Old-School Communications Strategies Help Associations Show Value
Leeann Berner, Vice President of Marketing, MemberSuite
We’ve all heard the adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But what if new tricks aren’t what your association needs when it comes to communicating with your members? The impulse to always try new things can backfire if it means that your members are constantly having to adapt to new communication channels to get important updates and announcements from their association.
Modernization of communications strategies centers on what drives results rather than changing tactics for change’s sake. With this as a backdrop, communications professionals at associations need not feel compelled to completely shift marketing priorities to reach current and potential members.
Keep it Real
When it comes to member engagement, associations must understand what strategies work best when it comes to reaching members, equally important, generating the desired behavior and action.
Quick member surveys are one way to gather this information. In many cases, associations will find over-the-top campaigns that lack a traditional communications channel fall on deaf ears with their intended audience and, in many, fail to reach them at all. Glitz is only good when it is effective. So, when possible, stick to traditional tactics like phone outreach and email campaigns to save resources and generate the desired result of improved member engagement.
Go Big Online
In an increasingly buyer-centric market, associations also are facing increased competition from everything to the rise of more networking groups to social networks. Associations must deliver value – in whatever form – to members as a way to build loyalty and create a promoter network that serves as a word-of-mouth recruitment tool.
Building online communities is an excellent vehicle through which associations can connect members in a highly participatory environment to brainstorm ideas, share best practices and create actionable solutions to the common challenges members face.
Associations can recruit member advocates to lead conversations in the community and also bring in subject matter experts, when possible, to offer guidance and advice on topics of interest.
Make Meetings Matter
A few years ago, Google co-founder, Larry Page, sent a company-wide email on how to run better meetings, according to several news articles. While some of this thinking may not be applicable for associations, two of his key sentiments centered on meeting purpose and attendee participation. In essence, he wrote meetings should be focused on decision making, with all attendees having a role or providing input.
When scheduling meetings, associations can seek and secure member input in advance to make sure attendees will be engaged. While all meetings may not require big decisions, determine if there are small decisions to be made and address them accordingly.
When Less is More
Associations often look to pack meetings with as many topics and speakers as possible to maximize attendees’ time. While this is a cost-effective and practical approach for annual meetings or ones involving travel expenses, associations should look to whittle down meeting times – hitting the relevant topics and providing information in creative ways to engage and energize members.
The simple truth is communications for associations may be less about what’s new and shiny and more about what’s strategic and effective. From a marketing perspective, the hottest viral video or social media campaign is only as good as the customers and prospects it reaches and gets to act on the specific goals. For associations, delivering and communicating value will go a long way in achieving the goal of more engaged members.