Associations are unique. They exist for different purposes, serve different professions or industries, and represent different kinds of membership. That’s why a communication channel may work better for one association than another. For years now, technology has been a main component of our day to day lives and traditional ways of communication have given way to social media, apps, podcasts, etc.

Given that, choosing the right way to communicate to your members is challenging. To successfully choose, you must:

  • understand the nature of your members and be able to imagine what their typical day looks like.
  • Define what kind of message are you trying to communicate.
  • First and foremost, ask your members their preferences, send them surveys, and analyze the results. No one can give you a better answer to help you make your choice.

In this article I will go through the most common communication channels. Which channels work best with members and industries, and what kind of messages should they carry on using?

Newsletters and Email Marketing

According to this article from Ariel, emails are still a powerful channel and remain an essential tool to engage your association members and retain their attention. With other emerging tools such as social media and apps, you may believe that email marketing is dying. However, this is not the case.

Email marketing is an essential channel for reaching out to membership to promote your events, keep them updated on the goings-on of the industry or profession, and make big announcements as new member benefits add value to their membership. This is an effective form of communication especially if your members usually work in an office environment.

Moreover, you should follow best practices when communicating via email to your members such us mobile compatibility, personalization, or choosing the write tone. More of the best practices for writing email are listed in this article. 

Social Media

For years, associations have struggled to recruit, retain, and engage young members. Younger generations are looking for a high ROI and an engaging environment. Without a doubt, these younger generations have accounts on many social media platforms and use them as a primary source of information and news. This component of your marketing and communication strategy should receive special attention for optimization.

Using Twitter or Facebook to just promote events, simply by posting is not optimal. However, social media portion is more successful when utilizing the “push marketing” feature those platforms offer. These online channels are also designed to offer the opportunity to communicate, engage, and converse with members. This is especially helpful for young members that struggle to have their voice heard in the industry.

To use the social media platforms to your association’s advantage, use these five tips outlining some best practices:

  • Share your expertise with members: Keep in mind that your audience is looking for relevant information as the trends and reports about the industry. Not necessarily a sales pitch but exclusive content.
  • Build a network: Since networking is a primary reason for members to join your association, social media is an efficient tool to build your network and showcase reasons to engage with and belong to your association.

For example: introducing mentors and mentees; promoting and celebrating member accomplishments; use pictures and encourage discussions.

  • Highlight the value: you can showcase member benefits and value for new or potential members and give them a reason to join and remain loyal to your association.

Association Print Publications

Despite the rise of technological communication, print communication is still running strong. It remains one of the top communication channels for most associations. Members still enjoy reading a printed piece of industry news, learning from it, and keeping it for future reference. This communication channel allows members to stay focused on information you deliver without being distracted with notifications on their phones.

Especially when most of your members are from an older generation, print communication is a valuable service your association is providing. They can have a tangible relationship with your association by receiving that membership directory they use on a day-to-day basis, or when receiving your magazine in the mail.


Email marketing, Social media, and print publication are not the only communication channels associations use to promote their membership and engage with their fellows, but they represent the most common ones. Other ways to stay in touch with your members and build relationships can also be a good fit, especially in extraordinary circumstances such as the Covid-19 pandemic. Before making your choice, ask your members about their preferences. Listen and give them the chance to participate and interact with your messages. This is the key to successful communication and marketing strategy.

Read more about sending effective communication to members in The Importance of Clear, Concise, and Timely Communication.