Take a quick glimpse inside the purse of your friend, colleague or family member, and you get a pretty interesting indication of their loyalties and aspirations.
No, it’s not so much about the cash they carry, as the cards representing the bodies and organisations to which they’re associated as a member.
Membership is big business. It comes in all forms – of sports clubs, of religious groups, trade unions, political activist bodies, charitable initiatives, corporate associations…and arguably, even some retail outlets with which we frequently spend money.
Not only do they have to be outward facing, but they have to be ever mindful of internal communication and the desire to RETAIN members, as much as to recruit.
I’ve been fortunate enough to work as a PR and communications advisor to a number of membership organisations over the years and there certainly can be a fair degree of complexity around creating and implementing a full communications plan for a multi-layered body of this type.
If you’re involved in a membership organisation and facing new PR issues or challenges, or think that it’s time you tackled a new marketing strategy in-keeping with a change in business focus or need, here’s a few factors to consider:
Do you have the right communications resource for your new era or intentions?
So often, membership organisations can find themselves appointing someone to the position of PR or marketing support because that person is a good writer / happens to know one of the local journalists / expresses an interest.
Don’t underestimate the contribution of existing members, but taking your communications strategy and delivery seriously means ensuring the resource is right.
You could look to a consultant to assist you, or an agency – either for the short or long-term.
Advisors like myself also relish the opportunity of taking an interim communications manager post inhouse to help you get where you need to be.
Are you clear on what your messages are and who you’re delivering them to?
As a membership organisation, your PR messaging may be different for those who are already within your union / charity / association to those outside it.
Consider what you need your audience to hear when you’re embarking on new marketing collateral or when you’re seeking to push out the latest press release.
Look at the long-term impact of that messaging. Does it achieve the call-to-action that you want it to?
Are you too introverted? Do you take it for granted that the media knows who you are?
This can be a problem for member organisations. They themselves can be very clear on their purpose, but sometimes it’s useful to stand yourself in the shoes of a potential audience and consider whether indeed the outside world knows what you stand for too.
No matter how well known your name, it doesn’t stand to reason that the press or other stakeholders understand your motivations.
Consider activities like inviting the press to get to know you better, updating ‘what we are’ marketing materials etc.
Are you embracing new ways of reaching your membership?
It may be that when your membership organisation started, snail mail was the obvious way to contact them, but are you embracing new approaches?
Consider whether it’s time you looked at new communication channels to include in a marketing strategy.
Do you use social media? Do you email members? Do you get a good rate of response?
All these issues, when answered, will help you identify how effective you are being in your attempts to reach and interact with new and potential members.