As the Communications Specialist on staff at an association management company (AMC), my role is to create relevant and eye-catching content for association members. Depending on a client’s scope of work, this could mean creating:

  • newsletters
  • social media content
  • website content
  • event marketing
  • and more!

When establishing your association’s communications plan, the first questions you’ll need to ask are:

  • How do we want to engage with members?
  • How do we currently engage with members/Are we engaging with members?

You’d be surprised that the answers to those questions are likely different.

Case Study: Unengaged Millennials

For example, an association with which I work is currently struggling with social media engagement in general. The members are not liking or sharing our posts, they don’t participate in our contests, and some members might not even use social media. So, the answer to question one is, our client wants to engage members on social media. But the answer to question two is, our client currently generates engagement through personal phone calls and targeted emails.

This association has since established that clearly their messages are only reaching the Gen X and Boomer crowds. But why? This happened because the association never adapted their “WHY we exist.” The original goal of this association was to provide a community for the industry and to put on large trade shows.

The world’s priorities and dynamics have shifted since the 1950s, and young and emerging professionals don’t need an association to connect them to others; they can use LinkedIn. They don’t need an association to put on in-person trade shows; Millennials have the highest social anxiety of any generation; plus, they love online and virtual technology.

Read Making Impressions and Building Association Relationships with LinkedIn to learn more about engaging audiences with social media.

As Boomers and Gen X slowly retire, this association has never considered adjusting their purpose to the new wants and needs of the growing Millennial workforce, and that needed to change. If your association is struggling with these same issues, consider your association’s “new WHY” and continue reading.

Millennials Consume Media Differently

Note: Millennials can be loosely categorized as early 1980s to mid-1990s babies, depending on the source.

In order to grab the attention of Millennials, trends and emotion are going to take your association a long way. Keep in mind that any form of communication (an email, a survey, a presentation) needs to remain brief and simple to avoid overcrowding of the mind. With today’s ever-evolving world, Millennials are always connected and are constantly overstimulated; allow your association to give them a break from the craziness of society.

Millennials do not read long, technical emails. They do not answer phone calls. And they are not wildly interested in attending in-person meetings or events, so how do associations get through to them?

Reaching Millennials with WHY

Millennials want to feel invested in something that matters—a social, political, or environmental cause—something with a story, but don’t bore them with too many details. Above all, focus on WHY your association exists and WHY these individuals are involved in your industry and play to that tune with everything you do.

Once an association can hone-in on the motivations and beliefs of their Millennial members, you will get their attention. An association that can connect with Millennials on a deeper level, by giving them something to believe in and by encouraging their passions, will consequently create members for life!

The best media types to attract and engage with Millennials are therefore going to be:

  • Tik Tok—for the youngest Millennials and emerging Gen Z
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Infographics
  • Video messages
  • Mobile text messages

For additional information on utilizing these platforms to engage young members, read Capturing Millennials Using your Association’s Social Media.

But it’s still important to remember that your messaging is key when getting the attention of “the Facebook generation.” Giving them something to believe in and spreading the word with passion and pride is your key to effective association communication.

Stay tuned for part 2 where we will deep dive into engaging with the old-school generations.