Planning to make a strong connection with your members is a bit like gardening. You must prepare the soil (dig in to understand the gap between the problem versus your goal); plant the seeds (an objective look at what the garden is producing), provide water (put in the infrastructure to help reach your goals), and do some occasional weeding (assess newly implemented communications to see what’s working, what’s not and adjust accordingly). The result can be a bountiful display of communications that convey real value to your members and generate a meaningful response.
In November we launched Mission: CONNECT, a project with one state and three local Realtor® associations. The goal: to re-think how to connect with members and get more members to connect with your communications and the value you offer. From among the 40+ applications submitted, the Arizona Association of Realtors® and three of its local associations were selected. I’m pleased to share this first of many updates with you on our progress.
Mission: CONNECT Status – Step 1: Preparing the Soil with a Full Analysis (Audit)
Before we could begin to plant our garden (a more coordinated, relevant communications plan), we dug in and unearthed current problems. This step was a Strategic Communications Audit. We looked at communications (and communication practices) that had deep roots; some of which had grown out of control. We also looked at how different “species” of communications grow nicely together (or not); and which crowd out green shoots of new strategies. One key objective for this stage of the project was to identify communications which can be combined into a bouquet of messaging and value statements that make members stop and smell the roses!
As part of our “soil preparation” the Arizona associations provided examples of their communications and data on their website and social media activity. (In one instance we found, between state and local e-mails, more than 80 pieces of e-communications hitting the members’ inbox every month. This does not include communications from NAR.)
We dug up many good examples of communications and communication processes, but it was the job of Mission: CONNECT to brush the dirt off all the information available and view with the eye of someone who isn’t on the board, doesn’t chair the communications committee and doesn’t work for the association. Like the gardener who takes her best flowers to a county fair for judging, the Arizona staff put a sampling of their communications in our hands for a birds-eye view of how the member might see them.
Our process was not to award blue ribbons as we don’t expect every association to write the same way or send the same message. We did, however, look for purposeful communications rooted in real member benefits (versus features). We also looked at what makes communications more attractive to members: we paid attention to readability, personality, branding, consistency in messaging, and member-focus (versus all about the association). Our goal is a writing style that helps show relevance and messaging that will get members’ attention.
As we put on our gardening gloves for this first step in our project, we have a lot of promising material to examine. The audit is not the answer; rather, it uncovers areas for discussion between all four associations. Some results may not be directly used in the Mission: CONNECT project; but all will help each association pay attention to their respective communications practices. While we don’t yet know exactly what will grow from this first step, we have put a few stakes in the ground to support better communications as we move forward.
Step two in the Mission: CONNECT process is a live workshop in late February to identify root causes to the problem that is blocking clear and aligned association communications. Knowing spring can’t come too soon for most of us, watch for our next update on Mission: CONNECT.