Your organization…whether a Chamber of Commerce, an Association or a Board of Trade…is doing great things for the communities you serve. I just know it is! I know because you’re reading this blog, which tells me that you give a damn about the Organization Management industry or at LEAST about becoming a better leader WITHIN the industry, therefore benefiting your organization, its members and those not-yet-members we so desperately want to reach. So why aren’t ALL our organizations doing as well as we want them to be doing? We do great work, Jay just said we do! We’re interested in self-improvement and in doing everything we can to make life better for those we serve, so why don’t we have enough members or enough money or a higher retention rate or a more engaged Board of Directors? I think I may have the answer (OK, that’s WAY too presumptuous, even for ME. I may have AN answer!)
You’ve probably heard us say countless times that “Chambers are notoriously bad at telling our stories”. It’s true! We’ve seen it on both coasts and everywhere in between. We’ve seen it now in 4 countries and 2 continents. We don’t feel comfortable getting up and talking about our successes. It may be because we don’t want to sound like we’re taking all the credit, or maybe we don’t have the time to do it right or maybe we just don’t have anyone on staff that’s really qualified to do that sort of communications piece for us. Regardless of what’s holding us back, we have to find a way to get our stories out there. But the bigger problem…the one that holds the key to the answer I alluded to earlier…is that we have to make sure we’re speaking the right LANGUAGE before we can begin to tell our stories. In other words, there are a few things we have to do before we can expect change to happen for our Chambers and Associations.
- We have to understand who we’re trying to communicate with, what we’re trying to say to them and what we want them to take away from the conversation before we can begin to get our message across to them.
- It’s important to segment our audience into manageable groups. That means we have to know which of our members will NEVER attend a pure networking event but who ARE interested in Legislative issues. We need to determine which members want to hear from us every week, or maybe identify a group that only wants to receive monthly or even quarterly updates from us. We should have different messages ready to go for each segment.
- We should be very cautious to use language and imagery that each particular audience can understand.
- We need to be very clear in telling them what we want them to DO with the information we deliver. This is SO easy and yet almost NOBODY out there is doing it. At the end of your “message” (email, newsletter, marketing piece, etc) you could create a box with a different fill color than the rest of the message and a very simple headline that reads “What can you do to help?” Next, TELL THEM what they can do to help. This is where that part about knowing what you want them to do with the information comes in. Make it plain as day and make it consistent. When they get used to seeing your “What can you do to help” line, they’ll look for it so they know what action you expect. And they’ll actually follow through at a much higher rate than you may be used to!
In the end, we already know we’re doing great things for our members and prospects. We just have to keep getting better at letting people know what we’ve done in a manner that gets their attention and pushes them towards action.