Tim Ebner is communications director and press secretary at the American Forest & Paper Association in Washington, DC. He is a member of ASAE’s Communication Professionals Advisory Council and a former Associations Now senior editor.
Associations are experimenting with livestreaming to boost advocacy and fundraising and extend events to both members and wider audiences.
In January, the Internet Association wanted to test a new way to engage both members and nonmembers in a way that felt “native to the internet.” To do so, IA staff experimented with a new digital platform designed to boost political fundraising efforts and user engagement in real time.
What they learned is that real-time engagement can have a big impact. Their first piloted event raised more than $13,000 from viewers who tuned in to an hour-long conversation with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA).
“This event was a success mainly because participants felt fully engaged in the livestream,” says Noah Theran, vice president of public affairs and communications for IA. “Viewers received live updates on how much money was raised, and we wanted folks to ask questions and feel like they were part of the conversation.”
Associations are experimenting with livestreaming—using platforms like Facebook Live—for a variety of reasons, from boosting advocacy and fundraising to extending meetings and events to wider audiences. Theran suggests three simple rules for successfully engaging your members in a livestream:
1. Be open. Don’t be afraid to break down barriers, Theran says. IA launched its platform to change the way people think about fundraising and interactions with policymakers.
2. Be transparent. Openness and ease of use were critical to IA’s success. A digital experience should be transparent and feel authentic to the organization’s mission and purpose.
3. Be interactive. Real-time engagement requires listening to your audience. Use tools or platforms that allow members to participate as the event is happening.
[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Real-time Engagement."]