Listen to be heard
Membership organisations are under intense pressure. They need to retain their current members, build their membership base and generate income in order to optimise the services they offer.
With resources limited on both sides – as members rigorously evaluate how they prioritise spend and organisations strive for efficiency – we are seeing different reactions.
Some organisations are rightly focusing on what will add most value to members, but others are retrenching and protecting existing services, and a third group are rolling out increasingly shrill tactics to grab attention and show that ‘lots of work’ is taking place.
This polarisation is often as a result of whether an organisation is or is not confident about the needs of all its members. While most Boards are familiar with the views and expectations of their vocal members, these individuals will typically represent only three to five percent of membership. What about do the other 95 percent think?
Instead of responding to the vocal minority, engagement and motivation of the silent majority is critical for organizational success. Some of these quieter members will be watching and waiting for an opportunity to get involved and, although others may never be active, they will judge the value of their membership fee on the basis of the personal benefits received.
As communications directors refine their plans for the new financial year, the word that should sit at the heart of their strategy is ‘listen’.
- Are we listening to our members? Do we know what all our members are concerned about, how we can help them, what they expect from our organisation and how we can beat their expectations? Are we listening to the silent majority?
- Are our members listening to us? Are we providing engaging information to our members about relevant topics, in a format they can easily access, at the time that is most helpful to them? Are we giving them an opportunity and tools to get involved? How are they responding and what are they saying?
- Who’s listening to our members? Do we know the priority external influencers and policy makers are who will impact our members in the years ahead? Are we reaching them with the right information at the right time? Are they listening to and including the views of our members as they make their decisions?
- Are we listening to external views? Do we know what public and stakeholder audiences, think of us, our members and the issues that are important to us?
The answers to these questions are the starting point for a strong and impactful communications strategy that is directly related to meeting member needs and enabling an organisation to focus its efforts on making the right noise in the right place.
Now more than ever it is critical to build member trust and respect, and to establishing a unique and distinctive roll for the organisation. Listening is the key to being heard.
Amanda Powell-Smith, Managing Director, Forster Communications
Forster Communciations and Connect Public Affairs have developed the Opportunity Audit, a 360 degree communications review for membership organisations. For further information, contact Amanda Powell-Smith on