So, your association has decided to push its educational benefits to a new level by developing an industry certification, credentialing program or course. The idea looks great on paper, but how do you take that great idea and make it into a great reality?
Having recently undergone the launch of a new certificate program in my own association, I propose we aim to answer the “P’s”: Purpose, Process, and Promotion.
What is the Purpose?
To say you offer a credentialing program is great, but what value does it actually bring your members? How does it impact the industry? What is your association’s return on this new program?
The purpose will vary across industries and from association to association but the bottom line is clear; if the program is only there so you can add one more bullet to this list of member benefits you offer, then it may not be a program that is worth developing or using valuable staff and organization resources on.
Ensure that the program is developed with the member in mind, and helps enhance their professional development or improve the industry overall.
What is the Process?
Think through what you will need to accomplish ahead of starting the creation process, and develop a strategic plan for its implementation from start to finish. Include important dates, key needs, goals, plans to keep the program alive, etc.
Here are four things you should do to help keep the program on track:
- Identify a focus group of members/industry leaders to evaluate feasibility of the program and determine if there is a need
- Determine the key audience who will pursue the educational offering
- Finalize a budget to project expenses and revenue so the program can be evaluated later on (did you meet your projections?)
- Outline the program & develop curriculum
- Who will teach the classes?
- Are they in-person or virtual?
- What are the requirements to achieve the certificate/credential?
- How long will it take to achieve?
- Is there a post-course exam?
- Ongoing requirements to maintain the certificate/credential?
- Will the course material need to be refreshed in a few years?
How will you Promote it?
As much as association professionals would like to live by the phrase “if you build it, they will come,” it’s not realistic.
Once you have developed the credentialing program, promotion is the next key to success. As individuals begin obtaining the certification and using it, awareness will spread and (hopefully) encourage more industry professionals to pursue it. But how do you get the first group through the door?
Develop a strong marketing plan that outlines the value proposition of the program, the target audience, and how you will reach those prospective students. This can be especially difficult if the key targets live outside of your membership base. Organize an official launch of the program in conjunction with another established event, where you offer the first class or provide onsite applications for the program.
No matter the path you choose just remember to plan ahead and think through the purpose, process and promotion from start to finish.