Communicating for – and to – members in extraordinary times

Mar 29, 2020 | COVID-19, Inspiration Exchange News

In nearly all the news broadcasts and articles I have come across in the last week or so, membership organisations are quoted.  The decision by the media to seek out membership organisations perfectly demonstrates the role these organisations have – to represent the interests of, and advocate for, a profession / industry / group and provide a unified voice.

As is usual with membership organisations, communicating for members is as fundamental a part of our role as communicating to them.

Externally, we have a key role to provide a cohesive position on behalf of the profession / industry / group we represent (which encompasses non-members also).  In the rapidly changing environment we find ourselves in with the Corona Virus, one voice speaking on behalf of many carries more weight and influence than if individual members talk about their own situation.

As for the media, they get an expert view from one qualified source and then use members to add colour and personalisation.  Without membership organisations, the perspective will be slanted towards that of the most well-known or loudest.  Membership organisations give a consensus and speak on behalf of the many.

Communication with members is essential to satisfy them that you are fulfilling the role which they pay a subscription for, whether that is to represent them at a national level, provide products or services, or whatever you do for them.  My interest is in what and how we are communicating with them.

What advice have you given to your membership organisation regards messaging for members?

It is incumbent on us as communications professionals to decide what to – and what not to – communicate.  In these extraordinary times, members will remember whether you made empty statements / platitudes, or whether you made them feel you understand what they are going through and that you are there to support them.

When the Corona Virus became an issue in the business community, my initial advice to clients was to stick to communicating critical / exceptional information only.  Stakeholders do not need to know you are operating Business As Usual … of course you are … and they rightly expect this to be the case.  However, if events are postponed, training is cancelled or transferred online, etc. then these are exceptional and should be communicated.

Now the situation has moved to a period of lockdown, members need to know you are on their side and how you are helping them.  I think the CIPR is doing a grand job – in tone as well as in content.  A page full of resources, a payment break for freelancers / independent practitioners, signposts to resources created by the CIPR’s Local Public Services, Inside (for Internal Communications) and Health groups.

Other membership organisations I belong to – and have seen the comms for – are not making members feel they are understood and are simply signposting resources which already exist.  Absolutely, members need to be reminded of key resources, but anything additional that is being put in place as a result of the outbreak shows that extra bit of care and attention.  Proactive communications have included advice on how to be better at your job, signposts to a benevolent fund, business and legal helplines … all Business As Usual, but what are these organisations doing specifically to help their members NOW, in these extraordinary times?

Over in the new Inspiration Exchange Facebook Group*, I have started a poll on messaging as I thought we would find it useful to know what messaging other membership organisations are sending out, and if you have experienced challenges in communicating for – or to – members.  I have included a few examples, but please add any others, and explain what you have done, in the comments.  I will write a post to summarise the results of the poll, but will anonymise any responses.  Chatham House rule applies.
* It is a closed group so you will need to join before you can take part in the poll.

Share This