Money & Business

Two Questions To Ask For More Thoughtful Communications

By / Oct 17, 2018 (hidesy/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

How a two-question quiz can improve your association’s communications and boost member engagement as well.

Every message is an opportunity.

I joined the association world after a decade spent as a newspaper reporter, freelancer, and trade magazine editor. Over the years, I have had many people ask me about working in a series of allegedly dying industries. (Many of these also people claimed to be my friends.)

I would always respond that, with so many tools at journalists’ disposal, it was in fact an exciting time to be a communicator. We could tell our stories in so many ways: audio, videos, words, slideshows, web-only exclusives, embedded documents, HTML5, aggregated social posts, crowdsourced commentary.

Honestly, it’s a bit overwhelming.

The same is true now for associations. We have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to tools and tactics for communicating and engaging with our members. And we have even more tools to help us measure those messages.

Great! Right?

Maybe. Probably. But as tools and tactics continue to evolve at a rapid clip, a two-question quiz can help focus our work to make it even more engaging.

  1. Is what we’re saying useful to our audience?
  2. Are we saying it in the most effective way?

Because regardless of the tools we’re using, if what we’re saying isn’t useful, how we’re saying it doesn’t really matter.

The bottom line is this: Our members have a limited supply of time and attention. Every time we send an email, post a video, or publish a quarterly report, we’re asking for a tiny bit of that time and attention. We need to respect the weight of that ask, and make sure what we’re offering is worthy of the exchange.

Communication keeps getting easier, which means we need to keep getting better. Everyone is a publisher now, including our members. As a result, we all have too much email, too many podcasts, and too many notifications to pay attention to. (If you do not, please tell me your ways.)

Even though we spend so much time crafting that dues letter, agonizing over those Twitter posts, and fretting over the kerning on the annual report headlines, our members are receiving all this as one part of an overwhelming deluge of other professional communications and personal commitments.

Every communication we send it subject to its own sort of A/B test by the recipient. Is this useful to me? Is it a good use of my time and attention to read/listen/absorb this?

It’s an interesting thought experiment to take a step back and list out all the communications you send in a year. Everything – all the emails, reports, Facebook posts, all of it.

It can be easy to forget—in the rush of deadlines, the inertia of historical precedent, or just habit—to consider those two questions (i.e., Is what we’re saying useful to our audience? Are we saying this in the most effective way?) in relation to everything else you’re producing. But taking the time to ask them, and to honestly consider the answers, will get you better communications and more engaged members.

Chuck Bowen

Chuck Bowen is director of communications and member relations at the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute in Alexandria, Virginia. More »

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