Association Executives Roundup

Think about your inbox right now. How many of the (fill in the blank with a ridiculous number) unread emails contain newsletters, blog posts, or links to articles and publications you’re still hoping to find time to read? Like most of us, you’re probably looking for ideas, inspiration, or information that will make you (or the people around you) do what you do better.

Deciding what to read or whose voice to listen to isn’t unlike those painful content decisions people have to make when building a new website. If everything is important, then nothing is important. So how do you decide what’s worthy of your attention? Where do you find your best ideas, inspiration, and information?

We asked some of our friends and clients in the association space since they’re not just looking for themselves, but also for the benefit of their members. Here are some of our favorite responses.


Katie Kirkton | Director of Marketing and Member Communications

Indiana Society of Association Executives

Everyone should have a copy of “Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative” by Austin Kleon. It’s full of fun little snippets that anyone creative can relate to. When you’re in a creative slump, read this book for inspiration! One of my favorite tips: “If you ever find that you’re the most talented person in the room, you need to find another room.”

Also, “Dear Data” by Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec was a fascinating project to read about. Living an ocean apart in New York City and London, they graphically visualized the mundane details of their lives for a year on postcards that they sent to each other. This book opened my eyes as a graphic designer to paying attention to the little details in life, and how I can make those details easy for the rest of the world to understand. It also spoke to comradery and friendship, and realizations like, “she checked her phone how many times in one hour! How many times do I check mine?”


Tara Puckey | Associate Executive Director

Society of Professional Journalists

theSkimm is always my daily go-to for information and updates, right after my normal scroll through Twitter. I also like to recharge by doing things completely unrelated to the task at hand for five minutes here and there, so I keep a stash of what I like to call “useless fun” things in my pocket. My favorite? Cat Bounce. Trust me. You’ll be happy you’ve finally found it.


Kirk Stelsel, CAE | Director of Communication and Marketing

National Precast Concrete Association

I draw my ideas and inspiration from a wide variety of sources. I think associations bridge the gap between 501(c)3s and corporations and can borrow best practices from both. I read a range of email newsletters and magazines on topics from tech to communications and association management, and I diligently read Seth Godin’s daily blog post every morning and always find it inspirational. (So do we!)

Sometimes I find helpful or thought-provoking articles in unexpected places, like something I’m reading for pleasure. What I have found is that inspiration is everywhere. The real trick is to always be looking for it and then to be able to interpret it through the lens of your work even if it doesn’t appear to be applicable at first.

I attend the ISAE and ASAE annual meetings and draw a ton of inspiration from the education sessions and my professional contacts I have made through those groups. I try to make contacts at all levels and positions, not just fellow communications and marketing professionals. I also use ASAE’s online collaboration tool named, appropriately, Collaborate and have found success there. Association professionals are great at sharing and helping one another.


Andy Markle | Executive Director

Jimmy John’s Franchisee Association

I mostly read MemberZone’s blog and get their email solicitations for ideas on what I should do.

It’s pretty neat.


Melissa Heeke, CAE | Membership ad Communications Director

Midwest Political Science Association

I have been finding creative inspiration lately from conversations with fellow members of the Indiana Society of Association Executives, and peers in the ASAE’s Small Staff Associations Collaborate group. I also like the weekly web sessions hosted by the Association Chat group on Facebook. Amanda Kaiser’s Smooth the Path blog also serves as a go-to resource to help keep me focused on the “why” behind my career in associations.


Becky Taylor | Marketing Manager

Ohio Insurance Agents

We find a lot of inspiration outside of our industry, as well as from other associations. We are part of a closed Facebook group that includes our marketing peers from sister associations in other states. This is a helpful place to share ideas and bounce questions off of each other. Hearing from others’ experiences allows us to learn about mistakes to avoid and areas to focus before we even begin a project, which ultimately makes the outcome of our project more successful.

Thanks to those who participated in our roundup. We’re inspired by your willingness to share!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Dawn Sparks headshot

Written by Dawn Sparks

“My icon should have probably been a giant question mark. With maybe an exclamation point right after it.”