By Ron Ross
Associations usually rank advocacy as the first, second or third most important service they provide members. With a provincial election in just a few weeks, many associations are now turning their attention to how they interact with political parties to determine the impact on members depending on the outcome of the election.
Traditionally, associations and large stakeholder groups would request a meeting with key officials in the political campaigns to discuss what they consider important in the pending election. Some would send letters and questionnaires to the different parties to find out from the politicians what their stand is on issues important to the members. The association would then communicate the responses as a value-added service to their members.
During the last few election cycles, some political campaigns have refused to answer questionnaires in any serious manner, simply reply with a form letter or send back their campaign platform.
New Tools of Engagement
In this era of instant, dynamic content there must be better tools – and there are.
Today, there are multi-medium tools that allow you to simultaneously tap into social media and video streaming through tablets, PCs, smart and traditional phones. Fortunately, there are easy-to-use platforms such as virtual town halls, that allow you to proactively reach your audience. A virtual town hall allows you to invite audience members to participate live, where they can interact directly with politicians.
With virtual town halls, you can give your members the option of streaming the event via your website and/or social media platforms or participating on the phone. These options allow people to participate in real time, ask questions and provide feedback in polls during the event, all on the device of their preference.
Reach People on Multiple Platforms
Imagine your president or chairperson hosting party leaders or political representatives on live video/audio/web/phone events where members can ask directly what the political party would do for the industry should they get elected!
It’s okay if they miss the event because you can store the event on your website or can send clips to your members to get them up to speed.
Not familiar with virtual town halls? They were originally developed for politicians to reach out to their constituencies. They are used to communicate with any large audience in a highly efficient manner.
How a Virtual Town Hall Works
A typical event would start by an association promoting the event through social media, email and on its website. The purpose is to drive members to sign up and indicate their platform of choice. A few days before the event, members receive a call reminding them when the event will occur. Moments before the event begins, every member receives a call to participate by phone, plus a link to participate through a live web stream. The video is produced live with different camera angles and graphic overlays.
An association president at the event, and participating members can ask the politician pointed questions. During the virtual town hall, polling of members can happen to get their opinion of key political platform commitments. Members who missed the event can view it on the association website, allowing all members to be fully aware before they vote. This is an excellent benefit for association members!
Ron Ross is the Managing Partner at Picea Partners, a company that connects its stakeholders to the information they want and need through virtual town halls and other communication tools.