Now more than ever, associations must shift the way they communicate to their audiences.
Associations had just put their marketing strategies into place for the year when the pandemic caused a global disruption. Since then, change has remained the only constant as the weeks and months go by, and our ability to adapt continues to be tested.
Now more than ever, associations must shift the way they communicate to their audiences. What can you do to keep pace despite enduring unpredictability? Our senior vice president of marketing, Tracy Talbot, recently sat down with Loretta Cranbourne, CAE, managing director of ASCE, and Ron Rosenbaum, chief global marketing & business development officer of ASIS International to discuss pivoting their marketing strategies.
Start with your audience
The foundation of any strategic transformation should begin with collecting information from and communicating clearly to your members. Both Loretta and Ron took rapid measures, including taking a step back from normal processes to be more agile.
Now more than ever, marketers must commit to ongoing observation in recognition that member needs are evolving at a quick pace. At ASCE, Loretta credits consistently evaluating web analytics and other sources of information such as online communities to keep up with these changing needs. Even if you don’t have the means to access cutting-edge data, you can analyze your website traffic to get a better grasp on how your audience is responding and pinpoint where to dig deeper.
“Know what questions you need to ask and then be resourceful about how you find [answers] across your organization.”
Loretta Cranbourne, CAE
Furthering this point, Ron shared the value of acknowledging the varying needs of different communities within your membership to inform an adequate response from the organization.
Your members are going through the motions of processing and responding to uncharted territory. It’s important to look at things in sprints, adjusting as necessary. They might be seeking functional, practical resources one week and social connection or escapism the next. By being part of the conversation, leaders can ensure they are asking the right questions, as well as exploring and identifying what will mean the most to members.
If this crisis has taught us anything, it’s that we must make a digital transformation going forward that will allow us to deliver programs and products in a way that meets needs across all of our audiences.
Reimagine your content strategy
Organizations across all industries are grappling with new challenges like creating connection without in-person interactions and delivering new, engaging content in a solely virtual medium. At ASIS International, Ron shares that the content team took a more active role to stay present and communicative. Their goal was to ensure stakeholders felt supported and informed every week on how the coronavirus was impacting their profession and practices.
“We have seen a much more collaborative and cross-departmental approach than ever before.”
Producing content with an accelerated timeline means less of a focus on process management. At ASIS, this meant a heightened level of creativity for the content team and drawing inspiration from collaborative platforms to ensure resources are adapted to needs in real-time. An example is their “Stronger Together” campaign, which was created to reinforce the association’s dedication to its community, as well as ignite more collaboration through online platforms. The key for all member organizations right now is to try new ideas and efficiently evaluate how members are responding.
“We have moved quickly in terms of community and communication.”
Loretta Cranbourne, CAE
For instance, at ASCE, the team made a point to approach it from a startup mindset with an emphasis on listening. They created brand new content — from disseminating a newsletter covering the latest pandemic updates as it related to their industry to launching roundtables and a podcast dedicated to gathering and sharing member perspectives from all over the world.
It is essential to translate the value your audience needs into accessible resources by pushing creative boundaries and quickly evaluating what works and what doesn’t.
Review and revise your resources
In addition to reimagining your content strategy, you will need to take a more deliberate approach to looking at your products and services. At both ASCE and ASIS, the perspective has largely shifted from “and” to “or” when it comes to prioritizing the offerings that fulfill the most relevant needs. By putting certain services on the shelf or sunsetting them when necessary, space is created for more focus on critical areas.
Now is the time to make changes you may have been putting off or simply not considering.
“There’s real value in in-person events. When society begins to move back toward normal, people will be craving that type of experience. In the meantime, we are working hard to replicate something truly meaningful for our attendees and exhibitors in a virtual environment.”
Though associations like ASCE were slowly moving toward or having discussions about more virtual events pre-pandemic, the onset of coronavirus made this a quick reality. Loretta explains the lack of time for overthinking led to a heightened focus on action and room for improvement.
By observing and spending time with other allied associations, organizations can gain inspiration for creating a virtual experience that is still meaningful to exhibitors and attendees.
Refocus your recruitment
This is not the time for a hard sell, it’s the time for engagement. Which is why many associations have moved some resources in front of the member wall to welcome the greater community, and sharpened their focus on the local experience.
“We met the moment with the message.”
Loretta Cranbourne, CAE
At ASCE, changing specific aspects of their messaging to meet the moment by promoting complimentary, relevant and accessible events and tools is an opportunity for brand building. Spreading brand awareness paves the way for reengagement in the post-pandemic recovery period.
“Community is one of the things [our members] find most valuable.”
Based on ASIS International’s past survey data, the organization’s leaders were aware of the value members place on the community element of membership. To elevate this and further strengthen their credibility, they launched a “stronger together” campaign to connect members and host open dialogues. Similar to ASCE, this sets the stage for future membership upticks by emboldening members to spread the word of the support they received during an unprecedented, challenging time.
Gain more insights from Tracy, Loretta and Ron for an in-depth discussion on:
- Adapting your marketing
- Strengthening your membership proposition
- Increasing the effectiveness of your messaging
- Shifting your priorities
- Measuring success
- And more