In April 2020, a respected colleague said to me: “If we want a better future for our members, we can’t just react to our circumstances. We can’t just survive. I’m pushing all of us to thrive!”
Amidst the disruption, devastation and distractions of 2020, the questions were consistent. Associations wanted to find the best approaches on how to communicate and connect during a crisis. Association executives and their staff contemplated how to communicate something different to members than all the other sources of information.
During “the COVID pause” associations had significant initiatives in the works that required decisions: How would they now position surveys, strategic plans, mergers, and conveying value to worried, distracted members?
I am inspired by the way associations adapted to the experience of online connecting. Associations adjusted their approach to accommodate today’s new reality and kept their plans on track.
Each year we review “what’s working”? But this year it’s especially significant to see the associations who didn’t miss a beat with their plans to better position their association for the future. Here are five key project types that your colleagues completed:
1. Merger Plans and Intentional Merger Messaging – A campaign to convey “what’s in it for the member?” and a well-thought-out plan to distribute it led to overwhelming support of the merger.
- Suburban West and Montgomery County Associations of REALTORS® kept moving when many businesses paused. They successfully conveyed the benefits for merging to become a better place for members – and the largest local association in Pennsylvania.
2. Meaningful Member Research – A simple 10 question survey helped 12 associations benchmark member perception of services and offerings to get better at delivering value.
- Associations with membership ranging from 300 to 7,000 united to listen to members and (curious) to benchmark with each other on a range of topics. Research included Net Promoter Score, perception of value, and most important association services. Read about the Insight 2020 project here.
3. Strategic Silver Linings – Goals don’t change during a crisis. For two associations, long-term goals served as their beacon to adapt and thrive during a challenging year.
- There are two kinds of strategic plans: ones with genuine vision for the future, including significant initiatives that move the organization to their vision, and others that read more like an operations plan. KAR (a state association) and CVAR (a local one) opted to stay the course with their current bold plan in place – to make even more progress toward their lofty vision. Today’s environment made it challenging to invest in visionary, long-term thinking. The ultimate result? The chance to re-assess and continue to work on their big goals to purposefully complete each one of them.
4. Beyond the Virus – Declaring Your Value Proposition – During the 2020 crisis, associations who worked from a unified message of value were most successful at demonstrating their relevance to members.
Even in a disruptive time like 2020, associations want to be very clear what members can expect from the association – for today and then going forward.
Several turned VIRUS to VALUE in a year that required communicators to be even more clear about why the association matters.
- Texas Educational Technology Association (TETL) Rebranded and Discovered their Value Proposition
- Value Proposition at Mennonite Health Services (MHS)
- Associations with an established value message modified their message ‘just so’ to reinforce the association’s primary solutions (as they rebranded). Here’s a great example:
5. CEOs set their goals, re-upped their commitment to position for the future. They engaged leaders and staff from across the state to focus on unified value messages and communications approaches to members as they move into 2021.
- Indiana Association of REALTORS® Shows Their Commitment to Their Locals and Their Members
Karl Berron, CEO of Indiana REALTORS® said this:
Leadership spent the year meeting with local associations and its members to determine the biggest issues facing the association. Among the top three was ‘the local value proposition’.
IAR’s Leadership Summit (for incoming presidents and Association Executives) focused the reason and a framework to help each of the 26 local associations discover their unique value proposition (beyond MLS). Indiana REALTORS® then took a next step – to present each attendee the book BREAKTHROUGH VALUE to encourage and support to get started.
While it’s tempting to want to put this year behind and look ahead…I hope you will take a pause to celebrate the gains you made in finding out who you really are as an organization and how you convey your message to your stakeholders.
Wishing you the promise of a bright new year, filled with promise and confidence that you link your biggest strengths with what your members need most.