The ACR is constantly looking at ways to provide more information and value to its members. Uniquely positioned with a strong advocacy network, a diligent quality and safety team, in-depth publications and extensive research resources, the College is committed to serving its members through clear communication channels to empower radiologists. The ACR Bulletin recently spoke with Amy L. Kotsenas, MD, FACR, about her role as chair of the Commission on Membership and Communications and the College’s ongoing and future efforts to keep members’ needs top of mind.
How would you assess the College’s success in member messaging, and do you see any opportunities to improve upon current communication practices?
I think we have been successful in getting our message out through our media channels to the general public. What we’ve heard from members is that they would like more direct and focused communication from the ACR. Specifically, we have heard that we are sending out too many communications, mainly in the form of emails.
We have all experienced getting too much information from everywhere and everyone which may or may not address our interests or needs. One of the ACR’s communication strategy goals is to make sure we are providing valuable information, but not doing it too often. When something does appear in members’ email boxes, for example, we want it to be something they are really going to pay attention to because they know it will be important to them.
We are reducing the number of electronic newsletters from more than 20 to five to better focus the information we’re providing members. We’re doing this by using personalized data to identify and characterize our members — their practice type or subspecialty and the programs they may have taken advantage of in the past. We want to know what they are interested in so we can better understand and focus on the things that best serve those interests. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach to communication, we are targeting individual members to better suit specific needs.
What have you learned about members’ preferences in terms of how the College communicates?
We are continually scanning the environment to understand how our members and potential members want to receive information. Of course, it is not the same for everyone. There are some members who will never look at something if it isn’t in their email. There are others who say they never look at emails from ACR communications and so will miss it.
Improving our communication is about having a presence wherever people may be when seeking valuable content and resources. We frequently get suggestions about things we could do through social media spaces, and I think the variety of podcasts we offer are gaining in popularity, including the ACR Bulletin podcast, the Taking the Lead podcast by the Radiology Leadership Institute® and the Radvocacy podcast hosted by the RADPAC. We will be doing even more podcasts as vehicles for members to both contribute and consume information.
And we are talking about producing and sharing more videos. Some members have told us they simply are not reading as much these days due to time constraints and an overabundance of written communication. Even then, if it is not a short video, they may not pay much attention to it. We must continue to adjust our approach based on how people want to receive and use information.
Do you think there are misconceptions by members or is there a lack of education about what the ACR offers?
I do think one barrier to connecting more effectively with members is that not everyone understands exactly what we do — and I think more focused messaging will help. We are supporting more peer-to-peer messaging and trying to get more practices on board that are engaging members who are active and helping to spread the message. Peer to peer is probably the most effective way to communicate the value of what we do. Radiologists are more likely to listen to their peers than maybe a leader in an organization with whom they have no personal relationship.
We are also reaching out to younger radiologists and medical students interested in radiology to build that pipeline on the front end through education around what the ACR can do for them and how we are unique compared to other radiology organizations. Our advocacy efforts and work on the economics of the specialty makes the College a standout among other organizations, and our RFS does a great job in developing resources and policies to benefit current trainees and the specialty as a whole. We have put together some unique presentations targeted at residents and program directors to use as a jumping-off point for a discussion about the ACR and how valuable we are and will be to them in the future.
Will there be a continued drive within Membership to attract younger radiologists, residents, fellows and medical students?
Over the past five years approximately, medical student membership has increased significantly. In that time, we have gone from around 300 medical student members to about 3,000. So, it has increased tenfold. That’s great not only because it shows a strong interest in the specialty, but it means we must be doing something right to attract them to the College. The chair of the College’s Medical Student Section is now a member of the Commission on Membership and Communications, and we are working closely with that group.
We are also working hard to keep early, mid-career and late-career radiologists and radiology professionals attracted to the ACR and to retain them. That means we have to take a close look at the value of what we provide — to ensure we have the right programs for them and that they are made aware of them through our communication activities.
How might using a data-driven approach better serve all members and educate other stakeholders?
We use member data to understand what our membership looks like — to see, for instance, that membership is becoming more diverse among younger radiologists just entering the field. We can see who is becoming more specialized, who may be more likely to choose private practice and those kinds of insights. This data better enables us to provide the right types of programs — to make sure members are getting access to the things that are most important to them.
We get the most data about our members through member surveys. Member profile data is also very useful. When people renew their membership, they have an opportunity to update their profile, giving us the most current information.
We know we have a lot of data. How can we use it as a benefit of membership? We can engage our members by giving them access to the data — encouraging them to explore it to understand trends and best practices. This could also help us chart our own path in the future.
Finding ways to use our data to educate external stakeholders would also be mutually beneficial. With that in mind, we are exploring ways to make some of the aggregated data and information now available only to members accessible to non-member stakeholders. We would do this in a targeted way, not only for the general public but also for lawmakers on Capitol Hill, for example.
Also, as we explore new ways to provide more information to our members, one great resource is the ACR’s Career Center. There is a lot of information we can glean from the Center, both about what kinds of jobs are being posted and what people are searching for when trying to find a job. We may gain some insight into what is most important to them. Then we want to find a way to make that information available to those seeking job candidates so they can fine-tune what they’re offering — improving their chances of finding an applicant who would be a good fit.
Talk a little about ACR’s new brand, unveiled at the 2023 annual meeting, and the message you hope it sends to members and anyone interested in joining the College.
If you look at our prior branding adjacent to other radiology organizations — and even non-radiology organizations — they all kind of looked the same and ours didn’t stand out. But we are different from other radiology organizations, and our brand should indicate that.
The new brand is more distinct. It’s unique, fresh and modern, and we’ve seen it resonate with our younger members. We have gotten great feedback from them, saying they’re excited about the new look.
Some of our more seasoned members, when they first saw it, thought perhaps it was too big a leap, but now I’ve heard from a lot of people that it is growing on them. I think maybe they are coming around because it does give us a unique look in the radiology space, and it is sending the message that we are forward thinking and not behind the times. We are taking the same type of approach with the College’s website.
What changes are being made to the ACR’s website?
The process is underway to transform the website into something that meets our members’ expectations. We have completed the discovery process — that is, finding out what our stakeholders are looking for. We have identified some things that need to be updated and improved and have started building those things out.
It is really about improving functionality to make the site more easily searchable and to take down barriers to finding information. We want the website to facilitate what members are looking for — whether they are on a laptop or tablet or smartphone. We want it to have an appropriate look and feel, and I think this is going to help us improve our communication with members, non-members and external stakeholders alike. Anyone who comes to the site will be able to find what they are looking for.
Our goal is to have components available for people to test in the spring. In fact, this would be a good micro-volunteer opportunity — to do some beta testing on the new design and functionality in the spring and summer. Our hope is to have everything largely rolled out by January 2025.
Are there any immediate opportunities you see to increase member engagement?
We encourage our members to take advantage of volunteering opportunities. We know through the data that the members who are most likely to stay with us are those who are actively engaged. But beyond retention, those members get a rewarding experience — they get as much out of it as they put into it. For me, volunteering through the ACR has been one of the most rewarding parts of my career in radiology. I think it really gives people a sense that they are having an impact and making a difference.
We realize that people are busy with work and at home. Recognizing that, we are looking to create volunteering opportunities that may not require an ongoing or lengthy time commitment. We are calling these micro-opportunities to volunteer, and we’re working on a range of options. No matter how much time you have to give, there is potentially an opportunity to get involved.
In addition to volunteering, there are opportunities for us to work with other organizations that could amplify our message. When our goals align, working together with groups outside of the College can be helpful in addressing many issues relevant to members’ wants and needs.
The goal across the board with communication is to make sure we get the right information to the right people at the right time.
About the Commission
The Commission on Membership and Communications strives to generate communication among ACR members and the leadership of the College. The Commission works for the ACR to be a key resource for members, the media, the general public and the radiology and healthcare community. It oversees the ACR fellowship program and represents important future constituencies, including residents, fellows and young physicians. The Commission also works with ACR state chapters to provide seamless representation of the profession.