Tag Archives: membership

We Are Fam-ilyy

"...communities are a lot like families. There are communities you are born into whether you like it or not and ones you choose to join."

This week we’re talking about Public Relations and community! No not that NBC show with Chevy Chase (although you should check that out too).

Community is when a  bunch of people untie over shared interests and common goals. Sometimes communities lives together, other times they are driven by a similar upbringing–or as Guth and Marsh prefer to call them, “geographic communities” and “psychographic communities,” respectively. Come to think of it, communities are a lot like families. There are communities you are born into whether you like it or not and ones you choose to join. Regardless of the circumstance, the concept of “community” effects how individuals behave–and that’s important to communications professionals like me!

One thing that struck me about this chapter in Issues in Public Relations, was its description of the virtual community as “a fairly recent creation.” I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, this is not the most recent guide to communications studies, however, it does show how rapidly things change in this business. Rather than focus on past instances of community relations, I’m going to look at the not-so-recent development of the virtual community.

Facebook is a community. Twitter, also a community. LinkedIn, Pintrest, Tumblr, blogger–need I say more? And within each of these major online communities, are millions of even more targeted segments. Virtual communities are an advertisers dream come true because they bring specific demographics together and make them accessible.

The best brands don’t just tap into existing communities, they create their own. In doing so, they control what and how messages are delivered to community members. I saw this concept in action at one of my past internships with a mid-sized marketing firm. For legal reasons, I’ll just call the firm MKT.

MKT created a Brand Ambassador program on behalf of a client to establish a virtual community. The MKT team updated a blog and Facebook page daily to maintain and strengthen the community. The posts ranged from random comments about the brand, to poll questions, videos, and even exclusive competitions/challenges. Unlike many other brands, MKT remains transparent throughout their communications. In a meeting, an MKT team member talked about how all the Ambassador’s knew him and even called when they had questions.

The MKT Brand Ambassador Program is the perfect example of how to utilize communities in Public Relations practices. The community gives its members positive feelings toward the brand, and as a result, the ambassadors spread the love.

Yet, I ponder…

Where should a brand draw the line of intimacy between the customer and the organization? And what are the ethical implications of Brand and Ambassadors? What can brands do to prevent overstepping their boundaries?


   Just kidding. Of course there are. Brands have a right to mediate their messages and virtual communities–or any communities really–are fair game. With that said, brands should be careful not to overstay their welcome or else they may not be invited to the next family reunion.




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What’s in it for Me?!!

"I'm a member of blah blah"

Membership relations are highly specialized, but overwhelmingly common, bonds that need constant care and attention.

What’s that you ask? How can something be “highly specialized,” yet “overwhelmingly common?” Well, I’ll tell you! A membership in an association entails a level of exclusivity and privilege. The thing is, there are currently over 150,000 associations in the U.S. alone!

I personally have been a proud member of numerous associations; the PRSSA, the National Honor Society, my middle school drama club, TY Beanie Baby Club, Lisa Frank Fan Club–I think you get the picture.

The Encyclopedia of Associations states “Associations serve their members in many ways, but, above all, they do for the membership that which individuals cannot do for themselves.” Basically, associations are meant to support, educate, and untie members in a way beyond their own abilities.

Our dear friends Guth and Marsh, of Issues in Public Relations, offered a number of examples where member relations were tested. They site the American Library Association as one group that rallied together to fight challenges from the outside and spread awareness. Members of the the American Library Association created the Library Bill of Rights to counteract potential censorship of reading material. Their efforts criticized book banning on a large-scale and encouraged communities to do the same.

In a more recent, similar situation, teachers from the New Jersey Education Association banned together to protest legislation. The state is trying to pass a bill that will adjust healthcare benefits and pension for public workers at the detriment of the employees. The teachers decided to maintain a sense of order, and only rallied in the morning before classes. They wore matching red shirts to signify a halt to the bill and show unity. Their protest exemplifies the purpose of an association; according to the writeup, “for the staff themselves, it was all about supporting each other and taking a stand against the legislation.”

While both of these instances show a sense of comradery, I can’t help but wonder, are the associations or the people responsible for their efforts? Do memberships really benefit the members or are they just a  figure head? This seems to me like a “chicken or egg” argument that could go on for ages…

From a PR standpoint, it’s imperative to tend to these relationships on a regular basis. Members want to feel a sense of worth and inclusion–especially if they are paying to be a part of something! The best associations have more to offer than a name and some button that says “I’m a member of blah blah.” They offer advice, newsletters, forums, and support. Both the American Library Association and the New Jersey Education Association deserve three cheers for not only relating to their publics, but giving them a voice.

So if a member asks herself, “What’s in it for me?!” associations should be prepared to with a list of reasons and rewards for membership. Associations must emphasize their worth through an array of media channels, but more importantly, by using existing members as spokespeople.


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