Monday, January 9, 2017

Communication clutter!

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You will be happy to know that GCSAA “puts its money where its mouth is” and supports all employees to be active members of the American Society of Association Executives. It is the equivalent organization for people who work in the association management industry and provides very useful professional development, education resources, and a community to exchange ideas and expertise with other members. GCSAA has an Organizational Membership which allows all employees to utilize the website and access to all of these resources.

Recently, I took advantage of this opportunity and participated in a webinar titled “Breaking through the clutter – New, more effective ways to communicate with your members”. I chose that webinar because I believe communication is the most important tool that chapters utilize in all aspects of their chapter operations. It is the key to everything a chapter does from recruiting and retaining members to promoting attendance at chapter meetings. And honestly, something all chapters could improve.

The webinar was taught by Mr. Dave Stevens who is the Managing Partner of Stevens & Stevens, an award-winning company dedicated to helping associations improve their marketing and communications results. He did a great job and hit on several items that I believe can help chapters with their communication strategy. The information was also very useful in everyday communication whether you are dealing with golfers, customers, employees or coworkers, or even everyday interactions. Following are a few items that I thought interesting and useful.

  •          Communication with members is now more difficult than ever. We have more technology and tools, but individuals are constantly bombarded by marketing and communication. The presenter compared the effort required by your members to find your message is similar to “Finding Waldo”. All of us are hit with hundreds of messages every day that include modern technology (email and social media), dynamic graphics, and “younger” and rebranded marketing.
  •          The presenter suggested every organization should decide and create a “value proposition” or “brand statement”. This is similar to an organization’s mission statement but targets specifically their marketing and communication. One simple example made was “The National Association of Widget Makers will help you make more money.” So, every communication made by the NAWM should pass the test that it communicates that message.
  •          Here’s one I know is very true – Keep your messages short and simple. I know because I violate this advice every day (you know that if you are still reading this blog). This sure isn’t a new thought, “The more you say, the less people remember. The fewer the words, the greater the profit” Francois Fenelon, 1651 – 1715.
o   Chapters could certainly benefit by using this strategy when announcing meetings to their members. I think the challenge is tailoring your messages for all chapter members.

o   As someone who has attended hundreds of chapter events in my career, I look at an announcement and really only need to know: date, location, cost, speaker and/or education and golf. Like many engaged chapter members, that is all of the information I need to decide about attending.

o   But what about a new member or one not very engaged? They certainly need more information and probably even a little coaxing.

o   I think it would help to consider that some members will want to show their supervisor or owner the notice to get approval for attending.  For that reason, information heavy on the education, networking and value. It seems like most meeting announcements are geared toward over-informing. Probably somewhere in the middle is the best compromise.
  •          Another good thought I found was to focus on what your organization provides that can’t be found on Google or other easy technological avenues. This makes a lot of sense to me. Google has changed the way we find everything including fertilizer rates, pesticide labels, you name it.
  •          And finally a few short and concise bullets of other useful items and tips:
o   Keep your messages short and concise – bite size
o   Use simple graphics in groupings
o   Tolerance for long text is very low – use text as if it is only being skimmed
o   Differentiate yourself – focus on your unique benefits
o   Track your email open rate and unsubscribe results
o   Email subject lines are important – keep short but informative
o   Keep in mind that a very large amount of messages are now read on phones and mobile devices – use templates

I hope you find some of this information as useful as I do. There are some very common sense pointers that can help chapters get their message to their members in an effective manner.

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