The Member Communication Plan

Phil Kenkel

Bill Fitzwater Cooperative Chair

Oklahoma State University

Most cooperatives set ambitious goals during their strategic planning sessions.  Not surprisingly, not all goals are achieved.  Improving member communications seems to routinely appear on the list of goals for the coming year.  However, there often is little progress year after year.  One explanation for the lack of progress in improving member communications is that few cooperatives have a formal communication plan.

A communication plan starts with identifying what messages the cooperative wants to convey.  Those messages need to be more specific than just “we are a great cooperative”.  Each board must consider the particular value package they want to convey.  In general it is a combination of the message that the cooperative exists to improve the producer’s profitability and that the members own and control the business.  Cooperative leaders need to develop several specific messages that resonate. The second step in the communication plan is identifying the target audience.  That audience is obviously cooperative members.  However most cooperatives have diverse membership and the board should identify key target audience and tailor communications to each audience.

The third step in the communication plan to identify the strategies.  For example, the strategy may be to focus on the website as the primary communication vehicle and use other channels to push the audience to the website.  Another, equally valid strategy might be to focus on face to face communication.  There may be different strategies for different core audiences.  The final part of the plan is the specific tactics for each strategy.  Example tactics might include updating at least 5% of the website content on a daily basis, having direct contacts with a specified percentage of the membership or holding a given number of small group meetings per year.

Just as the fixed asset budget allows the board and management to think through infrastructure decisions, the communication plan allows the cooperative leader to set specific goals for member communication and track the progress.  If improving member communication is a reoccurring theme on your improvement list, consider developing a formal communication plan.