Keeping Members Close in Socially Distant Times

A snapshot of leading associations reveals that successful member engagement in a crisis environment requires a more personal touch that speaks to both the head and the heart.

A new report, Engaging Members From a Distance, examines how 15 leading associations are engaging with their members despite the considerable challenges caused by the pandemic. The report, from the communications agency Finn Partners, analyzes the associations’ websites and social media outreach to determine what’s working to provide takeaways for other associations.

Here are a few insights from the analysis that might help you better connect and engage with your own members during this unprecedented time.

COVID-19 Is Front and Center

No surprise here. The report notes that 13 of the associations had robust content focused on COVID-19 prominently featured on their websites and had quickly launched coronavirus resource centers in response to the crisis. Finn Partners predicts that associations will conduct more research on how the pandemic is affecting members personally and will shift from more fact-based reporting on COVID-19 to assessing the best way forward to support and advocate for members.

Given the severity of the crisis, the need for information about the pandemic will likely not subside, the report notes, so associations will need to look for ways to provide more relevant and resonant content to connect with members.

Make It Personal

The report praises the more personal approach that groups like the American Nurses Association are taking with flash polls to capture member feelings as they face the challenges of COVID-19. The ANA recently surveyed 32,000 nurses and found that 87 percent of them were afraid to go back to work. ANA’S COVID-19 Resource Center invites nurses to share their stories from the front lines of the pandemic. This gives members a chance to express themselves during a global crisis in their own words, which creates a meaningful—and timely—sense of community.

Social Media Storytelling

Associations are using social media to connect with members directly. In particular, their Instagram platforms are brimming with community-building conversations, according to the report. It points to AARP’s Instagram page, where members recount how they are responding to different aspects of COVID-19. The personal stories range from a teacher talking about challenges she faces with virtual instruction to a worker at a Los Angeles market who explains how his job has changed drastically because of the pandemic.

SHRM’s Instagram page has a popular post about six skills to develop for future success, and on International Human Resources Day, a post recognized the contributions of HR professionals around the world and asked them to share what inspired them to join the profession. This kind of personalized approach to communicating with members, the report notes, is effective and will likely grow.

Virtually Together

Virtual events are the new go-to as associations rewrite their established frameworks and adapt rapidly to a new landscape for convening their members. Nearly half of the associations reviewed in the report are holding virtual events. It cites the American Psychological Association as a good example of combining the networking value of a live event with online learning in its webinar this week, “Job Searching During the Pandemic and Beyond.” The workshop touts the need to be prepared in an uncertain job market as COVID-19 markedly alters nearly every industry.

Online Learning

Virtual learning events are the coin of the realm as more members need to learn remotely. All 15 associations included in the report are currently offering online programs. Finn Partners applauds the American Bankers Association’s training center and community-building platforms for ease of navigation and use. And it gives high marks to the American Chemical Society’s program on making digital presentations better.

Overall, providing relevant information while connecting more intuitively—and more personally—is a key to member engagement success, now and always.

“Communications that balance fact-based delivery with the power of good, succinct storytelling tend to break through the clutter and get consumed, remembered, and shared,” the report says. “This is not new news; the more things change, the more they remain the same.”

(siraanamwong/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Lisa Boylan

By Lisa Boylan

Lisa Boylan is a senior editor of Associations Now. MORE

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