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Three Reasons to Print Association Newsletters - 11/8/2011 -

Yes, most associations are looking to cut costsóbut eliminating print is not always your wisest course of action.

By Joe Vallina

Association executives, especially those responsible for the overall budget, can think of thousands of reasons to stop printing the associationís newsletters, and all of them involve a dollar sign. Countering the "bottom lineĒ argument can be difficult at a time when associations are looking to find any possible way to trim budgets. But here are three compelling reasons association media managers can give when asked to justify printing hard copies of the associationís newsletters.

1. A printed newsletter is a tangible member benefit.

In fact, many times, itís the only tangible member benefit, especially for specialty groups that focus on lobbying or other activities that donít immediately impact their members on a day-to-day basis. Associations should not underestimate the power of having a physical manifestation of what they do for their members. When it comes time to renew an association membership, you want members to easily see exactly what they get from being a part of the organization. A printed newsletter serves this function better than almost any other member benefit. It is a tactile, monthly reminder to members of what they are getting for their dues dollars.

2. Members want print.

Many associations find that in polling members about the types of correspondence they wish to receive from the association, the members want to keep print in the mix. Itís true that more members than ever are equipped with smartphone and tablet technology, but the move entirely away from print materials is not appropriate for most associations. Keep in mind that every association is different, and itís vitally important to regularly ask members what communication formats they prefer. Once you have that information, you can use it to help show why keeping print in the distribution mix is important to your membership.

3. Diversificationóincluding printóis key for media planning.

In todayís environment of media overload, it is vitally important that associations use all media at their disposal to ensure they provide value to their member base. While websites, blogs, and Twitter feeds are absolutely important, newsletters are still one of the best methods to deliver information about your association and what it does for your members. By moving to an all-digital newsletter distribution, you do not reach as many members as possible with your message, as you completely ignore the subset of members that do not prefer to get information online (or primarily online). Whatís more, studies show that emailed correspondence is routinely ignored, and open rates continue to decline (a July 2011 study by MailerMailer shows e-newsletter open rates at an anemic 11.4 percent). Old-school printing and mailing can cut through the digital clutter and get your message noticed. By covering all the bases distribution-wise, you increase the likelihood that your content will reach its intended audience.

In the end, it is important to note that print, while at times feeling like a pariah in the media mix, remains a viable method of newsletter distribution. Print continues to have real value for associations and the members they serve. It can complement an organizationís other media while providing an essential member benefit.

Joe Vallina is assistant director, periodicals, at the American Nurses Association.


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