Thursday, April 19, 2012

Will radio ads boost your association membership?

I was driving to the Post Office the other day and heard a commercial for a St. Louis-area VFW post.

The commercial appeared to be part awareness campaign and partly designed as a member recruitment campaign too.
I was surprised.

This was for a single post not the whole VFW organization.

Why a radio ad? Is broadcasting to prospects and a whole lot of non-prospects the best approach?

Did it work? Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to get this VFW Post to respond to my questions.

I looked at the VFW’s website ... there was no link to “join.”
Here’s what you find on the main page:
  •  “Hello friends. This site has many different areas and hopefully you will find something of interest. Our post has been here for over 60 years. For the past 60 years we have been helping fellow veterans and our community. We ask that you help us to help them by supporting our post. This can be done in many ways: attending VFW functions , helping work a function, become a member if you are eligible and many many other ways. We hope you enjoy this site and please email us using the link on the left to help us make this site more useful.”

So, the ad drove me to the website ... but, the website doesn’t give me a way to join. Which begs the question, why run the radio commercial?

Lessons for association management professionals:
  • Before launching your marketing materials, test your systems.
  • Do your marketing materials include a website? Is the website ready for those coming to it?
  • Is the membership application on line and has it been tested?
  • Is the conference registration process online and has it been tested?
  • Do you have accurate dates, URLs and phone numbers on your marketing materials? Has someone tested them to be sure they are correct?
  • By the way when testing websites and links, be sure to have someone without a highspeed internet connection. While not as big of an issue as a few years ago, some of your members may still be accessing your website and online materials with something other than a highspeed connection.


  1. Yes, surprisingly radio has held on to listeners despite the onset of newer media. If you're the right type of association/non-profit, shoot for the free radio ad in a PSA. When I was with a state association, we used them often and to good effect. Important note: the odds of getting a PSA on the air are directly proportional to the quality of the PSA (don't just send in vanilla text and expect the DJ to read it). We had ours professionally done, and they played often.

  2. Thanks John. I agree that radio may be a helpful communications tool and many of my client associations have used both paid commercials and PSAs. My main point in this blog, however, is that the commercials/PSAs are not effective if you don't have a response or take action mechanism. In this case, the association's website failed to give radio listeners an opportunity to act. Thus, the resources for the commercial were wasted.