I recently attended a job fair and asked a job hunter if he thought about joining an association in his chosen industry to help him find a job and network since he was new to Florida. “I have.” His answer surprised me but we continued talking about what YourMembership.com does and our involvement with associations, membership management and online community. When I asked him what association he had joined or what his experience had been thus far he said, “Well, I found a group on LinkedIn. It was 25 people and I thought that sounded about right.”
To him a LinkedIn group and an association are the same thing. There have been a lot of blog posts on associations and their fight for relevancy recently. “Remaining relevant” is a complex issue. It’s more than just making sure your offerings are in tune with what your members want and need. It’s also a matter of “educating” the less experienced on 1. what an association is 2. the importance/value of association memberships. Here’s an interesting post from a twenty-something entering the workforce.
But it’s not just the millennials who are struggling with reasons to join their parents’ (or grandparents’) organizations. Steve Drake has some valuable insights here. There are multiple reasons having to do with money, value and most importantly time. How do you convince someone to join your association when every hour of their lives is booked? As Steve points out “lunch clubs” are no longer the thing to do. I remember in the mid-nineties, attending a bar luncheon once a month. The speaker was always thought-provoking. It was a time to mingle with heads of the city law firms and trade polite jokes and small talk. Our lunches where 1-1/2 to 2 hours long and no one worried about it. Today (if they even have them), iPhones would dominate and texting would reign supreme over talking. I would probably get to know everyone by the tops of their heads and not their faces.
What’s an association to do? Not all organizations are wringing their hands in worry; some are tackling the education piece with a marketing campaign usually seen by Fortune 500 companies. In the Tampa market, The Moose are piloting the largest public education campaign in their history. There are billboards, bus shelters, radio and newspaper ads and bus exteriors asking, “Heard of Moose?.” The Moose facilities answer the question with graphics that proclaim, “Here we are.” They’re raising general awareness of their organization in a way that peaks curiosity, while their campaign focuses around people with images that depict connections and community.
While your association may not have the budget to launch a media campaign of this size, what can be learned from this is that the Moose are trying something they haven’t before (at least not to the extent they are doing it now). But most importantly, they are taking the time to educate on their offerings. Their call to action is not a typical membership drive of join us now. They are asking if we know about them. The Moose understand that a potential member must first know you before they can love you.
How do you plan on reaching your audience? What (level of) education is needed? How will you help us get to know you?