By Dana Plotke
Multiple priorities and multitasking have been the norm for association executives and their thin-stretched staffs for as long as most can remember. It’s still a fact even though scientists say that all of this divided attention can be problematic and ultimately compromises individual—and thus, organizational—productivity. The same can be said for your communication program. Too little strategy combined with too much activity sets the stage for mixed messages and communication overload for your members.
On the other hand, a focused strategy that recognizes all member communications under a single brand has the ability to create unification and consistency where there was once confusion and chaos.
Simplifying and clarifying the communication brand is not that hard when you think about it. But, it does require acknowledgement that there is a problem and the willingness and commitment to fix it.
Here are a few questions to consider as you self-evaluate your communication brand(s):
1. Have you asked your members what they want?
Do you send all communications to all members, or are you asking members how they would like to engage? A print magazine has a similar, but different, value proposition than an e-newsletter. Be sure you know what your members like about both and how often they would like to receive them. If you are consistent with your branding, no matter the vehicle, you have the ability to leverage the uniqueness of each through content, delivery and promotion. This will add depth and strength to the entire communications program.
2. Do you have a master calendar for tracking outgoing activity throughout the year?
If there is only one thing you do differently this year, let it be this. Map out a 12 or 18-month cycle of your planned member communications and do your best to include them all, even if they fall outside of your department or group. This task makes it easy to identify overlap, or conversely, areas in which you may be missing some easy opportunities for member engagement.
3. Do you think about supplier members and advertising supporters when developing content?
Having a strong brand that advocates for your profession and your members is the best way to attract financial support. No one is suggesting that you tailor your content to satisfy every whim of your advertising base, but simply put: the more attractive your content is to those folks, the more support you are likely to receive.
4. Are you leveraging multimedia the way you should?
Going back to Point No.1 above, it’s important to ask your members how they want to engage. With that said, I’m a big believer in not putting all your eggs in one basket—no matter what your audience tells you. Print, digital, email and social media all have their place and time. Use them to your advantage to create a unified voice that lets members know where you stand on everything from important issues to trending topics.
Associations are under constant pressure to provide value or risk losing members (see Charles Popper’s story in this issue). By embracing a single brand concept, associations can secure their rightful position as the leading authority in an industry over their B2B competitors, expert bloggers or the next “flavor of the month.”
Dana Plotke has worked in B2B marketing and communications for more than 15 years, with a focus on association media and events since 2002. She leads the marketing efforts of Naylor, LLC.