Raising Engagement with the 3Cs part three: Content and concerns

Membership of an Association is far more than a product or service. Membership groups are true communities. They are formed when people come together around a set of shared values and beliefs with the mission of strengthening and supporting these beliefs to achieve change and growth. But to have real value to its members, an association must go further than simply creating a code of conduct or a membership statement to display the values.

What brings life to a set of values are the stories that show them in action. These are the stories that describe the situations that individuals, businesses and sectors face. They can truly paint a picture of the stages of progress and setback, of struggle and success faced by them. They can share what was thought, what was done and what was learnt. And crucially, they can be seen by others. In being shared they create connections.

They create empathy between businesses and individuals; they enable people to compare and better understand their situation. Those reading the stories can see that ‘they’re not alone’ and the confidence that this brings can really power their actions. Crucially for Associations, when they act as curator and teller of these stories they can create better relationships with their communities and allay any suggestion that they might be out of touch with the sector they represent.

So how do you do become a curator and narrator for your community? For me this was a process I took step by step. I’d never written before, beyond emails and mailshots. I didn’t think of myself as a writer. My time in commercial publishing had been on the sales side rather than the editorial. So I started in a really small way.

I noticed a theme that was coming up in my conversations with members on a frequent basis. A month later I wrote another piece, this time from the perspective of a buyer of what our members were selling. These went down well and allowed me to get more comfortable with the idea of writing. I could hear my tone of voice coming through. The key seemed to be in the knack of being able to have simple old-fashioned conversations with people who had stories to tell. If I (and they) found the conversation fascinating then this suggested to me that others might.

I experimented with various ways of writing, from a third person narrative to an interview, to a very literal “conversation with”. I let the story lead the way and let the subject and the nature of the conversation determine the format. A further useful application of the story format helped me to create a series, examining an issue from multiple perspectives to draw attention to a cause that matters to our members. So I had my Influencer group and they were telling me their stories. The next step in the process was how to use those stories to create conversations……

Read part four: Raising Engagement with Conversations

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