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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

How Do Association Actions Shape Engagement?

The actions of the association have substantial impact on engagement. If engagement experiences are positive then future or expanded engagement is more likely. The converse is also true. If the association fails to deliver consistently on the engagement promise then these behaviors are less likely.

Association Laboratory research identifies three potential areas of concern:

  1. Legacy governance
  2. Product/service portfolio dilution
  3. Misdirected communication efforts

Legacy Governance

Too often, association governance is too slow or too biased to make effective decisions on engagement strategy.

First, volunteer leaders are traditionally long-term members who may have different ideas of the association than new or younger members. Successful engagement requires strategies that appeal to different market segments with different ideas of what engagement means. Often, volunteer leaders look at engagement through their personal lens, which may be substantially different than how new or younger individuals view the association.

Second, in some associations, volunteer leaders are resistant or openly hostile to increased engagement by audiences or individuals they perceive as unrelated to or less important to the association's goals. This resistance creates negative perceptions of the association, its leadership and direction, and thus, reduces engagement.

Finally, volunteer-led entities have governance models that are often too slow to make the decisions necessary to adapt the association's engagement value proposition to the needs of the primary audience.

Product/Service Portfolio Dilution

Engagement is a personal relationship, not a transactional relationship. If you limit the definition of a person's engagement to purchases and attendance, you create an artificially-limiting definition of engagement that ignores the personal feelings of commitment to the organization and the emotional connection to the Mission and people of the association.

Too often associations use a huge portfolio of programs and services that overwhelm the individual's ability to select an engagement path and dilute the ability of the association to provide a quality engagement experience.

Focusing on 5 great things essential to engagement instead of 10 average things of limited or questionable value will produce better results.

In addition, many associations are structured to provide engagement paths that are no longer consistent with how people choose to engage.

Many associations have membership structures designed around internal political considerations, not market-driven characteristics. In addition, associations have been slow to modify association membership benefits to reflect changing market needs. This results in less successful engagement.

The association's product/portfolio of potential engagement paths must be in alignment with the needs, desires and capabilities of the target audience.

Misdirected Communication Efforts

Association marketing and communication efforts are failing to set the stage for engagement, not adapting to changing engagement patterns, and failing to create the meaningful emotional connection necessary for engagement.

Pre-Engagement Communication
Too often associations begin engagement activities with individuals who have already begun the engagement process, without considering what happens in advance of these individual's decision to engage. By waiting, associations sacrifice an opportunity to shape pre-engagement expectations and create a climate supportive of engagement actions for new or returning members.

Adapting Engagement Channels
Many associations continue to pursue legacy programs, services, and initiatives without considering how new or younger individuals may want to engage. If there is no channel for a person to engage, then they cannot engage. For example, a person who chooses to engage via online or digital channels will struggle with an association that does not provide adequate services through these channels.

In our last part of this blog series, which will be published October 21, 2014, we will examine strategies for improving member engagement.

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