ASAE Annual Meeting

Build Your 2021 Communications Plan

By Association Adviser staff • August 18, 2020

Rachel Clemens - Mighty Citizen
Rachel Clemens, Mighty Citizen

If your association frequently says, “We don’t have time for a written communications plan,” Nicole Araujo and Rachel Clemens with Mighty Citizen were on hand at their Learning Lab at the 2020 ASAE Annual Meeting to tell you, “Yes, you do!”

Not only do you have the time, but a communications plan is essential to setting the right goals, getting buy-in from stakeholders, and getting the budget to achieving everything your communications team wants and needs to accomplish.

When building your communications plan, start with an executive summary. While you want to write this last, it comes first in your report. It’s a high-level view of what’s in your plan that includes your vision statement and overall strategic thinking that you can review back to throughout the year.

Nicole Araujo headshot
Nicole Araujo, Mighty Citizen

Write your plan with your market and audience(s) in mind. This is where you need to do your research. Understand trends in your industry – not just what’s going on today, but where you’ll be in 5 years. What is your association’s value proposition, and who are your competitors? Who is your audience … or more likely, audiences? Beyond your members, think about prospects, chapters, volunteers, legislators, community leaders and the general public. It may help to create personas for a handful of your typical audience members; these can help you prioritize and put a “face” to who you’re engaging with.

Next, it’s time to look at your communication channels. Is your audience active on your website, your online community or your social media? Even if you can’t be everywhere and be everything to everyone, you can prioritize where you communicate with people based on where they’re already gathering.

When it comes time to set goals, don’t overcommit. Rachel suggests sticking with three communication goals for the year, particularly for those small staff associations. Your goals should be broad, strategic and ladder up to your organization’s mission and goals. For each goal, list the tactics and metrics tied to them – that will spell out for you what success looks like and the steps you’ll take to get there.

Finally, a communication plan is not a set it and forget it exercise. Check in on the status of your goals monthly, and update your stakeholders on your progress on a quarterly basis. The full staff gets a “bite size” update, executives get the “snack,” and your communications team gets the full meal deal.