Ideas For Communicating With Association Members

In the 1967 movie Cool Hand Luke, the character played by Paul Newman is  sentenced to two years in prison, however he refuses to follow a path to reform and spends a good deal of the movie in solitary confinement. Throughout the movie he spars with the warden who utters the now classic line to Luke (Newman),

“What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

Do you sometimes feel like that warden? Well perhaps your association members feel like you aren’t speaking their language. Here are six ideas you can use to improve communication with your members.

Speak their language –  It’s important to speak the language that they understand. What we mean by that is if they prefer text or chat to email then try to adapt to their preference. I have some friends who love to use Facebook Messenger to communicate with me. I personally dislike that communication method and therefore their messages sit there awaiting some future date when I’ll check that platform.

If you serve an audience that speaks other languages do you provide translation on your website. The Google Translate isn’t as accurate translating pages, as some of the newer software. Some translation systems will translate the pages for you, while others allow you to translate the pages yourself and will then serve the pages up on the website as needed by the user.

Use A Marketing Automation Platform – Marketing automation platforms, such as HubSpot or SharpSpring, can make it easier to manage the communication process by automating repetitive communication.

Most marketing automation platforms will allow for the creation of automated workflows that are kicked off by either the manual addition of a name and email to a list or based on specific actions the member takes on your website, such as filling out a form or downloading a piece of content.

Imagine a workflow that handles a series of emails to welcome new association members and that provides useful information over the course of days, weeks, or months. What about a workflow to help with communicating before, during, and after virtual, or in person, events?

We will have a future Blog post that speaks in greater detail about the benefits to associations of marketing automation platforms.

Avoid the assumption that email communication is clearly understood. Avoid overreliance on electronic communication. While it may be impossible to speak to every member of your association on the phone, providing live conversation options can help you to reach certain segment of your association.  Even a chat feature can help clarify communication because members can ask clarification questions.

With verbal communication there is less chance of misunderstandings about the real meaning of a message. Consider sending out a video instead of a text email or newsletter if you have important information to convey to your members.

Expand your availability – Many organizations avoid adding a chat feature to their website because they may not have the staff to respond. Even the addition of AI (artificial intelligence) chat can relieve some of your member’s questions. The use of chat has increased dramatically over the past three years, and a younger audience will enjoy that feature.

Update and improve your graphics – Consider the images on your website and in other communication. Do your visuals represent the general population, or the population of the audience you serve? It’s a good idea to go through your website once  a year and update any old images to insure they are still current and convey the right message. The saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words” is not only true, but it is a reflection of the value you place on your brand and on your members.

Solicit Feedback – It’s easy to deceive oneself about the quality of our communication. because we look at our world through our eyes. But how do your members see things.? When they look at your communication through their lens they may see something different than what you intended.

We recently worked on a website project for our own company and I reached out to one of my customer contacts to get his opinion. He agreed with my choice of image for a website page, however he agreed to share the image options with the rest of his team. Every other person had a different opinion about the image that they liked best. They looked at the options through their own lens. So how did we resolve the conflicting thoughts? We used the most popular selection on the website Home page and the second selection was used on an internal page of the website where it fit in nicely.

If you follow these communication tips you may be able to avoid ” a failure to communicate” with your members.

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