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We can never communicate too much with our association members. But the communications must be interesting and exceptional. Anything less wastes their valuable time and erodes their perception of the association.
So how can we, as CEOs, going forward this year remind our memberships of the great jobs we do for them, the value in their associations, and the importance of their financial support in the coming year, especially with our sluggish economy?
During my tenure at both the National Beer Wholesalers Association and the National Association of Broadcasters, these associations of maturing industries grew their memberships. I attribute much of the success to our strategies to improve the perception of association value.
Surprisingly, the strategies we employed were not overly expensive, but they required staff time and focus to execute, which led to a pay out of large dividends. Here are five ideas to generate strong membership returns in 2012:
1. Thank your membership for their support via email. Don’t make the email too short or too long. It must be authentic and sincere. And it should come from the CEO. Be sure the text appears when the email is opened. Nothing reduces “click through” more than visuals that aren’t necessary to the point.
2. Call “key” industry leaders to personally thank them for association support. Ask each of your staff to call 20 to 30 of your most important industry leaders to personally thank them. The CEO should lead by example and take the top 50 or more. They will likely be shocked that you are calling and are not asking for anything. If they are unavailable, leave a short and positive voice mail.
3. Post a note on the association’s Facebook page thanking association members for their support. You’ll probably cover most of your membership via email but those members who are more social media-oriented will appreciate the note. You can use the same messaging as your membership email.
4. Send a written letter to all members outlining the prior year’s accomplishments. This was one of the best communication tools used by the NAB team. The staff already was working on a report of annual goals, so the information was at hand. We drafted a letter that was sent to TV network CEOs that was comprehensive and interesting about the team’s successes on Capitol Hill, and other things, such as the association’s rebranding and how broadcasting could fully exploit new technologies. The message to members is the association is making a real difference because of their financial support.
5. Create excitement for your organization by making your forthcoming annual report a communication worth reading. Often, it appears that we allow our accountants to design our annual reports. They all look the same, and, frankly, they are not very interesting. Make yours stand out. One of my favorites that received great acclaim from the beer industry as well as in Washington was an NBWA report that was die cut to look like a beer keg. For some associations, that might be a little bold but the point is that if the report is not visually appealing, no one will read it – a big waste of money and staff time. For 2012, think of your annual report as a sales tool designed to maintain as well as increase membership. That is exactly what we experienced at both associations.
There are no secrets to improving the perception of value for your association. It takes CEO leadership, creativity from your team, an honest reassessment of your communication practices, as well as hard work. But it pays tremendous dividends.
Rehr is the former CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters and the National Beer Wholesalers Association. He is an adjunct professor at the political management graduate school at George Washington University. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.