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Associations Admit They Need to Do Better in Helping Members Find Information - 6/17/2014 -

Eye-opening statistics on communications were revealed in a concurrent session at the recent Association Media & Publishing 2014 Annual Meeting.

By Mike Price

For the third year in a row, information overload and cutting through the clutter were top concerns for 70 percent of associations, according to Naylor’s annual "Association Communications Benchmarking Report.”

This and other findings were presented by Jill Andreu, group publisher for Naylor, a provider of print and online media and event management, in an Association Media & Publishing conference session, "Bridging the Communication Gap.”

The inability to convey member benefits was once again the second most frequently cited member communication challenge (55 percent), but less severe than the 72 percent rate reported by associations last year. Nearly half of the associations (48 percent) admit they need to do a better job of helping members find the information they need.

Leveraging data for optimal engagement (25 percent) was the greatest communication challenge for the 1,000 association executives surveyed, followed by creating better content (19 percent), understanding reader/member/advertiser needs (18 percent), and generating non-dues revenue (17 percent).

These findings point to the need to create a content strategy and emphasize the importance of asking the right questions, including:

  • Member/vendor demographics
  • Information needs, hot topics
  • Communication frequency
  • Preferred delivery format
  • Engagement levels with content and advertisingPrimary and secondary sources of contracting issues and best practices

Sarah Patterson, CAE, executive director for Association Media & Publishing, commissioned Naylor to conduct a comprehensive gap analysis to explore audience expectations and satisfaction, lifting the veil on AM&P.

"We want to be best in class,” Patterson told attendees. "How do you do that without asking your members?”

In the AM&P Communications Gap Analysis, members and vendors overwhelmingly rate AM&P communications "above average” (60 percent) relative to other organizations to which they belong. By comparison, 49 percent of associations overall consider their communications "above average,” and 9 percent consider their communications "excellent/best in class,” according to Naylor’s report.

More than seven out of 10 members (71 percent) and 74 percent of vendors find AM&P’s communication flagship, Signature magazine, to be "very” or "extremely” valuable. Eighty-six percent of members and 85 percent of vendors found AM&P communicates at "just the right frequency.”

Another positive is that approximately two-thirds of members believe AM&P communications have improved "significantly” in the past three years.

Patterson concluded by listing improvement opportunities for AM&P:

  • Cut through the clutter because members aren’t reading everything
  • Optimize website and newsletter through video
  • Utilize cross-promotion on its listserv
  • Create new ideas for innovation and growth for live events
  • Cater to individuals and their industries

Andreu capped the session by listing areas where associations need to do a better job:

  • Measure effectiveness of communication strategies and use data to increase member engagement
  • Create content more relevant to readers
  • Understand the needs of those who pay the bills
  • Generate more non-dues revenue

"Associations must understand the needs of their supporters, sponsors, and advertisers that help drive non-dues revenue for the association,” Andreu says. "They need to discover where advertisers find the most value, whether their pricing options are diverse enough, and what types of customization advertisers want.”

Mike Price is information products editor for the National Ground Water Association and a member of AM&P’s Content Creation Committee. Association Media & Publishing thanks him for volunteering to cover this session for our members who were unable to attend.


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