As associations and association staff frame their marketing and communication strategies, they must plan specifically around two categories: member and non-member communications. Non-member communications oftentimes mean recruitment campaigns, where associations develop well-rounded and effective marketing plans for recruitment of new members. This stands in some contrast to communication and marketing initiatives toward those who are already members. In these instances, communications become less of a campaign-based process and more oriented toward a cohesive organizational structure where association staff seek out strategies to keep members engaged and involved with the association itself. Read below for four components of an effective member communications approach.
This is the very first step in ensuring that your association communicates effectively with its existing membership. Consistency should manifest itself in two different ways. First, consistency is vital in messaging – that is, from one message to the next. Consistent messaging means the output of consistent information across various platforms. This builds trust with your members and keeps them aware of association happenings. On another level, consistency must appear in messaging from different people in your association. For association leaders, it is important to make sure that the messages coming from your marketing team are echoed by those of your membership team, your meeting planners, your education team, and all others. Association members that receive this consistent messaging from the top down – executive director to the remainder of your staff – are more likely to show continued trust and confidence in your organization.
As much as trust is built with consistent communications, it can be encouraged even more if your organization maintains transparency across the board. Members look to their associations for several important benefits, including education, partnership and support. Transparency leads directly to trust, leading your members to continue to believe in the benefits and opportunities provided to them through association membership. If they begin to feel that associations cannot deliver on these programs and resources, however, they may lose confidence and drift away. Be transparent with your communications, don’t hide your intentions and plans as an organization, and respond promptly and genuinely to the needs of your members. Build trust and watch your relationships with your members flourish.
Many people join associations looking for a new avenue of involvement in their industries. One way to improve your communications strategy is to allow these members to be involved in the communication process. You should actively seek out input from members, share their stories, and maintain open lines of communication between leadership and membership. This creates a culture of inclusivity, teamwork and appreciation for each member that you serve. Consider a regular portion of your association’s newsletter or website that allows members to tell their stories and share about their lives, businesses and involvement with the association. This only leads to improved authenticity, allowing you to better reach your members where they are. Hearing and sharing members’ stories opens your eyes to their needs, desires and activities, which can help drive your communications moving forward. Occasionally, marketing efforts can feel distanced and disconnected, but working together with your members to push forward storytelling efforts can bridge the gap between staff and members.
Again, the effectiveness of your communications comes down not only to the actions of your marketing team, but also, and more importantly, to how well each part of your association staff communicates with members. Obviously, your membership team actively keeps in touch with your association members, and other staff members communicate as needed to individuals who require support in their specific areas. If your association staff is able to anticipate the needs of your members, you can better respond with the authenticity, transparency and consistency outlined above. In the end, open lines of communication allow you to better understand your membership, giving you the knowledge to anticipate issues that are likely to arise. If you understand and anticipate, you can effectively communicate to build trust and confidence, the ultimate goal of member communications.