Your association leaders and long-term members may have completely different concerns and interests than the next generation who are just getting started with you. Understanding how to communicate with them effectively will help you know what they’re looking for. Addressing their expectations and needs will help you gain and retain your next generation of membership and sustain your organization into the future.
However, understanding the next generation of members requires you to be flexible and willing to change the way you communicate.
A couple of years ago a survey was released that showed association members’ number one preference for communication was via email. That held true even for the younger generation of members. Generation Y (born 1965-1981) is communicating with social media, but that wasn’t the number one way they wanted associations to reach out to them. Email was the winner.
That does not mean that just because you’re still sending out that e-newsletter and targeted emails to the next generation that you’re actually reaching those young members and potential members. The preferred medium may be the same, but that doesn’t mean communication hasn’t changed. It has.
The next generation communicates in a new way. In this information age there is a lot of noise, so it should not surprise associations that the next generation isn’t going to reach out and tell them how they want to be communicated with; they’re having enough trouble cutting through all the messages being thrown at them. The younger generations expect you to figure it out, and if you don’t, you won’t reach them.
Generations Y and Z (born 1996-2009) are growing up communicating via online social networks, spaces where oftentimes the requirement is that they give permission to people or brands to communicate with them. Reaching out, asking them how they want you to communicate, and establishing a relationship with them will make them much more receptive to your messaging.
Millennials need something they relate to emotionally before they will act. Your next generation members are looking for an experience, something they can connect to and feel like they are part of. To communicate effectively, you need to build a relationship and connect in a meaningful way.
Bottom line: you need to listen to your members first if you want them to listen to you. Ask them how they want you to communicate with them. It’s not that the next generations are unwilling to listen, it’s that they’re waiting for you to reach out to them in a meaningful way.
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