Association Communications Benchmarking Series

The Top 10 Individual Communication Channels for Associations in 2018

By Association Adviser staff • December 11, 2018

Every year, we ask association professionals who take our Association Communications Benchmarking Survey how much they value individual member communication channels. It’s a measure of how well a given medium works for reaching members with association information.

Every association is different, of course, and one way of communicating might work well for one association but not another. However, our survey finds plenty of commonalities among our respondents.

Here are the top 10 individual communication channels from our 2018 survey:

Top 10 Indivdual Communication Channels in 2018 - Benchmarking

There’s not much change in the top five from 2017’s list. In-person events, printed member magazines, eNewsletters, webinars and leadership development events (typically held in-person) retained their same rankings from last year. But events for young professionals moved up a couple spots in importance while Facebook was demoted to No. 8. The decline in Facebook’s attributed value may be due in part to the level of mistrust in the social network Facebook users are reporting this year. It’s also a time burden for communicators:

“Shiny objects catch our attention the most, and the fast-paced, highly addictive nature of social media makes it a shiny object for associations wanting to listen in on their members, their peers, and their competitor organizations,” said Sarah Sain. “Social media can certainly be an effective way to engage members, but because it can suck up so much of your time, associations must approach their social media use with defined outcome and time-oriented goals that justify its use,” she continued.

New to the Top 10 Individual Communication Channels in 2018Three channels are new to the top 10 this year: printed member newsletters, printed show guides and private online communities. Associations are telling us that while print has never really gone away for them, they’re putting extra energy into reviving printed items like member newsletters and show guides because their members enjoy the simplicity of holding a printed piece of information in their hands, learning from it, and keeping it for future reference. Sure, with about 77 percent of American adults carrying smartphones, email and Web-based communications are convenient. But the texts, updates and notifications that constantly ping at us from our smartphones are distracting. Sometimes, a member wants to focus on the story or show floor in front of them, and association communicators are happy to help them do that.

Rachel Brown spoke with a couple associations about the benefits of print in a digital world in her article last month.

Private online communities are gaining prominence because they can be a secure space for members to gather and talk about topics important to their work without the distractions of traditional, “public” social media networks. (Finding ways around distractions seems to be a sub-theme of this year’s Top 10 Communication Channels list!) Wondering what a private online community entails? We recommend referencing this guide from Higher Logic.

How do these communication preferences compare to your association? Do your members value the same or similar ways of communicating with your association? Or does a medium wildly different from the above work better for you? Let us know in the comments below!