While some associations build and sell tangible products, most often, an association’s “product line” includes services in the form of information, education and training, advocacy and access to a professional network for personal or professional growth.
Your communications is the core of your “customer acquisition and loyalty” efforts. In other words, it’s the only way you have to get customers to use your services and keep them coming back. With this in mind, association executives are wise to consider these questions when considering your communications strategy:
- What can we do to better connect with our most important members?
- Do we effectively communicate what we do best to our most important members?
- Does staff understand their work and how it supports our strategic goals?
- Do we use key value messages throughout our communications?
- Are we using our communications plan as a tool to connect with members…and is it working?
The answers to these questions help you test your communications strategy. The strongest associations use their communications to convey the association’s value to its customers—whether that means members, non-members, the public or the media.
Step one to improving your association’s communications is an honest look at how “the customer” sees your communications today. A thoughtful and deliberate review of your association’s communications is that first step.
A strategic communications audit will assess your voice, your brand, relevant content, your writing style (personality), readability, design, visuals, how you integrate them across channels—delivered in the way your members prefer to receive them. An independent review of these elements will pinpoint your communication strengths and weaknesses, and also uncover opportunities to better connect with your target audience. From here, you are prepared to develop a meaningful communication plan.
Karl Berron, CEO of the Indiana Association of REALTORS® recently said, “We need a well-thought approach to integrating our value proposition into our daily activities, and the discipline to execute it. Staff training and buy in is part of it, as is a comprehensive plan for delivering the message.”
If you are looking to move from being an organization that simply broadcasts the news to one that uses communications as a tool to deliver value, start by getting an outsider’s view.
A professional audit will list pros and cons and lay out recommendations for improving your communications tactics and messaging. A commitment to looking at your communications as your members see them is not only a smart step for your communication strategy; it’s also a member-relations strategy.