Crafting impactful messages Taking an audience-centric approach to association communications

Association Solutions

Crafting impactful messages: Taking an audience-centric approach to association communications


What’s in it for me? 

It’s a selfish question, but one your audience is always asking. They want to know what’s in it for them to join your association, attend your conference, enroll in your continuing education program, or even read your blog or social media posts. Will it help them advance their career? Connect them with mentors or thought leaders? Provide them with key insights or valuable skills? 

A lot of association communications aren’t written with these questions in mind. They’re written from the point of view of the association, not the audience. 

Many organizations sprinkle phrases such as “choose from 100-plus conference sessions” or “receive our weekly newsletter delivered right to your inbox” across their website and social media platforms to highlight their offerings, but what your audience wants to read and hear are things like this: 

You’ll learn tips and tricks that will enable you to get the ear of your CEO — and maybe an office closer to hers. 

Every job I’ve ever gotten came from a lead I received from someone I met at a networking event at the conference. 

These messages resonate more strongly because they adopt the perspective of your audience members. The latter message is particularly effective because it comes from a peer — someone who can speak to the benefits of attending a conference from personal experience. 

Speak Your Audience's Language 

Audience-centric communications start with the headline or subject line. They’re the first thing your audience sees when scanning email messages or scrolling through your newsletter. You have only a fraction of a second to get their attention. What will you say? 

An association-centric headline will read as follows: ABC Association Launches New Tool to Boost Skills. 

An audience-centric headline will read more like this: Get Qualified for the Job You Want. 

Assuming your headline gets their attention, you have to keep your audience engaged. The first sentence and paragraph are critical to this goal. The longer people read something, the more likely they are to continue reading all the way through. 

An association-centric first paragraph will read as follows: ABC Association has created a new tool that is designed to help industry members boost their skills development in areas where they might otherwise need more education and/or work experience to qualify for higher-paying positions. 

An audience-centric first paragraph will read like this: Want a better job but worried you aren’t qualified? Expand your skills (and your job opportunities) with a new tool from ABC Association.

By framing the headline and first paragraph in audience-centric terms, you are much more likely to get your message across than if you take an association-centric approach. Your audience is asking “what’s in it for me?” and you’re answering them in language they understand, which, in this case, means a better chance to get a better job. The tool your association is launching is only a means to that end. 

Another advantage to adopting an audience-centric perspective is that it precludes the need for you to be a subject-matter expert in your audience’s field. In the above example, taking an association-centric approach (ABC Association has created a new tool …) puts the focus on the tool, which you will then need to describe. An audience-centric approach (Want a better job …) puts the emphasis on your audience members and their innate desire to improve their personal circumstances. That’s a desire we all understand. 

Crafting communications that put your audience first lets your members see your association’s value upfront. When you write to answer the question “what’s in it for me?” from the member perspective, your communications resonate with their individual aspirations and highlight how your benefits will impact them in a tangible way.  

Stuart Hales is the associate vice president, content services, at MCI USA.