On January 18, 2017, Marco Campana spoke to PINs leaders and partners about Strategic Communications, and how it can be used to engage their association’s membership. The workshop was a follow-up to the Strategic Communications e-learning module, released on Dec. 7, 2016 on TRIEC Campus.
Having a strategic communications plan can help associations connect with their audience, set out objectives, and approach how they are going to achieve them. This workshop helped participants understand the importance of strategic communications and provided them with best practices and resources.
To begin, participants listed their association’s biggest communications challenges. Some of the challenges mentioned by the associations were shared issues including:
- Promoting and raising awareness of their associations to potential new members
- Engaging current members within the association to participate in programs, events and activities
- Tailoring communications to target the right audience, which is challenging for associations with a diverse membership
- Retaining existing members, and getting past members to re-engage with the association
To address the challenges mentioned, Marco talked about the importance of designing a strategic approach to communications. This helps keep members informed, engaged and helps associations achieve their communication goals. Too often communications projects are treated as tech projects. Communication goals must grow from an organization’s strategic goals. By using a collaborative approach, everyone in the association will know their roles and be on the same page. You’ll be able to understand your diverse audiences and connect with them, by having a clear idea of the challenges and opportunities. To that end, the POST approach (People, Objectives, Strategy and Technology) is a good method to use.
Knowing your audience
Knowing your audience is a key cornerstone to knowing the context of your communication with them. It is, therefore, important to have a clear understanding of who your audiences are, what matters to them, and the best way to reach them.
Participants were asked to profile their target audiences to create sample personas. Participants would fill in information about their audience, such as demographics, values, call to action, benefits and pathways to information, which would inform them about the best way forward in communicating with them. Creating these profiles will help associations be more strategic in catering to each type of audience/member and relate to them in terms of what they need.
The right message for the right person
When creating a good message for your target audience, it is important to keep the following questions in mind:
- Relevance: why should your audience care about your message?
- Value/Benefit: what’s in it for them?
- Credibility: why should they listen to you?
In the second activity of the evening, participants were asked to draft an engaging welcome message for new members that signed up to their association. The message would focus on telling the member about the benefits of joining the association and ways in which they can be engaged further. After the messages were drafted, Marco shared his tips on how to draft effective messages:
- Focus on a target audience
- Be clear, simple & brief
- Be Compelling – ‘lead with values, follow with facts’
- Should always be tailored to language of your target audience
- Be positive i.e., what we’re for, rather than what we’re against
- Show that you’re credible (can be as important as the message)
- Be Consistent: Repeat, repeat, repeat!
To end the session, Marco shared his top communications tips for the participants:
- Online communications is still communications. The language may be different online, but the principles are the same.
- Connect and integrate your online work with your offline work.
- Isolate technology from conversation. Don’t let the technology become the conversation.
- Your online service experiences will evolve; be prepared to evolve with them.
- Don’t just innovate, participate. Go to where your audience already is, join them, engage them and use the technology that’s already working for them.
When choosing the platform for engaging with your audience, it’s important to take into consideration the channels that work best for them. Rather than a shotgun approach, it’s best to focus on the few best channels and manage them well. It’s also critical to have messaging on all your channels link back to your website, so make sure to do that consistently.