Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Direct Marketing, Blogging, and Association Email

By Dennis D. McDonald

In Three effective uses of a blog for association magazines Ben Martin lists a fourth item from a conference he attended recently:

Associations have the ability to overtake dominant blogs in their industry or profession because they have large membership lists to whom they can send email promoting their blog. It’s not too late to dominate. Yet.

In other words, use email to “drive” readers to your blog. That’s good advice at any time since it “…always pays to advertise.”

Or does it?

Well, it depends. Here are some additional considerations, some of which are very general, and some of which are particular to membership organizations:

  1. Pay attention to how else you use your membership email list. What else are members getting, in addition to emailed announcements about you blog? Member surveys? Conference announcements? Advertisements for new publications?  Renewal reminders?
  2. Have you given members an opportunity to opt in or opt out of different types of snail mail and email? How will this impact how you promote the blog to them?
  3. Does the blog provide a feed subscription or email subscription feature? If so, how will this impact the use of email to promote the blog, and how do you intend to track this over time?
  4. Are any members of your association trying to reduce their use of standard email systems based on a preference for network- or group-based systems such as Facebook or Twitter? How will you coordinate this with your use of “standard” email?
  5. Are members of your organization already actively using older forms of group communication such as online forums or listservs? If so, how will maintaining those channels impact the use of email in connection with association blogs?

Reviewing your process for managing these types of issues will be important if you are sharing content and information across channels and need to make sure that key message elements (e.g., dates, policies, announcements, prices, etc.) are coordinated.

Also keep in mind that one of the distinguishing features of blogs — if you allow it — can be their informality and collaborative nature. It’s one thing to start an official “corporate blog” that’s viewed as an “official” statement of organizational policy and direction. It’s quite another to encourage establishment of multiple blogs by association staff or members as a less formal means for fostering communication among the membership about any topic they feel relevant.

If the latter is the case and you are promoting a more decentralized and member-controlled approach to association blogging, you may also wish to consider a less formal approach to managing the use of email in connection with these blogs. For example, you may wish to consider whether you should make any attempts to capture or track email based communications among members based on the messages that originate among those involved in such specialized blogs.

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