Features

The New Communication Challenge

By Jill Andreu • October 25, 2017

For the first time in the six-year history of our Association Communications Benchmarking Study, association executives reported that communicating member benefits effectively is more often a challenge than combatting information overload.Top 5 Communication Challenges

Associations are communicating with members more frequently, but more association professionals feel like they’re not doing a satisfactory job promoting those communications as a member benefit – in part because members are telling them they are too busy to pay attention to their association’s messages.

In looking at answers to other survey questions, however, the survey uncovered that communicating member benefits effectively has more to do with how associations define and demonstrate member value.

Consider these changing facets of the membership experience:

  • Almost twice as many associations reported considering virtual events as “very/extremely valuable” this year (34 percent) compared to 2016 (19 percent).
  • Respondents ranked career/professional development and peer networking as the two most important topics to their members, pushing how-to/best practice items out of the No. 1 spot it held the previous two years.
  • Print is making a strong comeback: Printed member magazines are now considered the second-most-valuable member communication channel, behind only live events.

These changes really aren’t surprising, considering the life of a busy association member and the workload of a busy association staff.  We can expect the definition of “perceived member value” to change as different communication tools become more adaptable and accepted. We also should anticipate more communication revolution as new generations grow into the workforce majority and bring their preferences with them. Associations will need to evolve member value as the professional skills needed to maintain an edge in a 21st-century workforce change.

During the next six months we will parse the results of our 2017 Association Communications Benchmarking Study into a series that examines how close associations stand to the intersection of recommendations and reality in the world of member communications. We’ll look at what tools associations are using to communicate, how they use member data to customize communications, and which member segments they need to engage more.

Throughout the series, we encourage you and your fellow association professionals to keep the following question in mind: “What is your member value proposition?” The answer to this question is in flux for many of our respondents, and is likely changing at your association as well.

During the next six months, we’ll examine the many ways of answering the question, “What is your member value proposition?”

Our examination of how associations are communicating and what can be done better isn’t meant to train a spotlight on what associations are doing wrong, but rather to act as a lightbox from which we can more clearly see what is working well for communication staffs, what previously dark or hidden areas need attention, and what map associations can make for themselves so that responses to the 2018 survey are even more optimistic.

If you can’t wait to learn more results from our survey and start mapping your association’s desired improvements, watch the recording of our one-hour webinar about challenges and recommendations from this year’s survey.

About The Author

Jill Andreu is the Vice President of Content Strategy and Development at Naylor Association Solutions.