Workshops or online resources for effective marketing communications
February 2, 2010 10:08 AM   Subscribe

What are some good resources (workshops, online courses, etc) that will help me improve my organization's marketing communications initiatives?

At my job at an industry association I am responsible for a lot of our written communications with the outside world. We have a website, e-newsletter, a blog about the industry, and accounts on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

Our email blasts, for example, have an open rate of 20-25%. I'd like to improve upon this.

What are some resources I can use to help me in my job? Ideally, I'm looking for some kind of in-person workshop where I can show examples of our website, newsletter, etc and get concrete suggestions for improving them.

I'm already enrolled in a workshop on writing for the web, but the company is open to me taking more classes. (And I would like to take advantage of any continuing education/professional development I can.) The company would pay for it, but therefore it needs to be cheap (we're a non-profit). I'm located in Pittsburgh, but online courses would be a possiblity too.

Also, what are some good websites or blogs that deal with these issues? I've learned a fair amount by Googling here and there, but I'd love to have some great go-to resources.
posted by squawk to Work & Money (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Speaking as someone who has worked for and with several different industry associations, it sounds like you have all the tools, and that you're concentrating on making sure your written communications are of high quality.

I really wonder if taking extra classes is going to help you engage your membership.

Lack of community/client/membership engagement is always a challenge for industry associations. There may be external factors - are people worried about going under because of the economy, or are people too busy growing their businesses - but on the association side the number one question you should ask yourself is:

Are you relevant?

Does your newsletter, Twitter broadcasts, LinkedIn profile meet the stated needs of your community?
Is your copy hitting the bullseye and addressing a pain, or is it irrelevant blathering?
Are you solving problems?
Do you know what your membership cares about?

A secondary question might be:

Are your broadcasts (email, website, Twitter etc) valuable?
Are you broadcasting too much, and as a result are people tuning you out?
Are you sending out spam?

With the industry associations I've worked for, the membership typically wants to a) identify sources of funding and access capital b) access relevant, high-quality seminars that will help them grow their businesses c) network d) attract talent e) promote their sector to investors, potential employees, and policy makers.

However, these aren't assumptions - community needs are determined by surveys and talking to the membership.

So, the basic question is:

Is your message relevant?
posted by KokuRyu at 12:25 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree with KokuRyu. It seems you're already doing much of the right things (although it can never hurt to read "Guerilla Marketing" by Levinson again).

The best way to improve your communication would be to listen carefully to your customer base.

In my experience, the big problem of industry associations is the tendency to navelgaze. Read about the Big Reception with the President of the Association! And here's a photo of the President of the Association grinning with the President of Another Association! Here's the transcript of a Very Moving Speech that the President of the Association gave to a few Washington insiders!

It's a very natural tendency (the President being the one who decides about the communication budgets), but this is the kind of communication that wears members down. For one, they feel bad about not attending all these venues that the association provides. But they also wonder why you guys aren't solving their 'real' problems.

Keep hammering away on your platform in an easy to digest way. And keep putting the members and their needs in the spotlight, not the servants.
posted by NekulturnY at 1:21 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, KokuRyu and NekulturnY. This isn't exactly what I was looking for, but very insightful nonetheless.

Our organization is currently doing some self-reflection and going to the membership with surveys and interviews to make sure we are in fact providing programs that are useful. What I'm getting from your comments is to focus on what the message is rather than just how it is presented. Is that correct?

Perhaps I should have worded the question different to ask for some best practices in things like newsletter writing, etc.

Still, though, very good information. Thank you!
posted by squawk at 6:36 AM on February 3, 2010

If you Mefimail me a link to your website and newsletter, I'll gladly give some feedback if that's what you're looking for. Also try the "Marketingprofs" forum, there's a ton of good advice there (also some noise, but it will serve the purpose).

You should always focus on content over presentation, yes.
posted by NekulturnY at 6:52 AM on February 3, 2010

VIATeC and Communitech are best-of-breed organizations, and you can sign up for their newsletters to get a feel for how to do it right. VIATeC will be launching a new website shortly (it's current website is kind of meh), which will be particularly innovative.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:36 AM on February 3, 2010

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