Can YouTube Help Associations Better Communicate with Members During the Pandemic?

COVID-19 has made face-to-face communication with members nearly impossible. The American Forest and Paper Association is thinking outside the box and upping its YouTube game to reach members and other stakeholders.

While YouTube has been around for many years, it hasn’t always been high on the list of tools that associations use to communicate. But one group is turning that notion on its head. As the pandemic has stopped most face-to-face interactions, the American Forest and Paper Association is leaning into its YouTube channel to make video a stronger part of its communication strategy.

“AF&PA has maintained a YouTube presence for several years, highlighting the industry, our members, and our advocacy efforts, but we’ve been pushed to use video in new ways more recently,” said Heidi Brock, AF&PA President and CEO. “Since we cannot be with our members or stakeholders in person, I wanted to find a way for people to see and connect with me and the great work of our association virtually. Video helps fill this void.”

To do that, Brock has been recording videos from her home office since the pandemic began. “It doesn’t replace face-to-face engagement, but these videos, I believe, deliver a personal touch, emphasize a key message for a particular point in time, and offer support and reassurance through what, I think, has been a very challenging time for many people,” she said.

The videos have been used showcase both short-term messages and long-term projects, like AF&PA’s Better Practices, Better Planets 2020 sustainability initiative.

“My recent video address reported on the progress we’ve made on our comprehensive set of sustainability goals,” Brock said. “It was a moment to reflect on accomplishments and goals we’ve either met or exceeded, including reducing workplace injuries, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, and improving energy efficiency in manufacturing facilities.”

And while the videos are on YouTube, AF&PA also shares them on other platforms, including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. “That’s helping to amplify the reach of each video message, and it’s easier for our members to view and share with followers,” Brock said. “These videos also get shared in our member e-newsletter, Topline. Using video in this format is an excellent way to add variation and creativity to member communications you’re sending by email.”


For example, Brock said a video was shared widely that thanked workers at paper plants this spring, as it “came at a time of unprecedented demand for paper products, including toilet paper, paper towels, and tissue products.”

You Can Do It, Too

For those looking to ramp up their video use, Brock had a few suggestions. “I’ll admit there is a learning curve to video,” Brock said. “You want to plan out what you have to say and make sure you—or whoever is in front of the camera—feel comfortable. That might be something you have to ease into and practice before hitting record.”

Associations should also be mindful of how long their videos are. “Many people are short on time and overwhelmed with content,” Brock said. “We try and keep our videos brief to quickly engage members from whatever device they’re on, wherever they are.”

As the videos can help amplify that personal connection during this time of separation, Brock suggested making sure you convey your organization’s heart and authenticity.

“The key to any video you create is to make sure it conveys a human dimension,” Brock said. “I look at each video as an opportunity to engage, but also to connect with peoples’ feelings and emotions. Use words that resonate with your audience and seek to build connection and understanding. Be as transparent and candid as possible, seek to inspire, and layer in a compelling call-to-action to keep your members and stakeholders engaged and energized by the message. The bottom line is to be authentic.”

How is your association using YouTube or other video during this time? Share in the comments.

(Anatoliy Sizov/iStock Unreleased)

Rasheeda Childress

By Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is a former editor at Associations Now. MORE

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