Capturing Your Members’ Attention

By Guest Blogger – Deirdre Reid, CAE

ASAE recently released their first Association Marketing Trendswatch report, and guess what the number one trend was.

It’s harder than ever to capture the attention of our audience.

That doesn’t surprise any of us, including Melynn Sight, President of nSight Marketing. She told an audience at ASAE Great Ideas that capturing your members’ attention isn’t easy when their inbox is full and their social media streams are saturated with messages from every person, organization, and brand in their life.

Melynn said many associations are in a communications rut, thinking the old ways they communicated are still okay. They’re not. As technology has changed, communication vehicles have changed, and we have too. We’re more distracted than ever. And we access information and media differently, just ask Tower Records, Borders, Readers Digest, and Blockbuster. Oh, whoops, you can’t, they’re gone.

Steps to communicating effectively

It takes practice to communicate well to those with limited attention spans. Many associations assume their staff has this skill, but how many of you are trained marketing or communications experts? You’ll find experts in large associations, but they’re often a luxury that many small associations can’t afford.

Get yourself some marketing and communications training. Better yet, bring in a trainer. I bet you have many staffers who market something (political messaging, education, events, membership, or volunteerism) as part of their job.

Next, develop a written communication plan. 57% of those in the ASAE session said they didn’t have one. Melynn said that associations with plans achieve better results than those who don’t.

Make your communication plan.

Do a communications audit every year. Establish benchmarks so you can see trends. How do members want to receive communications? What’s most important for them? What are their pain points?

Determine what three or four things you want to accomplish with your communications. Your objectives must be aligned with association goals.

Identify three target audiences. Members as a whole are not a target audience. You can target by interest/specialty, career level, age, or another factor.

Create a plan to achieve each objective for each audience. What delivery systems will you use? Where will you place your message? Are your members mobile? Social? Use website analytics and surveys to find out. How often will you communicate? What are your calls to action and key messages?

Commit the resources you need to succeed.

Every year look at the results of your plan. Evaluate and tweak.

It’s all about me, I mean, you.

“Most of the time we don’t see the world as it is, we see the world as we are.” ~Anais Nin

Yes, we can all be a bit self-absorbed at times, even associations. You even see it on home pages. Melynn recommended using the We-We calculator to measure how member-focused your home page is.

Take a hard look at each of your communication pieces and ask:

  • What’s the goal of sharing this?
  • Who’s the target audience?
  • What’s in it for the member? Why will they care?
  • What do you want them to do?

You may have a lot to say to your members, but think about what your members want. According to one of Melynn’s communications audits, they want shorter messages; they don’t want you to resend info again and again; and they want short headlines with links.

Simplify. Make your message readable. Keep paragraphs and sentences short. Minimize jargon. Eliminate the ROT – redundant, outdated, and trivial.

In Microsoft Word, you can enable spell-check’s readability statistics — find it via Help. It shows the percentage of passive sentences, grade level, and other readability indicators.

Above all, don’t communicate in isolation. You must have an integrated (cross-departmental) and strategic approach to communication so your members aren’t bombarded with messaging and your resources are used wisely. Attention is an asset, don’t take it for granted and don’t squander it.

Check out nSight’s website for more resources.

AENC member Deirdre Reid, CAE is a freelance writer who will continue to learn about communicating effectively until she’s 90.