By Diane Meyer, American Hereford Association
One of the most overlooked ways to show appreciation for a membership is clear communication, especially when communicating policy changes. I think it’s safe to assume everyone appreciates being kept in the loop, and any change has a better chance of acceptance when communicated respectfully and timely.
Although the best way to a communicate policy change boils down to many factors, there are a few “constants” to keep in mind to guide your strategy for content and delivery.
When writing any message to the membership — a policy change, staff change, a new service, etc. — our communications team first addresses this question: How will this change assist our members in achieving their goals, making improvements and achieving efficiencies? As a non-profit, your mission is to serve your members. Naturally, information about a policy change should address how the change will benefit members, whether the content is written or visual.
Complex changes may require multiple announcements. For instance, when our association plans to announce an update to our genetic evaluation, we will release a series of articles, blogs and videos to explain those changes in small, digestible segments that appeal to different learning styles. Content overload can easily lead to rejection due to misunderstanding.
Since members are invested in the organization, they take great stock in how a change will affect their business. In my experience working for an association, there isn’t a textbook, one-size-fits-all strategy to communicate policy changes — every case is different depending on the gravity of the situation.
When deciding which communication outlets to use and when, our team starts with considering who needs to be informed first. Usually changes are communicated to the membership as a whole, but some cases require a small group be contacted first. Something unique to policy communications versus public-relations style communications is ensuring the membership is informed before other external audiences so that they hear from the association directly.
Identifying priorities in how members should learn about changes will help decide how and when to deliver a message through your print and digital outlets. For example, when we release an article explaining a genetic evaluation update in the Hereford World magazine, we try to share corresponding blogs, e-blasts and social media posts around the magazine’s release date, so regardless of how a member receives information, all members are informed in a close time frame.
You may find more serious changes should be shared through more personal forms of communication, like a formal letter (mailed or emailed). For these cases, I recommend allotting enough time for the membership to receive this form of communication before posting content on our public platforms.
Always remember, non-profits are governed by a board of directors. Although directors have voted and approved policy changes, they should be updated on internal plans to release information to the rest of the membership.