questionLeverage All Your Communications

At ASAE’s Marketing, Membership, and Communications Conference this week in Washington, we posited in our breakout session that key association executives—those who routinely practice leadership communications—should be like orchestra conductors:  strategic in their directions, clear in their messages, and composed in their performance. (See more on this in our Helpful Stuff website section). Seems a lot of the participants at our session about Leveraging All Your Communications agreed.  It also became apparent that, because of tremendous workplace and industry-wide pressures, too many of us are “cleaning the flutes,” instead of leading a harmonious communications performance that resonates with critical audiences.

So how do we regain control?  How do we avoid the “order-taker syndrome” and instead play a crucial role in the integrated leadership of our organizations?  We need to go back to basics and ask the question that emerged as a common theme throughout the entire two days of MM&C sessions.  We need to ask, “Why? The little word with an oh-so-big impact.

Keynote speaker and content marketing guru Joe Pulizzi talked about an association communications director who sought out Pulizzi’s consulting to help build more “likes” on a Facebook page. Joe, also an advocate for asking why, posed the question and the communications director was speechless. Here they had been spending lots of money and time on something without a clear purpose or goal.

In our session, we presented a few scenarios for participants to mull over and here are some of their responses.  You’ll notice that the “why” question comes up a lot.

Select your vehicle carefully.

You are called into your CEO’s office and are told the Board doesn’t think we’re ‘with it’ enough. We need a Facebook page (or we need more likes.)

Great answers:

  • Ask why.  Does your association want to communicate events, industry developments, or other stories?  If so is this the best vehicle?
  • Ask how.  If we put effort into this, what will be the resource cost?  And how will we measure success?
  • Make sure your organization is aligned around the objective, and examine how membership can contribute.

Shepherd your resources.

Another department calls and says they need a brochure. And while you’re at it, a news release and an article for the association magazine would be good, too.

Great answers:

  • Determine the goal; ask about the need.
  • Narrow down the audience(s).  Is this the best way of reaching them?
  • Determine a timeframe and the ultimate cost in resources.
  • Leverage your content across all platforms.

Get to the root of the complaint.

Your CEO complains that the website isn’t collecting enough traffic. “What are you going to do about it?”

Great answers:

  • Ask about the expectations.  What is it that’s really needed here?
  • Examine all your communications vehicles to determine which are the right ones for your key audiences.
  • Remember that content is king/queen.  Is your content up to date and up to snuff?
  • Consider members-only content and testimonials.

Align goals with vehicles.

Your Board Chair thinks that you should do an advertising campaign and is willing to put $50,000 of her company’s money towards that campaign.

Great answers:

  • Determine the objectives and goals first. Is this a productive strategy for spending such a generous offer? How will this solve a pressing need or problem?
  • Narrow your lens and its focus.
  • Look at other free or reduced-cost vehicles, then leverage all your content across all platforms.

Ask why.

Your membership numbers have declined by 8% this year. The CEO is taking heat from Board members who complain you’re not communicating all the things the association does.

Ask the big question, why?  Why are numbers declining. Consider a member outreach or listening campaign to try to determine what your members want and really need from your association.

  • Examine your messaging.  Are you communicating worth to your primary audience?
  • Focus on your website as a key portal for communicating value.
  • Define your audience.  Who is it you really need to reach to build membership numbers.
  • Which vehicles will reach the broadest audience to build brand loyalty.

Too many of us simply jump to tactics without really understanding why we are doing what we are doing.  Let’s make “Why?” the little question that could.