doing for me?” My goal is to continue her legacy and communicate activities that occur on a monthly or bi-monthly basis, to provide information about what ASCLS is doing on behalf of our membership.
New Clinical Laboratory Science Platform: We are happy to report that our Clinical Laboratory Science journal is live and available for every member to access. Articles have been published ahead of print and are available on the website. Editor Perry Scanlon and his editorial committee have done a fantastic job making the journal relevant, timely, and internet-accessible. We still have some challenges integrating the journal in all the available scientific indexes. We have applied for recognition on PubMed, which is the final step. I hope that by the time you read this newsletter this problem will be resolved.
ASCLS Today Newsletter: As evidenced by this document, we are also happy to report that the ASCLS Today newsletter is being printed on a regular basis and distributed to our membership both through the mail and online. We are grateful to our devoted Editor Cheryl Caskey for her solicitation and gentle nudging of articles for each issue.
Personal Contact is Still Important
Internal communication also involves ancient forms of communication, such as telephone calls, to members. Maintaining personal contact with all members is vital to sustaining the commitment and support of our organization. Each of us must make the commitment to communicate with our members in whatever format is most acceptable to them, including telephone calls, visits, and hand-written notes.
Personal Contact – The ASCLS Family Reunion: ASCLS is the oldest professional organization for the medical laboratory scientist. The Society is indeed growing at a rapid pace due to changes in technology, medical advancements, and higher educational opportunities. I am supportive of the enhanced use of social media for our professional organization to strengthen communication of our message, BUT we cannot forget the importance of in-person meetings. Our ASCLS Annual Meeting, the regional conferences, and annual state and local meetings provide the “face” for the profession and offer networking and educational opportunities not available at our work environments.
The nickname of an ASCLS family reunion has become an unwritten marketing and meeting recruitment tool for our Annual Meetings. The Annual Meeting has a dual purpose for me and for many of us. We attend because of the ability to obtain continuing education from experts presenting cutting-edge information and to participate in the governance of the organization. We also come to renew friendships and acquaintances, to network with our peers, and to become recharged and revitalized.
I offer my personal invitation to everyone to attend our 2019 ASCLS Annual Meeting, June 23-27, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Be part of ASCLS history, as we embark on a new meeting format that we are excited to present.
I believe in ASCLS and that we speak with One Voice, One Vision for the medical laboratory scientist and the profession. Through enhanced communication, let’s strive for the “Sustainable Excellence” of the profession!
Roslyn McQueen is a research doctor at Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan.