Membership Communications Tips
Membership Communications Can Make a Difference
In our socially distanced world, having a thoughtful membership communications strategy is more important than ever. For labor unions and advocacy organizations effectively engaging members across mediums can make a real difference. Activating members to turn out in elections or put pressure on lawmakers to pass legislation is a core part of member communications.
Here are our tips for taking your membership communications programs to the next level:
Plan ahead for short- and long-term programs. While you can’t predict every occasion around which you’ll need to engage your members in a given year, plan as much as possible for the events you can anticipate. Have a sense of your goal, budget, message, and target audience. Get feedback and buy-in from your organization’s leadership early so you can hit the ground running with a rollout when the time comes.
Think about timing. Whether you’re planning for the year ahead or a quick-turn campaign, have a sense of the key dates you’ll want to communicate around. Is there an upcoming special election where your members can make a difference by voting? Is there a public comment period for a proposed environmental regulation that ends next month? Work backward from key dates as much you can. Build out a timeline to keep track of what’s coming down the pike and when you hope to have certain deliverables to help you achieve your larger goal.
Have a clear call to action. With all membership communications, you should have one call to action. Do you want your members to sign a petition? Call a legislator? Donate? Make it clear what the goal of your outreach is, and always give people a way to learn more if they want to get further involved.
Be relevant. If you want your membership communications to resonate, focus on issues your members are likely to care about. Your organization can’t live in a vacuum—make sure you’re responding to the current climate to avoid coming off as tone-deaf. This might mean ditching your planned content for the week when important events like Black Lives Matters protests unfold.
Survey your membership. You don’t have to play guessing games—ask your members what’s important to them. Keep your finger on the pulse of your organization to figure out your membership’s priorities. If you don’t have the budget to implement a robust member survey to glean data, don’t shy away from gathering anecdotal information through email, ActionSprout polls, Facebook Live question-and-answer sessions, and beyond. Listen to what your members have to say.
Use testimonials. Personal stories are more compelling than a wall of numbers. Highlight testimonials from your members as much as you can to make issues feel more tangible to your larger membership. If you’re using a testimonial for direct mail, be sure to get high-resolution photos of the person you feature along with written sign-off on any quotes you attribute to them.
Highlight the stakes. Don’t beat around the bush. Be crystal clear in your membership communications about the stakes around every election or legislative vote. Be direct with your members about the consequences of different outcomes so that folks are likelier to get involved and engage their personal networks.
Set clear, achievable goals. Keep in mind that you can’t tackle a list of goals with every facet of your member communications. Be intentional when you set a goal, and make sure the tactics you use to reach your members will help you achieve said goal. If you want to figure out how your members feel about an upcoming ballot measure, pin down the most efficient and effective ways to gather this information. If you have small membership base, maybe this means sending personalized mail to folks on top of emails. If that base is larger, do you have the budget to do mail and digital ads in tandem to amplify your message? Can you afford to reach everyone, or do you need to focus on engaging a specific subset of your membership?
Communicate regularly. Talk to your membership regularly—not just when you want something from them. Find the sweet spot, whether it’s communicating via email once a week, hosting a weekly Facebook Live, or doing phone or text outreach once a month. Remind your members that they’re part of something bigger than themselves. Just don’t reach out too much—your members probably won’t love hearing from you on a daily basis.
Know your audience. Cater your communications to the people you’re engaging. If you’re doing outreach to a subset of your membership, strike a tone and highlight issues that will resonate with these folks. If you’re sending a get-out-the-vote email to members who have never missed an election, thank them for being a super voter before reminding them to turn out again. If you’re reaching out to members who don’t vote regularly, think about including light social pressure messaging such as suggesting you’ll be reaching out after the election to see how the voting process went.
Harness personal networks. A message may be more compelling if it comes from someone you know. Think about ways you can activate one member around an issue and encourage them, in turn, to reach out to two more people in their personal network around the same issue. Vote tripling is a strategy that can help your organization expand its reach without paying to talk to everyone.
Innovate and experiment. Don’t be afraid to shake things up. If your engagement rates are low, try something new. A lot of our clients have gotten on the user-generated content train, encouraging their members to submit short videos around an issue to be disseminated to the larger membership or general public.
Embrace paid and organic communications. Having a consistent organic social media presence on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter won’t cost you any money. If you’re interested in paid communications to get your message out, you don’t have to break the bank with this method either. There are lots of cost-effective ways to do paid membership communications on a limited budget. While Facebook used to be our top recommendation for an easy self-service platform to engage your membership, at the time of this writing, Facebook has banned political and issue advertising. Don’t fret—there are other tactics you can turn to for list-matched communications, such as IP targeting.
Stay flexible. Know that you can’t plan for everything. Your goals can and will evolve, and you can learn every step along the way.
Do you have more questions about building an effective membership communications program? Whether you’re a local union, a statewide advocacy group, or a national organization, we want to hear from you! Drop us a line.