GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The latest communication research from Naylor reveals that associations of all sizes, industries and operating budgets are communicating with members twice as often as they were just three years ago—with the average association pushing out an average of 24 member messages per month through print, online and social media channels. Ironically, this increase in communication is occurring even though association executives indicate continued concern about member information overload.
Like its predecessor reports from 2011-2013, the 2014 Naylor Association Communications Benchmarking Report is based on a survey that measured communications practices at over 1,000 North American trade associations and professional societies. The survey reveals a continued evolution in the way associations and societies communicate with members and what they consider their biggest challenges from the past year. The report is available for download at Naylor.com/benchmarking.
“This report provides an updated view of the challenges associations face in communicating with and engaging their members, and the actions they are taking to improve that engagement,” said Alex DeBarr, Naylor’s president and CEO. “This annual study provides the opportunity for associations to compare their communication strategies to those of their peers in addition to providing them with clear recommendations for communication and engagement best practices,” concluded Mr. DeBarr.
Top challenges reported by associations this year included leveraging data for optimal engagement and creating better content. The struggle to engage members and create relevant content may explain why nearly 70 percent of associations cited “combating information overload/cutting through the clutter” to be the top member-specific communications challenge for the third year in a row.
Another 70 percent of associations surveyed don’t believe that their members read more than half of the communications they send out. When asked what it would take to get members more engaged with their association, the top three responses involved integrating their communications, enhancing their ability to collect and use data, and better understanding what types of the content recipients expect.
“Associations have an opportunity to improve their member outreach and engagement efforts by using the information in this report to optimize their communications strategies and investments,” said Charles Popper, vice president of association relations at Naylor. “The best practices and recommendations found in our benchmarking report will give association professionals the resources they need to provide more effective information and content for both members and industry suppliers.”
As has been the case in each study since 2011, less than half (43 percent) of association respondents have more than one full-time communication staff member. Yet, when presented with a hypothetical 50 percent increase in annual budget, the option to “Hire more staff” came in third, with the top choice being to “improve the quality of existing communications vehicles” followed by “upgrade our publishing tools, technologies or processes.”
“For most association leaders, wearing multiple hats and “doing more with less” is part of their DNA,” continued Mr. Popper. “Many association leaders still feel the sting left by the budget cuts during the economic downturn and feel that they have outdated technologies that are negatively impacting their communications effectiveness. Still, everyone acknowledges that members are more demanding today than ever before and most association execs wouldn’t deny that they could use more help.”
The good news is in the best practices revealed by successful associations. For instance, the report shows that associations with fully integrated communications were much more confident about the effectiveness of their content strategy and the quality of their communications. The report concludes with a set of 12 specific recommendations that association executives can implement to improve their communications—crowdsourcing content topics, opening lines of communication with sponsors and better organizing content among them. Association leaders who arm themselves with this knowledge are better able to evaluate the quality of their own communications strategies, plan their communications program for the year and avoid many of the pitfalls that other associations have already experienced.
Download the full report at www.Naylor.com/Benchmarking.
About Naylor Association Solutions
Naylor Association Solutions provides products and services that drive member engagement and revenue for 1,500+ associations in North America. Founded in 1969, Naylor helps trade and professional associations deliver more value to their members by offering a wide array of solutions including communications strategy, content, print, digital, video, full service event management, advertising, sponsorship & exhibit sales, career centers and revenue generating solutions. It’s not what Naylor does that makes us unique; it’s how Naylor does it. Our team is committed to innovation, has a strong sense of integrity and possesses deep expertise helping associations achieve more success.