By Charles Popper
Last month, I discussed the need for having the courage to ask your members the tough questions—ones that will give you the answers you need, not necessarily the ones you want to hear, before launching any new initiative or significantly modifying a current one. Gone are the days when information was not as readily available to members as it is today. Now, you can’t just dictate to your members what you think they want and how they want it. You have to ask them and you have to deliver. As a reader from Chicago recently wrote me: “EXACTLY! Thanks for putting into written words what my board and I have been discussing for the past couple of months.” And members of all ages, not just the younger ones, expect an “Amazon.com” experience from you. They are increasingly shaping the associations they belong to—not the other way around (see Hank Berkowitz’s column in today’s issue for more on that topic).
But asking for (and tallying up) member feedback is only half of the equation. Your findings only tell you so much when looked at in a vacuum. They must also be compared to associations of similar size and industry composition. Against what criteria do you benchmark your organization?
Take today’s Reader Poll and see how your fellow readers answered.
As I said last month, “That’s where benchmarking comes in. It’s not just knowing the facts; it’s knowing the facts relative to a larger universe of organizations who may be wrestling with the same challenges you are, or perhaps competing with you for your members’ attention.”
How Naylor helps you ask and deliver
This is where Naylor can help. As many of you know, we are constantly looking for ways to solidify our position as a resource for associations. And being a resource is about delivering information that’s not only relevant, but comprehensive.
In December, the Association Adviser eNews, along with Naylor and a select number of state chapters of the Association Societies Alliance, will launch a deep-dive benchmarking study that will give you, the association professional, the best practices and data you need to make confident, well-informed decisions about your member communications, strategies and investments. Again, we’re focusing exclusively on member communication.
At a time when converging economic, demographic and technological factors are making it tougher than ever for associations to remain relevant to their respective industries, it has never been more important for their membership communication vehicles to be timely, relevant, of high value and economically self-sustaining.
Our report will provide the association community with objective data about how their communications strategies and resource investments stack up to organizations of similar size, type and industry. The study will further help readers better understand ways in which they can make their print, electronic, social media, live events and mobile communication programs more effective for both members and industry suppliers. The study also will help association professionals identify gaps in their current offerings and recommend strategies, tactics and best practices for shoring up those gaps given the staffing and resource parameters of like-minded organizations.
In addition to providing you with a helpful road map to improving your communication program, we hope to prove our hypothesis that associations with well-thought-out and well-executed integrated communications strategies have better engagement with their members, better recruitment and retention rates, and better overall membership growth than associations who don’t have integrated communication plans.
Look for our survey in your inbox in early December. If you have a question you’d like to include in the study, please send it to me by November 16, and we’ll do our best to include it.
Charles Popper is Naylor’s vice president of association relations. He has more than 15 years of business-to-business and consumer publishing experience.
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