Quality Communication in the Time of COVID

The executive director of the Oregon Dental Association explains how they have increased the quantity and quality of informative content with limited time and resources.

The pandemic has affected associations in ways no one could have predicted. Eighteen months after COVID first sent us into lockdown, it continues to demand flexibility, strategic pivots and patience.

Communication and connectedness have always been an important part of the association-member relationship, but during this time period, it has become absolutely crucial to the livelihood of organizations and the people they serve.

Barry Taylor, DMD, Executive Director of the Oregon Dental Association, has put communication at the forefront of the ODA’s efforts. “Keeping our members informed is our dominating goal,” he explains. Since lockdown, the ODA created a COVID-specific email series which initially was sent out three times a week to keep members up-to-date with changing rules, regulations, and best practices. Before the pandemic, emails from the ODA to members saw a 35-40 percent open rate. These COVID-specific communications average between 50-60 percent.

A truly impressive accomplishment, considering the avalanche of digital communications association members in all industries have seen in this time period. According to the Association Adviser’s 2021 Association Communications Benchmarking Report, 72 percent of associations cited challenges with combating information overload and cutting through the clutter. Simply put, quantity does not equal quality.

But from major news outlets to mom bloggers to health and wellness professionals, people and businesses of all sizes understand the power of an effective e-newsletter. At last count, the New York Times has 50 separate newsletters spanning a wide range of topics and interests. And recently, social media giants like Twitter and Facebook have all announced plans to develop newsletter templates for their users. Newsletters provide a direct line of communication with a targeted audience, they have a high ROI, and there are no physical limits to how big they can scale

To accomplish these remarkable open rates while attending to the other needs of association—membership growth, advocacy for the dental profession and oral health, and organizing their annual conference, to name a few—the ODA turned to the association specialists at Naylor to keep up with the necessary cadence and quality of messaging. “We forward them the information we want in our membership newsletter and emails,” explains Taylor. “And they edit, format and add all of the design elements so we wind up with a very professional-looking product.”

Taylor doesn’t see the need for the COVID-specific communications ending anytime soon. As we all know too well, complications like the Delta variant continue to change the landscape of the pandemic battlefield, and dentists remain in constant need of important updates and regulation changes in their profession. “It’s been a frustrating time for dentists, to say the least,” says Taylor. “Many people thought we turned a corner with COVID and we’ve set ourselves back facing these challenges again.” And so the content of the newsletter and the email series, spelling out up-to-the-minute guidelines, has become more vital and valuable to members than ever.

The team at ODA is small but lean, and working at full capacity, so they have leaned into Naylor as a third-party solution to keep this important work going. “In the past, you had regulations which were permanent and dentists knew what was expected of them. But we’re in this state now where announcements are made and you immediately need to make clarifications, so communication between the ODA and our members continues to be incredibly important.” Given the positive response from members, Taylor says that communication is a priority now and will continue to be in the months and years beyond the crisis.

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