With increasing demands for relevancy and advocacy and fewer resources, associations can strengthen their relationships with members, increase member value, and maximize the efforts of staff with the skillful application of communication and public relations. Would you like some helpful strategies and tactics to stretch limited budgets and serve even the most cash-sensitive of your members?
Spend nothing more than you are currently spending, yet strengthen member interaction. Impossible? Possible! Begin by asking, “Are my current communications tools working hard enough? Consider your website, social media, media, events, annual reports, newsletters and mail outs. Here are some practical tips and tricks tailored to associations.
Websites and Social Media
In most organizations, messages go out to members…constantly. But is the return traffic just as heavy? And the member-to-member traffic? Light? Non-existent?
Most websites operate on a “push” strategy. Content goes out to members. But fewer website “pull” in members. For example, does your website have a “members only” area? And is there some tidbit there that drives members to go to the members-only area…some piece of content or technology that they “must have” and can’t get elsewhere on the website?
Here are some examples. The Electrical Contractors Association of Alberta has a discussion forum, members only area, members’ roster and members’ searchable database, and a request for feedback on the website. ASET has a members-only area and a job referral program. In fact, the ASET website has an entire networking section.
One important reason why people join a professional association is for the networking opportunities. Does your website facilitate networking? Is there a message board, blog or discussion forum where members “talk back” to you…where members interact with one another? Is there a job board, list serve, discussion group, or newsgroup on your site?
For example, the Alberta Medical Association has a discussion forum. The Alberta Architects Association, The Consulting Architects of Alberta, and the Society of Local Government Managers of Alberta have searchable member databases…this facilitates connectivity. The Alberta College of Medical Diagnostic and Therapeutic Technologists offers job postings. The Petroleum Tank Management Association of Alberta has a list of industry contacts. On the APEGGA website, student members contribute monthly columns. This content is user generated. Better yet, it is content that engages the next generation of members.
Are you using social media? The College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Alberta has a blog, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account. The Alberta Association of Optometrists is using Facebook and Twitter.
Such measures strengthen member engagement and solidify member relationships.
Every association wants to strengthen its relationship with the media. Perhaps you have a media room on your website? Make this a “must go to” resource area for media. Yes, use this area to archive past media releases but…in addition to old news, put something “meaty” there that the media could use to generate a story. For example, the Canadian Medical Association posts reports, white papers, quick facts, discussion documents, data, speeches…a goldmine for the media! Further, the Canadian Medical Association posts lists of media contacts…members who are willing to speak to the media on a variety of topics.
Are your events working hard enough for you? Do your events provide maximum opportunity for member interaction and relationship building? Or do the program and speeches “fill” the entire time block? Why not build networking time right into your agenda? Do you ask high profile members to moderate, serve on panels, and host table groups? Can your members serve as greeters, bartenders or “celebrity” guests?
For example, Canadian Women in Communications organizes a “Key Communicators” event where members “bid” to sit with table hosts and later, interact with a panel. Relationships are built and strengthened at these events.
Can you make your annual report more interactive? Include a member feedback form, mail-in survey, ballot or poll. For example, the National Tour Association annual report is both interactive and informative. Printed as an accordion style brochure, it serves as a discussion starter and networking opportunity. Could your annual report be revised?
Does your member newsletter include letters to the editor? Guest columns? Member profiles? Debates? Opinion pieces? Testimonials? The Consulting Architects of Alberta had a “name the newsletter” contest…inviting member interaction.
When mailing annual invoices for member dues, can you include feedback forms, ballots, polls, or checklists?
Conduct a mini-audit of the communications within your association. Complete the checklist below.
|Communication Tool||Does it foster member to association connectivity?||Does it foster member to member connectivity?||Suggestions, revisions, recommendations|
How does your association score? Are there ways to increase connectivity in the tools you are already using?
Are your communication vehicles working full-time to increase member engagement and interaction? If not, “up” their utility with the tips and tricks noted above.