Consistent branding is essential to connect all the people and parts of your organization. You need the same look and feel whether your members find you online or in line for the restroom. Consistent branding tells your members they’ve come to right place. But that doesn’t mean they’ll actually feel connected and inspired when they get there.
Once you have an established brand and an authentic brand story, it’s time to invite your members into the loop, where they can forge an emotional connection with your organization and each other. You need this connectivity not only to fill seats and build lasting loyalty but to inspire members and enable the life-changing work of your organization.
Here are 5 ways to get connecting:
1. Go beyond branding.
If your event theme is superheroes, imagine how connected everyone would feel if you handed out superhero capes for your opening reception. Promotional items have a shelf life that your other collateral probably doesn’t have. Wearables and vehicle decals are like little lighthouses for your organization. Get the most bang for your buck by giving true conversation pieces that unite your members.
2. Build online communities, not just online presence.
Your website is a repository of information—events calendar, key personnel bios, your mission statement, maybe even a blog. It is NOT inherently a place for people to forge meaningful, productive, emotional connections. For this you will need a forum that allows for conversation. Consider social media, a LISTSERV, Basecamp, or other platform that permits an exchange of ideas rather than a one-sided presentation of facts.
3. Organize special events at your conference.
Your whole tribe is already in town for your event. Why not make the most of it by adding unscripted networking opportunities? You might schedule a happy hour at a local watering hole or organize a first-timers orientation to welcome new members. Consider an “after dark” concert or entertainer to extend connectivity into the evenings.
4. Organize special events throughout the year.
Supplement annual national events with smaller regional affairs throughout the year. This might mean you host mini conferences or workshops in a few centrally located cities. It could also be much simpler. Consider sponsoring a team for a 5k or organizing a neighborhood cleanup day. These simple events can facilitate powerful connections among members by bringing them together for a common cause.
5. Tell stories. Before, during, and after events and throughout the year, tell stories.
Share them over email, on your website and blog, through the mail, and on social media. Feature your members, your staff, and anyone else touched by the work your organization does. Remember that when people hear a story they actually feel as though they are experiencing the events for themselves. Maintain a regular schedule to remind members of your value all year long.
It is interesting to note that we often use the verb “forge” when talking about connections. Forging connections implies effort and action. Connections don’t just happen; they must be made between your members and your organization. How will you fuel the fires of connectivity?
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