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75 successful communication ideas.

Want to polish your image? Fine-tune your message? Streamline your communication function? Enhance the value and relevance of the information you offer? Here are helpful how-to tips to get you started.

Whether interacting with members, media, elected leaders, or your own staff, how you say something can be as critical as what you say - and what you say is very important. Seasoned communicators know this. So, as a final celebration of ASAE's 75th anniversary, members of the ASAE Communication Section Council brainstormed and compiled a list of the best of what's worked for them in communicating information and conveying their associations' messages to a wide range of audiences.

Special thanks to Henry Chamberlain, CAE, of Building Owners and Managers Association International, Washington, D.C., for compiling the list, as well as for contributing ideas, and to the following former and present members of the ASAE Communication Section Council for contributing their ideas: Victoria Baker, National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts, Washington, D.C.; Carla Balakgie, National Association of College & University Business Officers, Washington, D.C.; Peggy Parnell Drane, CAE, American Academy of Orthotists & Prosthetists - Virginia Office, Alexandria; Mimi Eckert, New York State Podiatric Medical Association, New York City; Jefferson Gilbert, CAE, Ontario Library Association, Toronto; Amy Goetz, Deborah Gordon Public Relations, Chicago; Brian Healy, Faxcess, South Easton, Massachusetts; Dennis Littell, Kex National Association, Burlington, North Carolina; Martha Lockwood, CAE, communication consultant, Bethesda, Maryland; Ann Mahoney, CAE, ASAE; Judith Marden, Financial Women International, Arlington, Virginia; Julia Marsden, Balmar Printing & Graphics, Inc., Washington, D.C.; Sheryl' Morton, ASAE; Rick Ottinger, CAE, Society for Human Resource Management, Alexandria, Virginia; Ciritta Park, CAE, C. B. Park Associates, Columbus, Ohio; Charlotte Preston, CAE, of the firm Charlotte Preston, White Bear Lake, Minnesota; Michael Sheward, Marketing Communications Strategies, Burke, Virginia; and Robert Silverstein, GCI Publishing, Inc., Rockville, Maryland.

Association image

1. Create a logo for your annual convention. Print it on stationery, envelopes, and brochures - or make it a stick-on decal - so that members and participants will immediately identify the purpose of the materials you are sending.

2. Consider batch mailings if you mail large amounts of material to members or chapters. This will help build the perception that your association's departments coordinate their activities.

3. To help members save time when they sort through the mail you send them, use stamps like "information only" or "action required" on your materials.

4. Feature membership diversity in brochures and annual reports. Make an effort to use photographs that include people from traditionally underrepresented populations and people with disabilities.

5. Reassess accessibility - architecturally and programmatically - and announce your accessibility to members. Ramps, elevators, text telephones, braille inscriptions at doorways, and other accommodations widen your communication reach and help build positive images of your association.

6. Ask your officers or board of directors to visit exhibit booths at your trade show. Their presence helps vendors feel valued and affords vendors the chance to give feedback concerning the show and the association in general.

7. During your association's major meetings, arrange to have your name, initialism, or acronym spelled out in a skyscraper by blacking out certain lights at night.

8. When you take groups to sporting events, don't forget to get your association's name included on the scoreboard.

9. Consider holding 50-50 raffles at your meetings. Give half of the money raised to the winner and the other half to a designated charity.

10. Ask celebrities to donate items for your silent auctions. Many will be interested in your causes and willing to give.

11. As a membership service, consider getting your members' names included in the Congressional Record, having a flag flown over the Capitol, or getting a letter written from a member of Congress to your members.

12. Ask the White House to produce letters congratulating your association on its national week or month or other national special events you are involved with.

13. Have your governor or mayor sign a proclamation declaring a certain day of the year as your association's day.

14. When announcing a new association staff executive or new officers, consider producing announcements of these "players" in baseball-card format. The promotions will be attention-getting, fun to autograph, and something members will remember and keep.

Media relations

15. A good idea can have twice the life if you recycle it. For example, a speech or presentation can be turned into an op-ed piece; a visit from out-of-town association members can prompt a picture in their local newspapers; a news release may carry with it a glossary of often-used industry terms.

16. Develop a quarterly newsletter that you can mail to the media with your association's news and upcoming events.

17. Send thank-you notes to reporters after they've published stories about your association. And when you see interesting articles you think might be useful to reporters you work with, send them copies as an FYI.

18. Alternate your press releases with media alerts (who, what, where, when, etc.).

19. Keep press releases to no more than one page in length.

20. Remember to promote your programs through your volunteer leaders. Local stories often get more coverage.

21. In cities where you are having a difficult time getting publicity for your events, consider doing something out of the ordinary, to get attention, such as donating plants to a municipal garden.

22. Get all of your local chapters or associations to do something on the same day. In addition to national coverage, you can generate dozens of local stories.

23. Develop public relations programs for your affiliates. Many will be glad to tap into programs they don't have the resources to create.

24. Hire a political cartoonist for a legislation-based column or update that is sent to members and local newspapers.

Technology

25. Conduct auditorium teleconferences as an inexpensive and effective way to reach targeted audiences. Teleconferencing technology allows you to put together a panel from remote locations and to attract a call-in audience.

26. Produce bimonthly or quarterly audiotape reports by your association's management staff and distribute the reports to your elected leaders. The tapes cut through paper clutter, are inexpensive to produce, can be listened to in the car, and put members in closer touch with staff.

27. Set up a designated voice-mail line for an updated weekly message from your chief staff executive or board chair that can be heard by all other board and/or committee members.

28. Fax your newsletter. This gives it a newsy, urgent appeal and will save your association money on paper and printing costs.

29. Send your association's broadcast faxes late at night or early in the morning. This results in fewer busy signals, and phone charges are less than the cost of a stamp.

30. Offer popular documents, such as book orders, meeting registration forms, author guidelines, and so forth, as fax-on-demand documents. This increases convenience for members and frees up time for staff, who no longer have to manually fax or mail the documents.

31. Provide staff members with the capability to fax documents directly from their computer terminals. This saves making hard copies of documents and decreases the amount of time staff members must spend filling routine member requests. Likewise, consider providing internal and/or external electronic mail capabilities for staff members. This can increase the speed and efficiency of your communication both internally and with members and reduces unnecessary, paper trails.

32. Even though business communication is increasingly becoming electronic, be sure to keep hard copies of all of your important documents or memos.

33. If you are thinking of creating an online communication link with your members, you may want to try partnering with another organization's existing system first. Going this route may give your association an easier start. It can be inexpensive and will provide you with necessary database administration.

34. As you take steps to begin your online connections, consider offering special conference areas accessible only by board or committee members for conducting important association business.

35. Before you jump headlong into online communication, survey your members to find out what features and services they'd like and would use.

36. Stay tuned to member needs and preferences for receiving information, and be prepared to continue to communicate with members in a variety of formats. Not everyone will have the same technological capabilities. Match your association's use of technology to what your members are using and doing. Keep them moving forward, but don't outpace them.

Staff relations

37. Show employees, using graphs or charts, the benefits they receive.

38. Start an internal newsletter for staff, where responsibility for writing and publishing it is rotated among staff members.

39. Schedule routine or as-needed meetings with department or division staff to provide a human dimension to important internal and member information that can't be gleaned solely from routed memos or posted bulletins.

40. Routinely solicit both questions and answers from frontline staff members. They often bear the solutions to member requests and complaints.

Publishing

41. Send hard copies of manuscripts to the typesetter with each page numbered in sequence and placed in a three-ring binder. Identify illustrations and other art with the page number and a letter (e.g., "12-A").

42. Be intentional about font usage and white space. Use no more than two fonts in most publications.

43. Treat photo captions as an opportunity to tell readers in one or two sentences the central theme of the article so that readers will be drawn in and skimmers will also benefit.

44. To ensure the accuracy of every phone number you print, dial the number as indicated in your final proofs.

45. Try to print several pieces at the same time to get quantity discounts from printers.

46. Trade advertising or your association's membership list with related publications in your industry in return for an ad in their publications that promotes membership or one of your association's programs or products.

47. Approach one of your industry trade publications in regard to publishing a special supplement about your association. More and more trade publications are partnering with associations as a way to generate new advertising dollars. The publications are great visibility vehicles for new audiences and retention tools for existing members.

48. To save money, consider doing cooperative advertising or joint promotions to members with other departments in your association.

49. Start a "beginnings" column for your newsletter or magazine that profiles how your members got started in their professions and/or a "people connection" column that highlights weddings, new babies, and so forth.

50. For your internal newsletter or new-member newsletter, profile staff members with bios and baby pictures.

51. Tap your members for editorial ideas for your magazine or newsletter. Call members who have registered for your annual meeting or other conferences and invite them to meet with you for 15 minutes while on-site. You might get some great ideas this way, and you'll create lots of goodwill with members who are flattered to be asked their opinions.

52. Bylines and brief biographies of even the best-known members who write for your publication help all members feel better connected to your organization.

53. Spend the money to have professional photographers at your major events. The photographs can be used in your publications throughout the year, can be distributed widely to media, and are great for member recognition.

54. For letters from your publisher or executive director, publish photos of them that have a personal touch (i.e., with their pets, involved in a hobby, etc.).

55. Work on your annual report throughout the year to guarantee that every major happening will get recorded. An added benefit is that the writing will be fresher when done in present tense.

56. When working on a big writing or editing project, such as an annual report, build in time to set the project aside to work on other things. This will improve your proofing ability when you come back to it.

57. Whatever your communication efforts, always think in terms of being a profit center. This will guide your strategic planning of goals and activities and will help you quantify results.

Marketing

58. Promote your association and its major events through the use of video. Many associations have video crews on site at meetings to record general sessions and footage of attendees and exhibits for use at the meeting or as a wrap-up for those who couldn't attend.

59. Incorporate your association's logo on postage meter mailing labels.

60. Put advertising messages on your fax cover sheets. It fills empty space and gets your materials in front of other potential buyers and members.

61. Promote your association's products and services with updated messages that play on your automated telephone system whenever members are placed on hold.

62. Don't let any opportunity, to advertise your association's products and services slip by because you're not prepared. Develop evergreen house ads that can be used in last-minute spaces that become available in your magazine or newsletter.

63. Set up a members lounge at your meetings, and place your association's publications and marketing materials on the tables.

64. Use city videos from convention bureaus and other sources to promote upcoming meeting destinations. In many cases, the city will allow you to edit the tape or drop in an introduction to tailor the pitch.

65. Consider incorporating a destination city's logo with your association's logo to add to the appeal and identity of the event.

66. Develop a flow chart or in some way segment your membership - and route this information to staff - so that you will always be reminded of the member audiences you serve.

67. Cross market everything the association produces.

68. Always give members more than they expect, and then tell them what you've done for them.

Awards

69. Promote your awards programs to your entire association audience. Whether or not they are individually interested, this will emphasize the fact that you reward participation in a wide range of association affairs.

70. Create a "golden pen" award for the highest-quality articles that were written about your industry or association during the past year. This is an excellent way to recognize positive media coverage of your efforts.

71. Hold a reception for award winners before your presentation. You can take photographs and thank winners at the reception. During the program, you can simply ask everyone to stand and be recognized. This saves time and avoids confusion during the actual ceremony.

72. Whenever you conduct an awards program, script it tightly, with specific times running down the side of the page. If everyone knows what is going on and when, there will be minimal confusion.

73. To honor members or award recipients, make memorial books that incorporate cartoon pictures or illustrations of them and some of their own quotes or favorite sayings.

74. Create an awards program for staff members based on specific examples of service to members or time- or money-saving suggestions.

75. Enter products or publications in other association or industry award programs. You will not only learn how to better administer your own award programs, but you will also garner recognition of your association's activities and will communicate to members that you, too, are continually striving for excellence.
COPYRIGHT 1995 American Society of Association Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1995, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Association Management
Date:Dec 1, 1995
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