We know how diligently associations are working to adapt during this pandemic and to engage members through virtual events. We commend associations for their resiliency and creativity!
But what’s next? It’s the question most of us are asking with a mix of trepidation and hope. We hope things will turn around, but we fear they won’t. We hope normal returns sooner rather than later, but we fear it won’t.
Hope and fear are necessary emotions for processing complicated feelings. They don’t help you come up with a good plan though. And what your association needs now is a good plan. Or put another way, a map that points the way to what comes after all of this.
We have some suggestions about who can lead you there, and what you can expect to find.
Young people are the bright spot
We hear all of the same things you hear about young people: they’re not joiners; they don’t want to pay for things; they can’t commit to one job or one organization; you can’t get their attention.
It’s not that we don’t believe these points. After all, we see the same data you see about Millennial job hopping. Rather, it’s that we know it isn’t the whole story.
When the coronavirus hit the U.S., there was an assumption for a few weeks that Millennials were defying the recommendations to stay home, especially as pictures of young people at parties and crowding Florida beaches started cropping up all over social media. Millennials were quick to point out the generational mistake: it was actually the oldest cohort of Generation Z that was partying it up. In fact, Millennials were growing increasingly frustrated with their Boomer parents who they felt weren’t taking the virus seriously enough (captured humorously in this “open letter” op-ed).
Even more interesting were the memes and Instagram graphics that Millennials and Generation X started posting to rally support and evoke the idea of duty. These posts said things like, “Your grandparents were asked to fight a world war. You are being asked to stay home,” or showed beleaguered healthcare workers on the front lines with captions like, “I stay home for them.”
There are, of course, individual and regional variations in how young professionals have responded (and continue to respond) to the COVID-19 situation, but the abiding response has been one of “We are in this together.”
Younger people may change jobs more often and be more reluctant to pay for a feature they can find for free, but they care deeply about being part of a movement. They care about identifying with a purpose greater than themselves.
And also this: they are adaptable, which is everything right now. For example, though young people deeply value face to face connection, they’ve embraced the virtual work arounds, eagerly participating in your Zoom happy hours, your webinars, and your cyber conferences.
This is the bright spot of this dark situation, because it means that younger people are ready to take up the mantle of your association. That is, if you give them something real and deep they can believe in—a true mission and purpose they can rally around.
Your plan for what’s next
Your engagement may be very high right now, because a crisis invites engagement and the desire to connect with one another.
What about when it passes? What will these younger members rally around next?
You can’t wait until the pandemic begins to lift to decide that rallying point—especially because it will likely leave a long, painful recession in its place. As hard as it is to think about what comes on the heels of this, you must start planning now.
FIRST, if you have an event scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2020, you must accept that it will be dramatically different than what you anticipated when you first planned the event—starting with the fact that it may not happen at all. Or if it does, some members still may not be comfortable traveling.
How will you replace that revenue stream? How can you still connect people around a message? Keep in mind that people will be fatigued from COVID-19 messaging by then. You need a NEW message—not a crisis message, and not the outdated value proposition you were using before the crisis hit.
What will that message be? How can it work either in-person or virtually? Be clear on that now, versus having to be reactionary and make decisions on-the-fly.
SECOND, what will you put in place now to ensure that your association is leading the way, rather than following or being reactive?
Our tendency when we see recession coming is to tighten our belts, to duck for cover and resort to a fear and scarcity mentality. Instead, how can you take this awesome engagement you have now and monetize and build on it? You can only do this successfully if you invest in true digital marketing tools right now.
We started our agency in 1999, which means we ran our business through two major recessions: 2001 and 2008. Both times, we saw it as an opportunity to pivot, to dive deeper into work that matters.
This is the same mindset we have now. We believe that a shifting economy is a chance to rethink everything. We know what this journey looks like, and we find ourselves once again staring down a path marked “before” and “after.”
Come with us to the “after.” You may not believe it, but it can be even better than the “before.”
Want a brainstorming call to talk about what’s next for your association? Schedule time to talk to us! We are sheltering in place, thinking hard, and creating some innovative and amazing campaigns for associations.