You owe it to your members to develop a thought leadership-driven culture at your association. According to the Community Brands Association Trends Study, members in their mid and late careers rank insightful industry information as their top association priority. For early careerist members, compelling content is in their top five priorities. When you take the time to develop well-researched thought leadership content, you’ll boost organizational awareness and increase member retention.
But how do you begin the process of creating a culture of thought leadership at your association? First, you must recognize members are the true experts in your industry. While some may initially be reluctant to offer an opinion, members love to see their association represent their voice to policymakers, industry leaders, and the general public. Follow these three tips to create an authentic thought leadership culture at your association, amplify your member’s voices, and increase organizational visibility in your industry.
1. How to foster a culture of thought leadership
To create an authentic thought leadership culture at your organization, listening to your staff and members is vital. “As an association leader, you don’t know what you don’t know,” says Bruce Moe, Executive Director and CEO of MSTA. You can learn more about the industry by listening to both your staff and members. Here’s how to get started:
- Meet with staff. Association staff have routine contact with members and will likely understand the member experience better than you. Plan to have ongoing meetings with staff to gain insight into the issues members are facing. Staff conversations will inspire you to generate insightful and engaging thought leadership content to represent member voices.
- Attend association events. You can get to know your members better by attending your organization’s events. To build connections with members, make a point to sit next to individuals who’ve just joined your association and mingle with members you don’t know. “Every interaction with a member is an opportunity to improve the relationship,” says Teri Carden, co-founder, and CEO of ReviewMyAMS. As you build connections with members, the culture within your association will shift to one of inclusion and authenticity.
- Visit members in the field. By going to where your members work, you’ll see firsthand the issues central to your industry and the individual pressures defining each member’s experience. These insights will drive authentic and compelling thought leadership content for your association.
- Read what your members are reading. Find the publications, research journals, and websites that inform your members’ professional activity and development. Reading what your members read can give you an in-depth look at industry issues and interests and keep you up to date with the latest trends.
2. How to amplify member voices in your organization
As you build relationships with association members, you’ll soon be able to amplify your members’ voices. Here’s how to listen to members and give their experience a platform:
- Ask what industry issues members encounter. “Asking members what’s keeping them up at night gives them a voice and allows them to be heard more broadly,” says Moe. Meeting with individual members at association events or in the workplace is the perfect setting to inquire about what problems members face in the industry.
- Survey a larger group of members. To further identify industry issues and trends, survey your members. Consider beginning by asking members about their current source of stress and how it impacts their work and life. Based on the initial results, you can plan additional surveys for more focused data.
- Identify industry issues with survey results. After you unpack the survey data, you’ll recognize trends and various narratives relating to the member experience. Use the qualitative and quantitative survey data to generate thought leadership content for your association members.
- Help your members feel heard. To amplify your members’ voices, do an unveiling of the survey results where you present the most insightful data. Invite members, non-members, and industry leaders to the event to generate buzz about crucial industry issues and trends. Ensure the results inform advocacy and legislative efforts, and further educate your thought leadership culture.
3. How to boost visibility for your association
Now that you’ve built connections with your staff and members and routinely seek their insights for thought leadership content, both members and non-members will seek your association for industry insights. Follow these steps to increase your organization’s visibility by elevating your member’s experience:
- Let member insight steer thought leadership content. Because your members are true industry experts, begin generating content based on individual member interactions and larger survey results. Develop blog posts, white papers, webinars, videos, or podcasts for your association and share the resources with non-members, policymakers, and the general public.
- Elevate the member experience to attract non-members. When you voice the issues important to your members, non-members will also take notice. Boosting the member voice through insightful thought leadership content will naturally attract more association members. “There’s an emotional connection that happens when we communicate thought leadership in a way that’s effective,” says Moe. “Non-members will remark, ‘you’re saying what I’m feeling. You get the industry. You get what the challenges are.’” Make every effort to create authentic thought leadership content, guided by the wisdom of your members.
- Build an inclusive thought leadership culture. “Every person, no matter how green you are or how seasoned, has something to contribute,” says Carden. “It’s important for thought leaders to think through the lens of inclusivity and promote a place where people are all on the same playing field.” Promote inclusivity at your association by inviting different members to speak at conferences, write a guest blog, or share thoughts on a podcast. The key is empowering all members to come forward and contribute to your industry.
- Develop trust and transparency at your association. Research from Edleman and Linkedin found 64% of respondents use thought leadership content to determine if an organization is trustworthy. When you routinely connect with members, empower them to contribute to association events, and amplify their voices in thought leadership content, both members and non-members will notice. Those in your industry will look to you as an authority figure, and your thought leadership voice will ring authentic and trustworthy.
Are you searching for more ways to empower your association members, amplify their voices, and drive engagement? Check out the on-demand webinar: How to become an authentic thought leader in your industry