While working on content for a presentation that Senior Research Analyst Heidi Tarr and I will deliver June 22 at Chicago’s Navy Pier for the Association Forum of Chicagoland, it occurred to me that the people in associations who are responsible for communications, marketing and member services increasingly use the power of research tools to boost their effectiveness.
The LCWA Research Group does a lot of work for large professional associations. Because associations often operate with very tight budgets, it may seem counter-intuitive that they will spend dollars on research to underpin fact-based strategies, tactics and messaging for communication, marketing or member services. But research projects more than pay their way. The results lead to purposeful programs and a greatly increased likelihood that desired outcomes will be achieved.
Research can identify priority audiences – for current and perspective members or industry outreach – and then sharply focus programs and communications content that will appeal to them and provide a baseline for measuring progress. This can make all the difference for giving association members the information and services they want or for attracting and engaging prospective members.
Research findings can energize members and provide a focus for topical outreach programs too. It was an essential component of the award-winning program LCWA delivered for the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association (FMA) and its foundation, Nuts, Bolts, & Thingamajigs (NBT). The Publicity Club of Chicago awarded the program a 2010 Golden Trumpet in the Issues Management category. The media relations program was based on LCWA Research Group findings that identified the manufacturing labor shortage as an issue that intensely concerns its members. This platform offered great opportunities to educate consumers and businesses on the fact that U.S. manufacturers face a serious shortage of skilled workers. “We wouldn’t have even had an issue without the research,” said Pat Lee, FMA director of public relations.