I recently met personally with a selection of Virginia and Washington DC Association professionals to discuss Web VS Print for marketing and member communications. One of the questions I was seeking to answer was how much they are relying on their website and email for communication and marketing and how much they are relying on traditional print media such as magazines, brochures, trade show materials, etc. The most important pearl of wisdom that came from all of the information is how important it is to survey your members. Overall the results of member feedback gave the associations the knowledge that while they can, perhaps, reduce the amount they are printing, large numbers of their members still want printed material. Some of this information came to them as a surprise.

While many members the associations thought to be web-positive, surveys found that at the end of the day many of these computer-savvy professionals simply did not want to look at their computer to get information when they had been on their computers all day. Others, due to alternative factors, were not in fact as computer savvy as hoped.

While it is unquestionably more cost-effective for the association to provide their communications electronically, the goal of the association should be to provide desirable value to it’s members – thereby maintaining member renewal. In economic times such as these, associations need to really prove to their members that they are listening to what the membership needs all year round, and not just at renewal time.

Also important when preparing information for web posting, is that just because you are creating a PDF and not a printed piece, it still needs to have a well thought-out design, be visually attractive and have a professional appearance that maintains the brand and image of the association. Also, don’t give into temptation to over inform – just because your aren’t paying to put ink on paper, that does not lengthen your viewer’s attention span. A poorly presented electronic file will be sure to discourage your members.

Our summary: When deciding to cut back on your printing budget make sure your members support the decision and when creating materials for web download and email, make sure to maintain the professionalism and quality of presentation that represents the image of your association.

Thank you to all of the association professionals that gave me 20 minutes of their day to meet with me in person to assist me in my research!

Kris Brinker

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