Creating Messaging for Your Association with Video

Michael Hoffman
June 10, 2021

Why should someone join your trade association? Why should a member spend money on an event? Why is an investment in your organization a smart move in a tough economy?

It’s crucial for association marketing teams to answer these questions with clarity and passion. But you don’t have to do it alone.

Video content, created by members and other trusted peers, could convince people in a way your traditional marketing programs just can’t.

Trade association marketing campaigns for 2021 should focus on mission statements. In this guide, we’ll explain why your mission statement can guide an effective campaign, and we’ll explain how brand guidelines and audience research create a firm foundation for success.

Define and Refine Your Mission Statement
Every trade association has a mission statement. Few trade association marketing plans put the mission at the center. But if your statement truly defines who you are and what you do, shouldn’t it play a key role in your marketing?

Effective mission statements share three qualities:

  • Simplicity: They define who you are and what you do as quickly and clearly as possible.
  • Positivity: When your members read the statement, they feel inspired and motivated by their relationship with you.
  • Tangibility: Your goals are defined, and you can measure your progress over time.

For many companies, including plenty of trade associations, mission statements don’t mean much. Organizations know they should have them, but far too many groups face a disconnect between what their mission statements say and the way they do work every day.

Your trade association mission statement may not seem like a marketing gem. Consider the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers. The group’s mission statement holds a reminder that they represent the print ink industry. That’s likely assumed.

But the statement also suggests the group exists to provide information and assistance. That work should help their members to manage their businesses.

Suddenly, this mission statement seems like the beginning of an effective marketing campaign.

If you read yours and don’t feel similarly inspired, look for ways to inject a little pep. Consider methods that can:

  • Shorten and tighten. If your statement runs to a paragraph or longer, it’s time to edit. Your statement shouldn’t contain an entire year’s worth of work and promises. A sentence or two should do the trick.
  • Inject action. Eliminate the passive voice. Rather than saying, “The goal is to be helpful,” say, “We are helpful.”
  • Promote strength. Look for weak words like “potential” and “offer,” and replace them with strong terms like “advance” or “give.”

Read your mission statement often. Bring it to your board retreats and reflect on each word. Don’t launch your campaign until you have made sure your mission statement is up to the task.

3 Ways to Film Your Mission Statement
Marketing experts recommend incorporating mission statements into all promotional materials. If you’ve placed yours on business cards, in your corporate lobby, and in slideshows, you’re on the right track. But video can do more.

An effective marketing video can reach potential members who never walk into your building or visit you at a trade show.

Consider user-generated videos (UGC). Ask loyal members of your community to pull out their smartphones, hit record, and start talking about how wonderful you are. Give them mission statement prompts to cover in their videos, such as:

  • Personal resonance. Ask a member to read your mission statement out loud and explain why it matters. Ask them to discuss one aspect of your statement or one goal contained within it. The more detail they can give, the better.
  • Real benefit. Most mission statements for trade associations discuss helping members do their jobs better. Find someone who learned something real through your connection, and let that person share the story.
  • Culture of improvement. Someone on your board could tell the story of how your mission statement was written and how it has changed over the years.

These are just a few ideas of how your mission statement could spin into several marketing assets. Plenty more ideas exist. Get your members excited about sharing how your organization works, and you could have hundreds of compelling videos to work with.

The Role of Brand Documents
Just as a mission statement guides your work, brand guidelines define how your marketing campaigns should look and feel. If your trade association doesn’t have a document like this, it’s time to start writing.

For example, you’ve started a user-generated content campaign, and you have plenty of videos to look over. But do they all look and sound the same? Can people tell they all come from your company?

Brand documents help your amateur videographers know all about the rules before they get started so you have less cleanup to do later.

Brand documents often contain visual guidelines involving:

  • Logos. How big is your logo? What color is it? Can it be chopped into bits and printed that way?
  • Colors. What brand colors are acceptable? What colors should be avoided?
  • Fonts. What typeface defines your logo? What fonts do you use in printed content within your videos?

Your brand documents may also define your association’s voice. What sorts of words do you use? Do you allow swearing? Are you formal or informal? Do you talk directly to your audience, or do you stick with academic language?

Don’t worry about covering each and every element involved in protecting your association’s brand. Your documents are living, and they can be revised anytime something changes.

But try to write down the specifics before you launch any marketing campaign for your association. You’ll save so much time down the line if people have at least rough guidelines to follow at the beginning.

Who Should See Your Messages?
Your membership lists tell you a lot about who you are reaching right now. But you’ll need to dig deeper to understand who hasn’t heard of you yet and should.

Consider scheduling an interview with several members. Pull a diverse set, including some who have just joined your association and others who have been with you for years. If you can’t think of anyone to interview, send a customer satisfaction survey to your members, and follow up by calling respondents to ask for an interview.

Ask everyone willing to talk to you the same questions. Focus on:

  • Educational avenues. What websites do your members follow? What seminars do they attend? What magazines do they read to stay current on in your industry?
  • Social media sites. Where do they spend leisure time? Do they use one site for business and another for pleasure?
  • Shopping selections. Where do your members get supplies, they use for work?  
  • Frequently asked questions. Do they use a site like Quora or Reddit to ask questions? Is there another forum they enjoy?

Each interview helps you understand where you must share your association marketing videos. Clear winners help you distribute funds too. For example, if all of your members spend hours on Facebook, you must spend a chunk of your budget there.

Launch Your Campaign with Style
There is no free marketing for nonprofit trade associations, unfortunately. You must spend your time, your money, or both to get real results.

But user-generated content gives you the opportunity to craft compelling content on a shoestring. And your brand documents and user research ensure your success. The time you spend upfront could blossom into a campaign no one will forget.

You don’t have to spend a fortune to get the compelling video messaging you want. Put UGC to work for you.

Michael Hoffman is the CEO of Gather Voices and an expert in the use of video in marketing and digital engagement. He teaches marketing at the University of Chicago and is a long-time consultant to business leaders on constituent engagement strategies. In 2017, Hoffman founded Gather Voices to revolutionize how organizations create and use video. Gather Voices’ Video Relationship Management (VRM) software solution enables associations to leverage the power of video to achieve revenue-based outcomes, like new member acquisition, membership renewal, and event attendance.