Stay Calm and Communicate

Communication strategies for dealing with emerging issues

Associations are trusted advisers for their members and their members’ constituencies, customers and clients. In times of crisis and when people need information, they look to associations for guidance. Your association is the public face of your industry or sector, and it is important how you respond to crises and general circumstances.

Remember, public relations is usually associated with media relations but it isn’t limited to what goes out to the media. It is what goes out into the public through your association channels, the media, your officers, your board and your members. It is important to get in front of the wave and take charge of what gets out into the public domain.


  • Identify your key association decision-makers. It could be your president is authorized to make decisions on behalf of your board, or your executive committee. Or if your culture dictates, you may need to involve your entire board.
  • Craft your messaging. Seek approval from your key decision makers.
  • Get everyone on the same page. All decision makers need to be on board with your messaging. This is not the time for a board member to go rogue.
  • Identify your constituencies. It is important to know who you are directing your messaging to. Identify your key constituencies or audiences and how to best reach them.
  • Create protocols. You need to decide protocols to follow to get your messaging out and to be able to respond to questions from members, the public, and the media.


  • Simple and straightforward. Keep messaging simple and straightforward. No flowery wording, jargon.
  • Consistency. Be sure your messaging is consistent. When you and your board agree on what you want to say and how you want to say it, write it in stone.
  • Remember your association’s mission. Keep your association’s mission front and center. Rely on your mission statement for context and use it to define your association and what it stands for.
  • Your association members. Keep your association members’ interests in mind.
  • Accuracy. Be accurate. If you are delivering facts and figures, make sure they are correct and can be verified by independent fact-checking.
  • Honesty. Be honest. If you get a question you can’t answer, don’t make wild guesses. If someone asks you a question you can’t answer, just say you’ll have to get the answer and get back to them.


  • Effective protocols. Develop protocols for dealing with different constituencies or audiences:
    • Association members
    • Association members customers
    • General public
    • Media
  • Spokesperson. Appoint a credible spokesperson to be the face of the association. Either you as executive director, or your president. Or your general counsel. Someone authorized to speak on behalf of the association. And have a back-up.


  • Platforms. Identify your platforms for getting your message out
    • Website
    • Social Media
    • Newsletter
    • E-blast
    • Website
    • Other
  • Your members. Be available and prepared to help any members deliver your messaging to their clients or customers if necessary
  • Monitoring and tracking. Monitor your messaging. If you have a way of tracking your communications, it is a good idea to do so in case you need to tweak it along the way and monitor your overall effectiveness.

Questions?    Contact Teri Saylor


                        919-787-5181 Ext. 1201