It’s a (strange) new world. You might be moving back to your office, rescheduling a big event, but life, nor your members’ work routine is far from back to normal. Winston Churchill says it best:
Before we talk next steps, let’s acknowledge that every communicator just experienced baptism by fire. Before we knew what happened, the world switched off, and each of you – and we had to audible and adjust.
While few associations we know had a formal crisis communications plan, you used good judgement to quickly produce your social posts, e-newsletters and other initiatives. Many quickly completed the Crisis Communications Matrix to get organized. This is the time so many of you realized the importance of a having a plan to guide the way you communicate through this crisis and beyond.
Our team observed association staff reaching out to members to support them through tough times and presented the association as a (tangible and emotional) resource. You planted seeds of goodwill, reminded members of your unique value and made connections that will pay you back.
Since March, we attended your webinars, saw well-thought-out and creative communications and we had the chance to help you continue with communications projects without ‘missing a beat’. We know just how much focus and attention goes into pressing communications in addition to the behind the scenes work to stay your strategic course.
At a time like this, average is not a criticism…wow, what a statement that is! For any of you who take an honest look and say, ‘we did okay’, congratulations! Average is a success, and ‘pretty good’ is worthy of celebration! And as you look ahead, perhaps there is one new idea that you could add into the mix to take your communications to the next level:
- It’s still time to show care – while we’re all anxious for the crisis to end we can’t act as though it’s over. There are still re-openings in progress, and a lot of unknowns. Move from short term crisis management to longer-term adaptation to today’s uncertainty. Kudos to the associations with catchy short videos, social posts that show care. Being back in the office is not a member concern…what you are doing different to overcome today’s biggest needs is their primary interest.
- Help them be safe – While stay at home orders may have relaxed in some places, not all members feel safe or confident about what’s happening ‘out there’ right now. Remind them of how you’ll safely welcome them to the association office or other gatherings. Many CEOs are preparing for the next step: stocking up on office supplies, making intentional choices about what small groups to bring together, and sensitivity to balancing association work with members’ need to focus on their primary business.
- Ask for staff feedback. Hooray that business is moving, but it’s not business as usual. What will be different tomorrow, and what will be better because of the crisis? We all learned a lot during this challenging time. Especially the pros and cons of in-person and doing business virtually. How about gathering your staff to ask them the biggest challenge and what silver lining they uncovered from working at their kitchen table? Instead of reverting to business as usual, what lessons could help you be more effective at meeting member needs going forward? Be curious about the feedback they collected.
- Share best practices from members. It’s been a time for applying creativity and adaptability to members’ standard practices. We’ve seen ideas like members showing other members how they set up their own virtual office to how members applied association technology tools for the first time to keep business going during the ‘pause’.
- Ask for member feedback especially now. Now is a good time to ask members how you can improve on what you’ve done so far to get some honest input and prepare your organization for next time. Example: Right now, several associations are part of an nSight Marketing project called Insight 2020. We’re helping 12 associations gather valuable data (including some related to the COVID crisis) and showing members the association cares and is listening. Then these executives will have the chance to see their survey results across associations, by association size and member segments to benchmark how they’re doing with a collective of open-minded peers who want to understand where they rank.
- The William E. Smith Institute for Association Research reminds us that even (especially) during a crisis:
- Assess your crisis communications approach. You’ll never have a more ideal time to look back at your communications over the past three months and consider what you did well, what you may have missed, and what ideas to take going forward. While you were focusing on how to re-adjust your services, we observed associations using pieces of this infographic to think through Your Communications In a Crisis using these six steps.
- Use your key messages to keep you focused and convey why members should rely on you. As an example, if your formal value proposition is “We’re in this together” you might tweak it now to convey:
✓ “We’re more prepared today than ever to support you.”
✓ “Today’s business is unprecedented. We’ll face what happens next together.”
✓ “Preparing for today, and for what comes next.”
There’s no better time than now to discover your own unique value proposition that tells members what you do best to answer what they need most. Get started on your value message here. You’ll use this message to guide your association every day, and especially in a crisis.
Did you uncover what you really offer members during a crisis that makes you indispensable to them? If not, take a time out to discover your member value proposition. The seeds you plant today will deliver a harvest going forward. May your bucket overflow with appreciative and engaged members!