September 16th, 2014 by David Burman
For 35 years, television ads for the legendary discount retailer Sy Syms asserted that “an educated consumer is our best customer”. One part of their legion of loyal customers valued the luxury brands peppered throughout the stores and were willing to sort through the spartan and unadorned conditions to locate them. The other part actually preferred the low-overhead of the plain white interiors, knowing that the prices were unaffected by meaningless décor. What made the Syms chain a success was that the desires of a wide variety of customers could be collectively satisfied, at the same time. Value-centric buyers as well as those seeking the cache of name brands without the boutique mark-up made Syms and its famous slogan a household name for generations. Like most successful companies, Syms focused squarely on the desired outcomes of their branding and messaging efforts, and developed an efficient means of reaching that objective.
The world today is overwhelmingly loud. In 1974, Sy Syms needed only to buy ads on three network television stations, several newspapers, and possibly some local radio. Following such a strategy in 2011 is sure to make a big business a very small business, very quickly. Today, there are hundreds of television and cable networks, satellite radio, traditional radio, search engines, blogs, and an emergent social media, which has become perhaps the most powerful mover of information and opinions ever. I believe that this freedom of opinion is a good thing overall and that the marketplace of ideas is better served by unobstructed sharing (unless it is coming from the cast of the Jersey Shore). However, as a consequence, we are inescapably bombarded at all times by the cacophony of electronic and traditional media. Effective messages are conveyed almost subliminally, often among the blinking of our eyes.
So how can an Association rise above the noise and get its message to the members who need to hear it? These are some proven tools that any Association can use, for little or no cost that will help it get its message delivered.
Using brief tweets with embedded links leading to deeper detail, and Association can get its message out to its followers.
ning.com and/or facebook.com
Ning.com allows anyone to create a customized personal social media site. Owners can sign up and participate in a collaborative dialogue (don’t be afraid of the two-way communication).
Youtube videos need not be limited to car crashes and street fights. Association meetings, video presentations by the Board or management, or any other meaningful information can be recorded and posted. Be sure to link to them from your social site or from your tweets.
A talkshoe meeting is a live streaming meeting, held on the internet. Up to 250 people at a time can listen in and even participate. The meeting can be recorded to listen later as a podcast or to be posted to a website.
There are few environments where a civic volunteer will encounter such a confluence of needs and outcomes to consider while communicating. The homeowner members are not customers of a business, nor are they constituents of a political office. They are friends and neighbors and as such demand an even greater sense of duty towards the leadership of the community. The Association also cannot often change the fundamental nature of the community to suit its audience. Fortunately, this does not mean that community leaders must choose between friends and neighbors and service to the community. Nor does it mean that popular opinion automatically gauges success. Unlike operating a for-profit business or running a purely political office and unlike Syms, it merely means that the Board is forced to communicate in a much wider sphere of consideration than most other environments. By developing a communication plan that begins with efficiency as a bedrock principle, the Association can begin to bring its message to its members effectively and reach the positive outcomes it desires.