Member communications during a global pandemic
In March 2020, when the world was going into lockdown to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, communicators were ramping up efforts and digging into crisis communications plans. During a crisis, we all understand the importance of communicating with our members, but many of us found ourselves unprepared for the magnitude of what lay ahead. Although important, no crisis communications plan could prepare us for what was to come.
More than one year into a global pandemic and provincial state of emergency, we continue to provide information in thoughtful and digestible ways to our members. As we look ahead to vaccinations, loosening restrictions, and a resumption of something more normal, let’s look back on the lessons COVID-19 has taught us about member communications.
Choosing what to communicate
In the ever-changing world of COVID-19 restrictions, choosing what information to share can be a challenge. Members continue to be bombarded by communications from a variety of sources, but they look to our organizations to filter the information and provide accurate, relevant, trustworthy advice.
Before sharing every government release, new public health order, or information blast from our local chamber of commerce, we need to consider what value the information has for our members. As organizations, we should consider these questions:
Will the information keep them safe?
Will it improve their business practices or outcomes?
Will they see value in it?
Do they care?
Our staff are the frontline of our organization. They are the people that get the calls, respond to the emails, and offer a personal connection to our organizations. To maximize your communications impact, you need your staff on board. Ensuring that frontline staff have the appropriate information not only reinforces the messaging with members but also provides a level of comfort to staff. When staff know what is happening and are involved in the communications process, they are more able to provide good service to members and continue to support the organization.
What channel is it on?
Members and the public may need different information from your organization. During the height of the pandemic, when more information was being released every hour and our members were turning to us for advice to keep safe, communicators had to decide what channels to use on-the-fly. The increase and duplication of social media made it hard to cut through with messaging, so newsletters were utilized. Members grew tired of constant emails, so private Facebook groups were created. When the content on Facebook became too much, we adapted by creating internal microsites. Choosing the right channels and creating a go-to resource, such as a microsite, for members has helped communicators at home and abroad make communications manageable during a pandemic.
Showing compassion and care
Think back to March 2020 and how you felt. For many of us, there was fear—fear of our loved ones getting sick, job loss, and the unknown. Our members felt that fear too. During this time it was more important than ever to offer personal, compassionate service to members.
Showing compassion and being authentic with your membership builds trust. When your members reach out with concerns, address them thoughtfully, honestly, and kindly. We are here to serve our membership, and sometimes that simply means putting aside deadlines and taking the time to listen.
Last year was a year none of us will soon forget. The personal and professional challenges we faced have shaped our lives and how we communicate. Like our members, many of us continue to manage our professional life from our home office (or kitchen tables) and through virtual meetings. Whatever comes next, after the vaccines have been given and we can break our bubbles, our members will continue to look to us for thoughtful, trustworthy, compassionate communication.
About the author:
Paige is the Government Relations and Communications Advisor at the Nova Scotia Association of REALTORS®. She is a graduate of the Public Relations program at the Nova Scotia Community College and holds a Canadian Real Estate Association Executive designation.
Paige is a passionate Nova Scotian, dedicated to building better communities through volunteering her time to various community organization. She believes that every touchpoint with clients and volunteers is an opportunity to be better and exceed their expectations.
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