If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to put into place a communications plan that is worthy of your members’ attention, NOW is the time to start. Meaningful communications with a purpose won’t come from brainstorming topics each week in a staff meeting. You need a framework to build consistent and targeted messaging that supports specific communication goals.
Here are five things you need to “get” to develop a usable, relevant communications plan that will be memorable and purposeful to your members.
1. Get Input.
Don’t assume you know what your members think or want. Verify! Survey members to find out if the messages you’re sending are getting through and recognized as coming from you, or if they are typically the victim of the delete key. Use focus groups to get more qualitative input. The best organizations survey annually and use the results to determine possible actions and change for the coming year.
2. Get Feedback.
When was the last time you printed a sampling of your marketing documents and stepped back for a little analysis? Or, better yet, had an independent, third party provide feedback? There’s nothing more valuable for an organization than to see the world as a member sees it, instead of from the writer’s point of view. What does your member see when they visit your website? Does your About Us page talk all about the organization and say little about the member? An objective opinion from an outside set of eyes will provide a fresh perspective that’s impossible to have from the inside.
3. Get Perspective.
What critical business issues are members facing that your communications should address? Think new or pending laws, economic conditions, new technologies, etc. Your strategic plan should identify these challenges, and lay out a plan to respond to high priority issues. This will beg the question: “What stays and what goes?” Proctor & Gamble recently reported plans to sell or shut down some 100 brands so it could focus on 70-80 of its biggest brands. Has your association become bloated from adding new products and services without cutting less popular ones? If so, your member service communications may also be bloated and unfocused. Make the highest and best use of your communications to support strategic goals.
4. Get Your Internal “Value” Story Straight.
What value do you deliver to members that they need most and can’t get anywhere else? If you and your staff (and leaders) cannot answer that core question, how can you effectively communicate the value of the organization to uninvolved members? Get your value message down to a single statement or two and weave it into your communications, based on the audience and the specific service or offering. If you can get this focused in your communications, you will create important connections with members that is clear, simple and relevant.
5. Get Going (and Stay on Track).
Now that you have input, feedback, perspective and can clearly tell your value story, you’re ready to put together a “kick-ass” communications plan that will result in better connections with your members. Be careful not to get distracted from your plan. Adjust for new information or industry changes, but avoid veering off-message because an incoming leader thinks it’s a “good idea” (go back to step #1 and verify with input).