The Clinton Presidential Library is releasing documents detailing communication strategies considered for Hillary Rodham Clinton during her years as first lady. Among them are recommendations one might apply to association communications.
The first approach that can benefit communications within associations is the recommendation of “be careful to ‘be real,'” made by advisor Mandy Grunwald as the first lady began her quest for a U.S. Senate seat.
An association has members who specialize in a given industry and nomenclature. Distilling those messages for the consumer, the policymaker, or another audience is where associations have to “be careful to ‘be real.'” In moments of crisis, an association has to watch what it says and how it says it to ensure that it stays in control of the crisis and supports the consumer’s best interest.
For instance, when a cruise ship has a norovirus outbreak that sickens passengers, it captures media attention. The cruise ship company and its association should have information and a statement ready to reassure consumers, particularly when its industry frequently experiences such issues.
A second tactic recommended by Clinton’s advisors is to engage journalists for meetings and introductions. An editor or reporter working on a story that affects an association might have no idea whom to contact for comment. Associations must be proactive in developing media relationships.
The other reason for engaging editors is that associations must ensure media stories are fair and accurate. With an association, anything that goes out “internally” to members should be considered public domain. For this reason, it is extremely important that the internal and external messages are coherent.
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In order for the story to be accurate, association reps should contact those media outlets for introductions, meetings, and interviews to correct any misinformation, as well as to develop relationships with journalists that establish trust that information will be available in a mutually beneficial manner.
The journalist wants to have all the facts and be accurate. The association also wants to help the journalist achieve that so the public knows what is really going on.
A third and final recommendation for associations is to use moments in its history, such as an important anniversary, to tell its story. Lisa Caputo, the press secretary for Clinton, suggested the first lady take part in historical events to soften her image.
Journalists are partial to anniversaries, so they present a great opportunity for an association to talk about its mission and story. Of course, there are positive anniversaries and negative ones, so proceed accordingly.
The Clinton memos are a trove of ideas and best practices. Such creativity and case studies are a great resource for any association to apply.
Kipp Lanham is the senior account executive at Media & Communication Strategies.