One Size Does NOT Fit All: Develop a communications plan that fits your association’s needs.
Every association is different and not one strategy is right for all. At the American Public Gas Association (APGA), we began a full-on communications revamp in 2007. APGA is the national association of municipally and publicly owned local distribution systems. These public gas utilities are not-for-profit retail distribution entities that are owned by, and accountable to, the citizens they serve. They include municipal gas distribution systems, public utility districts, county districts and other public agencies that have natural gas distribution facilities.
APGA’s communications efforts began as a two-prong approach: First, try to reach every part of our membership demographic with consistent messaging, and second, use existing resources, or low-cost methods, to meet our communication goals.
APGA has an older membership, and we needed to recognize that trendy social media platforms were not going to suffice as an across-the-board strategy. We instead took a diversified approach, and created a variety of communication products for each type of member. For instance, a hard copy bi-weekly newsletter, that may seem antiquated to some associations, is highly valued by our members. For members who are more technically savvy, we are now producing an electronic version. While we try not to bombard our members with e-mail, we do find that offering a weekly electronic update is significant because it relays important announcements that cannot wait for publishing in the bi-weekly newsletter.
On the publications front, we created a quarterly magazine, THE SOURCE, which is available in both hard copy and electronic formats. The magazine project began in the spring of 2008 when we partnered with Naylor. The magazine is printed and mailed at no cost to our members, thanks to an advertising revenue sharing agreement we have with Naylor. THE SOURCE has proven to be a useful communication vehicle for APGA. Each quarter, the editorial committee, guest writers and APGA staff produce this high-quality vehicle that elevates our external profile and delivers core APGA messages and values. Today, the magazine is touted by our industry peers as an informative publication on significant issues affecting the public natural gas industry. THE SOURCE is widely read by APGA members, natural gas and energy professionals, and by policymakers in Washington.
This year, APGA is conducting regular webinars to help our members alleviate the stress and cost of traveling for professional education. Our webinars allow APGA members to learn and participate in educational topics via the Internet from the comfort of their own offices. Webinars have also proven to be a helpful communication tool for our association, and they provide superior value to our members.
Lastly, APGA has not lost sight of the fact that despite our older demographic, we still to need to remain current and offer communication vehicles that meet an increasingly technical world and office environment. We have set up social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Vimeo, and LinkedIn, and utilize these tools to update our followers about legislative actions, new videos and events in real time. We have also revamped our website with a cleaner format that our members use now with ease.
The APGA story is constantly evolving as we continue to adapt to the needs of our members and the various ways they prefer to receive and digest information. We look forward to incorporating new trends in the future, as well as staying true to our communication traditions.