Effective Communication in an Age of Information Overload
Liz Garman discusses managing the flow of communications to keep members informed—but not overwhelmed.
It is hard to imagine anyone in any industry who hasn’t felt overwhelmed by the flow of constantly changing COVID-19 rules, regulations and best practices coming out of government agencies. The 2021 Association Communications Benchmarking Report, which surveyed nearly 500 senior leaders of North American trade associations, professional societies and association management companies, found that on average, over 30 communications were sent to members on a monthly basis. That’s the highest level in the 10-year history of the survey.
There’s been a staggering amount of information to process, but for members of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), the avalanche of updates has been absolutely crushing. “They are burned out, they are tired,” says Liz Garman, CAE, vice president of communications, marketing, and practice resources at APIC. “These people faced Ebola, SARS 1, and this is by far the worst crisis they have ever seen.” And yet, despite exhaustion and frustration, these members, who are dedicated to keeping frontline healthcare workers safe, continue to press on. And Garman and the APIC team have made it their mission to do everything they can to support their efforts.
That means getting them the information they need in a way that is easy to digest and understand. “The CDC website—it is just impossible to find what you need there,” says Garman, and so the communications team has developed a multi-tiered approach to sharing critical updates.
“When the pandemic hit, we created a daily public-policy update email, which members can opt-in to receive.” These emails, she says, are, by design, very bare-bones. “There isn’t a lot of text. They basically have headlines and links to new information put out by the government.” To compile those links, APIC turns to its 16,000 members. “We know who the experts in emergency preparedness, PPE and things like that are, so we were able to put together a small and agile task force to help us pinpoint vital updates.”
For deeper analysis and educational content, the communication staff also produces webinars, which 82 percent of organizations surveyed in the Association Communications Benchmarking Report also utilized this year. “I don’t normally put together webinars, but in these times, we’ve all learned that you have to just go with the flow,” says Garman. And last year, they sent out a personal email from the APIC president every month or so. “Those messages had more of a roundup and overview feel. They looked different from the other emails and had a lower frequency. Since they were coming directly from the president, we knew they would cut through the clutter.”
The third tier of APIC’s communications comes in the form of its magazine, Prevention Strategist, which publishes quarterly and provides evidence-based strategies and practical guidance to members. “Many professionals are retiring and there is a growing labor shortage in the infection-prevention industry, so in the magazine, we’ll do a piece highlighting how members are recruiting new people,” she explains. “We’ll also feature case studies about how infections spread in hospitals and include pull-outs that members can use as reference later.” APIC writes all of the content, and then uses the association communication service provider Naylor Association Solutions to design, edit, and publish the finished product.
Between breaking news, informative video sessions and longer-lead think pieces in print, APIC has found a successful formula for delivering critical information without overloading its maxed-out members. “Our members are in the background working day and night to make sure doctors and nurses are using protective gear correctly, that they have the supplies they need and are up to speed on the latest guidance,” says Garman. “And so we are doing everything we can to inform them and support them as they fight to ultimately keep us all protected.”
Naylor Association Solutions provides innovative association tools and services for strengthening member engagement and increasing non-dues revenue. Our offerings include member communications, management of live and online meetings and events, online career centers, Association Management Software (AMS) and Member Data Platform (MDP), full-service association management and online learning. A strategic partner to professional and trade associations in the U.S. and Canada, Naylor serves more than 1,700 associations across 80+ industries. For more information, visit https://www.naylor.com