Communication is key

Division boards are encouraged to analyze their communication efforts with current and potential members to look for ways to increase division effectiveness and member retention

Summer is a great time to take a look at all the ways you communicate with members throughout the year and find ways to improve on the relationship you have with your members. This is particularly important for those divisions transferring new officers in August. But also, because membership renewals start in early Fall and you will want to be up to the task of providing interesting and thought provoking activities that will give members a reason to stay with the division.
 
The following six points are just a start for  how you might assess your division’s communication strategy with members. 

Membership Communication

Potential Members: Do you have a standard response to send to potential members who ask about the division? Or a response for those who try to join your division listserv but aren’t currently members? If you have these responses, have they been updated with current benefits of membership? 

New Members: You’ve taken their check, now what? How do you orient your new members to the division? Sending one welcome message is NOT enough. Consider a tiered approach that provides regular, ongoing communication with members throughout their first year. The schedule below is a starting point that can be altered to allow for special communications to your new members that may be specific to your division. 

  • Upon joining: Confirmation of membership, overview of benefits 

  • One month later: Welcome from Division President, overview of initiatives 

  • Two months later: Welcome from publications/education chair, overview of benefits 

  • Two months later: Welcome from a division fellow, addressing potential in the field 

Member Benefits: Keeping current members abreast as to the member benefits is crucial to ensure member retention. Never assume that members “just know” how awards work or how to submit to division publications. Routine correspondence should remind members of what is available to them as a members and how to take advantage of it, including opportunities to be engaged in committee/division governance. 

Advocacy

While divisions are not prohibited from engaging in advocacy efforts, those advocacy efforts must be well-coordinated within the overall APA structure. Is your division receiving advocacy alerts from APA and forwarding them as appropriate? For more information on how to communicate with your members regarding advocacy, contact APA’s Senior Policy Advisor Ellen Garrison. 

Website

A division’s website can be its most important tool for communication to current and potential members, to others in the field, and to the general outside public. Take a look at your webpage: 

  • Is there FRESH content on the front page (updated in the last 10 days)?

  • Pretend you are a potential member — how easy is it to find membership information? 

  • Is your officer list up-to-date and easily accessible? 

  • Is your social media linked from your website? 

  • Does your site have something for all professional members (students, ECP, mid-career, retired, etc.)? 

Email communication

Two kinds of email lists exist: discussion and announcement email lists. Do your members know about both, or has it just been assumed over the years that new members know to join the discussion listserv? When was the last time you cleaned up your email list to remove members who no longer pay dues or who have resigned from your division? 

And while thinking about your email list, think about how you are using your announcement list. Do you need to tighten pr loosen the controls to make it a pertinent tool? 

Social media

Many divisions are now engaged in several platforms for social media, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and APA Communities. Does your division have a uniform social media policy? Are your members aware of the benefits of your social media and how to use it? Do you have a divisional hash-tag that you will be using at the APA Convention in Orlando? 

Leadership groups

With each turn of officers, information, history and precedent is lost in a division. Do you have someone who is acting as a division historian? Where are you saving all the important documents that need to be archived and shared from officer to officer? 

How will you train your new officers and what kind of guidance will be passed on to the new person to support him/her in the role? Do you have a policies and procedures manual ready? At the very least, all officers should know who their contact is in the Division Services Office.