Identifying the right channels for your membership publishing programme just got easier

Great news for membership professionals. You don’t have to provide an ‘always-on’ service to communicate effectively with your members. You can’t be everywhere, so here are four tips to help you work out what to publish where.

In short

  • Events are considered a key driver for acquisition for both consumer and professional membership organisations
  • Members still value channels they can physically experience
  • Targeted emails, online content and member magazines are effective  member retention tools

Communicating with members is not just about feeding an ever-increasing number of hungry content channels and hoping that some of the messages stick. Yes, all membership organisations need a comms plan that includes a range of channels that target your various audience segments. But, that range doesn’t need to be comprehensive – it just needs to be effective.

Not all channels are created equal. So, how do you establish the right mix?

Measurement.

How do you measure effectiveness when you are simultaneously producing a 1,500-word feature, 500-word blog, 2-minute video, 4-page downloadable guide and 30-minute podcast and then pushing those out through Facebook posts and 140-character tweets (with a team that was once just focused on writing features).

The answer in a majority of cases, unfortunately, is you don’t.

You did, however, have five minutes to answer a quick flash poll that informed my recent MemCom conference speech on best practice in communications.

Here are four practical steps you can take today to improve your membership messaging (and get more sleep).

1) Identify the key drivers for acquisition

Different channels can achieve different outcomes for you, so it’s important to work out which ones do what. According to our survey, both professional and consumer membership organisations use a similar mix of channels to acquire members. The top four acquisition channels for consumer bodies were events and face-to-face, content, online advertising and member-get-member promotions. For professional organisations these were training, events and face-to-face, content and member-get-member.

2) Understand the items that members value

If giving members a reason to justify their annual membership fee is top of the list, then it’s important to recognise that members value channels they can physically experience, such a member magazines and events. They attach less value to video, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and on-screen magazines. That isn’t to say we should all stop communicating through Facebook and launch magazines. We just need bear in mind member value when thinking about the time being spent on each channel.

3) Identify the best channels for retention

What members say they value and what encourages them to actually renew are not actually the same in most cases. Membership magazines (a hard benefit) make the top three but so too does online content (providing a stream of content throughout the course of a membership) and email (targeted renewals). Many membership organisations are now also testing video, research and white papers as ways of retaining members.

4) Publish messages that members want to hear

Sounds obvious, yes. But, take a look at the messages you’ve sent in the last month. How often have you sent an email because an internal department has requested it rather than because it is something of interest to members? Time spent consuming your messages is time that could be spent elsewhere. Use it wisely and put yourself in the position of your members. It is much easier to switch them off than it is to re-engage them if they think you are no longer relevant.

So, if you’re now rushing off to schedule your next round of tweets or polish of your video script, why not just stop for a moment and consider whether you’re giving the right channels the time they deserve.

And, if you need a little more convincing, check back soon to hear the other 13 tips I have up my sleeve.

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