Celebrating Associations is a weekly blog produced by .orgCommunity, celebrating the achievements of associations and the great impact on the industries they serve.
Association and History: Endodontists are root canal specialists, and endodontics is one of nine dental specialties formally recognized by the American Dental Association. The American Association of Endodontists, founded in 1943, is dedicated to excellence in the art and science of endodontics and to the highest standard of patient care. The AAE inspires its members to pursue professional advancement and personal fulfillment through education, research, advocacy, leadership, communication and service.
About Its Members: Endodontists are dental specialists with an additional two or more years of specialized training beyond dental school. The average endodontist completes 25 root canal treatments a week. The AAE, headquartered in Chicago, represents more than 8,000 members worldwide; members include active endodontists, educators, residents and general dentists interested in the specialty.
We’re celebrating AAE because … It is undertaking a branding initiative that will feature the unveiling of a new logo at its annual meeting in April.
And also because … The organization is looking for growth outside the United States. In fact, the AAE received a 2015 MarCom Award for its mailer to international members about the organization’s continuing education option, called the Live Learning Center
We’ll learn more in an interview with Trina Andresen Coe, M.S., AAE’s acting executive director.
Q. What do you think AAE has done particularly well in the last couple of years?
A. “I think an area where we have really started to shine in the last few years is in our communications and the image that we are presenting to our members and to the outside world. We have recently received awards for marketing and communications, and we are currently undergoing a branding initiative that I think will really help us to take the next steps in presenting ourselves in a consistent way across the board.”
Q. Can you talk more about how that communications and marketing element has improved?
A. “Our board has been working the Baldridge Criteria for Performance Excellence in Organizations. We had a committee utilize these criteria as a framework to identify ways in which we can improve quality throughout the organization. One of the things that committee focused on was communications: Are we communicating to audiences in a consistent manner? Do we have a consistent voice? Do we present ourselves in a consistent way, is our information deployed in a consistent way and how are we changing how we communicate based on what we’ve learned?
After focusing on that for a while, that special committee decided to take a closer look at our brand. Who is the AAE to our members, to other dental professionals, to the public? We found that we need to apply our identity and voice in a more consistent manner. So that’s how the branding initiative was born – through efforts and discussions that related to improving the quality of everything we do here at our organization.
We’re in the final stages of our new branding initiative, we are planning to unveil our new logo at our annual meeting in April. We will see how it goes – I’m excited, and also a little nervous. We have solid work behind it, that I know for sure!”
Q. What’s a particular challenge that AAE faces?
A. “Number one is resources. In an association, you’re always going to have a limit on the resources available to you, and a limitless amount of expectations from your board, from your membership, even from your staff who want to do things differently, better, faster. All of that translates into ‘We could do a lot of that faster if we had more money or more staff.’ That’s not unique to us, certainly.
Another challenge we might share with other organizations relates to the challenge that boards face in strategic planning and really prioritizing what are the top three, top five number of things we’re going to focus on this year – and what can wait until next year? And what can wait until five years down the line? I think there is a challenge in prioritizing and even in getting rid of programs that are no longer filling the need that they once filled. It’s hard to let go of things, and it’s hard to say this thing is not as important as this other thing. I think that’s the part about strategic planning that’s hard for any board, and that has implications at all levels of the organization because a better and more focused strategic planning discussion is going to result in a better and more focused staff.”
Q. Can you talk about your membership and your success with capturing endodontists in the United States?
A. “We have endodontist membership categories: our active, educator, life or retired members; they have similar interests. We also have associate members, who might be a general dentist who is really interested in endodontics, and the resources that appeal to them might be slightly different than what appeals to our active members. We also have membership categories for students, residents and international members, as well as professional staff who work in endodontic practices.
In the United States, we’re at about a 92% market share of endodontists. We always want to make sure we maintain that and that we get strong numbers of graduating residents that are joining AAE and we’re keeping up with renewals. But it’s not going to be a significant growth area for us. The international members really are an area where our organization has seen growth over the last several years and where we continue to get more members.
One of our brochures that won the MarCom Award this year was a brochure for the Live Learning Center, which is our online learning center, and it was mailed to all of our international members. We’re trying to get the word out to the international community that we have great online learning resources. Our Live Learning Center is a really good deal in terms of dollars and the CE credits and education that’s out there. It’s a lot more cost effective than traveling to a meeting, staying in a hotel, and paying for the meeting registration. We’re trying to market that resource to the international group.”
Q. If you could wave a magic wand and accomplish or obtain anything for AAE, what would it be?
A. “This is something we’ve started to work on in conversation, but if I could wave my magic wand and have it done tomorrow, I’d have an online networking community for our members that is fully integrated with our AMS and fully integrated with the online learning center. It would be a place where all of our members could go and have exchanges on clinical topics, it would serve as a learning resource for them. Our younger members are always expressing their desires for an online community where they can talk about clinical issues, and we’re working on trying to meet that need. But I’d like it to have all the bells and whistles and be in place by tomorrow!”
Q. What do you think the biggest challenge facing associations over the next 10 years will be?
A. “Associations being able to adjust their approach so that they can move on things a little quicker than we have historically done. We tend to be a little bit slow in terms of decision making and processes and bureaucracies and I think that is somewhat of a challenge when it comes to taking the next technological leap. … We need to find a way to get comfortable moving a little quicker.”
Q. What do you enjoy most working for AAE?
A. “I really enjoy our members and the relationships that I’ve built over the years. Serving in the position as acting executive director has given me a different perspective on everything we do at the AAE, and I’ve gotten a chance to really get to know the officers of this organization very well. That’s been a great experience for me. We’ve been going through some transition here, and they’ve been very supportive of me. They’re really nice people. Our members are really nice people.
Our staff is also fantastic; they’ve also been through a lot the last couple of years because we’ve had some changes at the top level. That can be very hard on staff. Our staff has stuck it through, they’re still giving everything their all. I’m lucky to have them here.”
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