Thursday, February 21, 2013

Get Caught Doing Good: 3 Ways Associations Can Build Awareness Among Members

When I worked in a large national association, I used to get frustrated that few members and leaders were aware of the great work we were doing for the association and its industry.

It was then that I realized that the we needed to do PR for the PR department

And, on a broader scale, implement PR (some call it “sell back”) to members about what the association is doing.

Like it or not, members don’t really to spend time reading, watching or viewing “news” about what the association is doing. They want news that interests them and appeals to their selfish interests.

So, the challenge becomes finding engaging ways to let members know what you are doing without them knowing you are sharing what great stuff you’ve been doing for them!

Here are three examples of what I’ve implemented at various organizations:

Parent Twist to Home Town News Release: 
  • Back when I was a college PR director, the “home town news release” (featuring student successes) was a staple of the PR shop. Recognizing that many students don’t tell their parents about their “awards and honors” and recognizing the power of parents, I sent the parents a copy of the news release about their student in addition to sending it to the media in the student’s home town. It included a short note saying “we’ve sent this release to your (name) paper. If it doesn’t appear in the next week or so, please feel free to contact the paper and ask them to run it.” While I was hoping this got the story published, this tactic was a way to share with the parents that the college was recognizing their student in the local paper. It was, in fact, doing PR for the PR department!
Marketing Kit for Members:

  • One national association had a major focus on consumer marketing and promotion. Despite spending millions in successful PR and marketing, most members didn’t see it because the promotion was aimed at consumers, not producers. To help increase awareness, we produced a “marketing kit” and distributed it (paper copy first, then CD and now online) to all members. It was designed so they could “steal” the materials for their local PR efforts but we clearly labeled it as national information so they would know what we were doing for them. For a couple of years we awarded a “local marketer of the year” for the member who demonstrated the most creative use of the local marketing kit.
Cause Marketing:
  • One national client created a cause marketing program in which 80% of its members participated. In addition to helping fulfill the organization’s mission with consumers, the project’s member engagement greatly enhanced member awareness of the organization and its work.

While I was writing this blog, I received this personalized email from LinkedIn (below). A nice touch.

Rather than "yelling" that they’ve reached 200 million members, they congratulated me on being in their top 5% of member profile views. This is a great example of doing PR for the organization without really making it look like crass propaganda. 

Are you frustrated that your members don’t know what the organization is doing for them?

Have you had success with tactics similar to these three examples?

If so, please share them in the comments section here. If not, why not?

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