COMMUNICATIONS AMERICAN RENTAL ASSOCIATION

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1 AMERICAN RENTAL ASSOCIATION COMMUNICATIONS Marketing, meeting notices, and other forms of internal (among your board/members) and external (public) communications are covered here. ARA assistance is discussed (p. 2).

2 INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS Regular communication with your board of directors, committees and members is very important. Use these action strategies to affect positive change with your internal communications. 1. Prepare and distribute a communications piece such as a newsletter routinely. Be sure it includes your key messages, including call to action. 2. Review ARA s Web site and identify pages that are important to share with members. 3. When drafting information, make sure text is written from the members perspective. 4. Pay attention to the way in which the information is formatted to ensure the piece catches the attention of a busy person and encourages him/her to read it. 5. Create a banner with your association s purpose or mission statement. Post it at every event to create a community environment. 6. Ask members annually to define the challenges they anticipate facing in the coming year. This will help in planning effective education programs and newsletter articles. 7. Repeating information is as important in your association as in your business. Try repeating the same information in different formats to capture your members attention. What might not catch one member s eye will catch another s. 8. Create and maintain a social media page, such as Facebook. Be sure to post there often to show activity and create a community of followers Remember to utilize the ARA State, Local and Provincial Programs team to assist you in your member communications such as meetings, social events, member updates, theft alerts, etc. If you would like assistance in developing, preparing and/or sending your meeting notices, or other member communications, simply contact the ARA State, Local and Provincial Programs team. In the Forms section, complete the SLP Meeting Notice Request Form 1

3 ARA ASSISTANCE The ARA State, Local and Provincial Programs team can assist your association with most of your member communications. Depending on the request, ARA asks for at least one week s minimum notice to complete the service. ARA can assist your association with the following tasks including: Member communications such as meetings, social events, member newsletters, etc. Your association supplies the pertinent information to include in the communication and ARA staff will design the notice, flier, or registration form and send it out to your targeted audience either by , fax, or direct mail. A nominal fee is charged to your association to cover expenses for items such as postage, paper, envelopes, faxing, etc. If you choose to have ARA market your event, please note that ARA follows a initiative through which the developed marketing notices of your event are distributed a minimum of three times: 4 weeks out, 2 weeks out, and 1 week out. Please complete the SLP Meeting Notice Request Form in the Form section. Further details on ARA services and administrative fees are available on the Menu of Services Administrative and Program Fees in the Forms section. Materials to support your meetings such as name badges, certificates, award plaques, and/or ARA-related material to distribute on site at a meeting. A nominal fee is charged to your association to cover expenses for items such as paper, badge holders, plaques, shipping, etc. Make your members aware of upcoming meetings or events by submitting the details to the State, Local and Provincial Programs administrative assistant at , ext. 226, to post on the ARA Web site, and ARA s weekly e-newsletter, RentalPulse. ARA is offering to host your association Web site for free. Your association is responsible for supplying and entering in the information for the site. To learn more about this service, complete the Web Site Development form in the Forms section. Each year, the State, Local and Provincial Programs department will provide your board with a membership list and electronic map displaying the locations of general members. You can use these tools in gauging the size of your membership, seeing potential for growth, and planning communication/marketing efforts. 2

4 MEETING AND EVENT NOTICES When promoting your activities and events, use these tips to help prepare your notice. 1. Use the association name, logo or other recognizable graphic. The name, logo or graphic helps members recognize who the promotion is coming from and catch members attention, as well as draw in those who are not as familiar with the association. 2. Develop an interesting title. This is another strategy to help catch the attention of the busy member. 3. Select clipart or graphic relevant to the topic or event. The clipart or graphic is another strategy to catch members attention as fliers with them tend to be more appealing and attention-grabbing. 4. Define special presenter. List the presenter s professional background to demonstrate that person s legitimacy and proficiency in presenting the information. The same holds true if the presenter(s) are providing entertainment. 5. State what members will gain by attending. This is essential if you re trying to get members to understand the value of attending and get them to make a decision to dedicate time to attend. Communicate what they will gain from attending the meeting, i.e. knowledge on running their store more profitably, sharing ideas, etc. 6. State date and time. It is important to tell when the event will be held and the amount of time to anticipate. Be sure the program ends when you promise. 7. State the location of the event and general directions. It is important for new members who are not as familiar with the general location of the meeting to have directions. 8. State contact person, number and address. You ll want to provide a connection for a member who might have questions and is not as yet convinced of the value of attending. 9. Reserve space for people to R.S.V.P. by a certain date. 3

5 Be sure to provide a space to R.S.V.P. to the association. You can then follow up with members with a confirmation letter to remind them of their commitment. Also, don t forget to add in this area any registration fees and who to make out the payment to. If there is food involved, make sure they select their entrée. 10. When promoting solely by , make the subject line short, interesting and succinct and include your association s name. Members are often deluged with spam s so your association needs to literally jump out to grab their attention. 11. Make your phone messages upbeat, friendly and sincere. You want to make members feel like they are part of a community. Make your message personal and include the reasons you are attending. If you add that you hope to see that person there, a hesitant member might be swayed to attend. Meeting and Event Marketing Timeline At least six weeks before (if not earlier) determine: 1) Program Content: What will be learned and what will be the outcome? What will they take back to the business? How will it improve their businesses? These can be bullet points. 2) Program Needs: Do they need to complete anything before or bring anything with them? 3) Program Value: Why should they attend? 4) Audience: Who should attend? 5) Program Logistics: Location (address, contact, directions), time, fee, who to make checks out to, where to send payment, whether meals are included or not, contact person for questions, R.S.V.P. date to sign up/send in registration form. 6) Distribution: Determine how you want to market by direct mail, fax, or all of the above. Determine who you want to market to who is your target audience? Determine a timeline of when you want the different marketing pieces to be distributed to members. At least four weeks before meeting or event (if not earlier): 1) Send out your flier or brochure by direct mail, fax or . If you choose to have ARA market your event, please note that ARA follows a initiative through 4

6 which the developed marketing notices of your event are distributed a minimum of three times: 4 weeks out, 2 weeks out, and 1 week out. One week before R.S.V.P. date (usually two weeks before event): 1) Create a final notice to be sent by fax or . Keep ARA Informed of Your Meetings and Events ARA is best able to support your association and initiatives if you keep us informed. When you have an upcoming meeting, please make a point to contact ARA so we can add the information to the ARA website s Calendar of Events, inform your regional director and send supporting material to distribute at your meeting. Complete the Request for Meeting Dates form in the Forms section and forward to ARA. Or contact the State, Local and Provincial Programs administrative assistant, at , ext. 226, to post on the ARA Web site, and in ARA s weekly e-newsletter, RentalPulse. 5

7 PUBLIC COMMUNICATIONS If you have the opportunity to interface with the media in your area, or if you are asked to present remarks publicly, here are some tips on dealing with the public/media. The Interview Speaking with Reporters 1. Plan ahead. What is it that you want to get across? Prethink your agenda. List likely questions, anticipate and rehearse difficult questions. 2. Your attitude is important. Remember that you are a guest in the homes of the audience. Television and radio are personal media. Be friendly and conversational; use the reporter's name. 3. Deliver your key points up front. If the interview is being taped to be edited, repeat your key points several times; the editor will use your best version. 4. Keep your answers short and concise. 5. Translate and interpret for your audience. Discuss the subject from the audience's perspective. Use anecdotes. Personalize stories. Do not use jargon. If you must use complicated language to be precise, immediately explain what it means. 6. It's OK to take time to think. Pause, restate the question or address the larger issue. Relate the question back to the key points you want to make by using bridge phrases such as it's also important to remember, our primary concern, for example, etc. If you don't know an answer, admit it and agree to get back to the person asking the question. Never say no comment; it raises a red flag. If you can't comment about an issue, explain why. 7. Be alert for the reporter's techniques. Assume there is no off the record, and be mindful of what you say. In a multiple-part question, answer the question that best moves your agenda forward. Don't speculate when asked a hypothetical question; use anecdotal information here. Talk about only what you know. 8. Ambush or surprise interviews are unlikely. When they happen, it's usually because there is a controversial or urgent situation. Catch your breath, be pleasant and cooperative, and set a time limit. Ask for the reporter's name and affiliation. Keep a slow pace. YOU DON'T HAVE TO ANSWER EVERY QUESTION. Validate the interviewer's point of view, but bridge to the points you want to make the statements that support YOUR agenda. 6

8 Bridging will help you maintain control of the interview. Validate the reporter's question, responding to it if it forwards your agenda, and use connecting phrases to bridge to a point you want to make. Bridging phrases include: Your question brings up another interesting point and however, it's also important to note that and also I'd like to add that 9. Appearance Clothes: lightweight, solid colors no black or white, no loud patterns, no distracting items or jewelry. Suits are best for women as well as men. Dress for your audience, but always look professional. Posture: lean slightly forward, feet crossed at ankles or one in front of the other. Don't rock or sway. Be sure the position you choose is comfortable. Stay in a position that connotes readiness. Change positions periodically. Gestures: don't grasp chair or knees tightly. It's all right to gesture naturally, but don't fidget. Eye contact: maintain eye contact, especially during tough questions. Look at the reporter, not the camera. 7

9 HOW TO WRITE A PRESS RELEASE What is a press release? Also referred to as a news release, a press release is an announcement you send to a newspaper, TV or radio station about something that is of interest to their audience. A release is not meant to tell the whole story behind your news, but it gives the journalist an idea of what s happening in your business that readers/listeners need to know about. Some examples of typically newsworthy items are personnel changes (promotions), new product announcements, store grand openings or remodels, and charity fundraisers or communitybased projects that your business is directly involved with (Habitat for Humanity, for example). What do you include in a press release? 1. Contact Information: Put at the top. Include phone and address. Use letterhead if possible. 2. The phrase For Immediate Release (should be placed below the contact information). 3. Date (right after For Immediate Release). 4. Headline. Keep it short. Try to make it creative. 5. First paragraph list the most important information in the beginning. The first paragraph, no longer than three sentences, should include the five W s: Who, What, Where, When, Why. In creating this paragraph, try answering such questions as: What will take place (or has already taken place a promotion, for example)? Who is your announcement about? Or who will be at your event? When and where is your event? Why are you holding this event? How many people are participating? 8

10 6. Follow-up with any additional information that is pertinent. One key is to not overdo. A one to 1-1/2 page press release is usually sufficient. 7. At the end of the release, type the symbol ###, --end --, or so the reader will know there are no more pages. 8. Proofread. Hint: Ask someone else to proofread your release. 9. Make copies of the press release for your files. Creating a Mailing List for Press Releases Once you have created your press release, the next step is to get it to the appropriate news media. It takes some work initially to create a mailing list from scratch, but once you are finished, you will have a valuable tool to market your business. It may be worthwhile before you begin creating your list to check with your nearest chamber of commerce; many chambers distribute media lists free to members or charge less than $100 for the list. There also are companies such as Bacons (www.bacons.com) that provide detailed mailing lists, but those lists may be expensive. Here s what you need to do to create a mailing list: Identify the news media in your market that will reach your customers. Which newspapers do you read and which TV and radio stations do you listen to? You can look in the yellow pages under radio stations, television stations and newspapers. You also could use an online search engine. You must then contact each station and ask whom to submit your press release to. This will most likely be an editor. Make sure you get complete information: name, title, phone number, address and fax. Ask how that editor would like to receive your press release: general delivery, or by fax? Few editors will want to receive releases by fax most prefer or general delivery. 9

11 Assemble this information into a list on your computer. You can make separate lists for each medium: radio, TV, newspapers and, if applicable, electronic newsletters. Or, if your list is short, one comprehensive list will do the trick. If you are using general delivery, you may simply want to make a master label list. For , assemble the list electronically. You should be able to use your address book to create the list. Always keep a master list. Keep your list updated. Call every four months. Newsrooms sometimes change personnel regularly. Resources and References Center for Excellence in Association Leadership (2004). San Francisco, California. 10

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