5 Best Practice for Communicating with Members During COVID-19

Companies and employees are adapting to a new normal. If you’re like me, circumstances look completely different than just a few weeks ago. My husband and I work simultaneously as full-time professionals, teachers, and parents. Our private offices have been replaced by the dining room table. For important calls, we hide in our closet or car. For times that require extra focus, we stay up extra late and wake up extra early. We write emails with kids on our laps. We take turns taking two very active young boys to the yard for playtime so the other person can get things done. It is the new normal, and it is terrifying at times, but we’re in it together! My teammates and their families are going through the same issues, and our customers are feeling the financial impact of business uncertainties.

Amidst all of this, some clients are doing a great job communicating with their members and employees with respect to COVID-19 and its impact on all of them. This is a time for leaders to engage in messages that are heartfelt, vulnerable, timely, factual, decisive, and action-oriented. I think it is time for us to all ‘lean in’ to the normal and share this experience.

COVID-19 has obviously been a big crisis for many clubs, but it’s hardly the first or the last of many crises that impact clubs. In this situation, speed is of the essence. Clubs need to communicate with the Members very swiftly or else the narrative gets written for them. Also, with the ubiquitous presence of social media in our personal and business lives, communication must be designed across multiple channels. 1. Create personalized email messages As soon as possible, send emails from known leaders within your company (could be your General Manager, Director of Golf, Director of Communication, etc.) to the Members informing them of immediate steps your club is taking to mitigate the impact of the crisis. 2. Engage with Members through email and your app Complement your email outreach with timely messages especially to current members and prospects. Members and prospects are more likely to engage through these channels now than ever. One of my clients is engaging in video messaging moving forward and they are “leaning in” to the new normal. The Chef is making a video from his home that will give parents ideas for creative and healthy snack ideas, the Director of Golf is shooting swing tips from his backyard, and the General Manager is giving his monthly club update from his backyard. This type of vulnerable and heartfelt messaging is critical during this time. 3. Coordinate email and in-app communications without spamming members While attempting to reach your members across email and in-app, it’s also important to be respectful of how often you reach out to them. In many clubs, the email outreach could be run by the Director of Marketing or leadership team. It’s important to make sure that these forms of outreach are coordinated, and members don’t feel spammed. We suggest coordination of all your emails and video messaging for the week and create one streamlined email communication that benefits all members. Stay coordinated! 4. (Advanced) Reach Members through other media (e.g., SMS) In some crisis situations, you might choose to interact with your members in more intrusive channels (like SMS) because the crisis requires their immediate attention. It is important to avoid amplifying chaos in an already hectic environment. Instead of multiple department heads blasting SMS texts with information, a united front should be established. Members should only receive one message about each relevant piece of information. 5. Create new forums to help your employee and members become more effective Outside of these channels, clubs have started acting swiftly to set up member and employee resources. These resources allow members to purchase groceries at the clubhouse or provide in-app or online fitness classes. Department heads are posting blog articles that share deep insights on their experiences during COVID-19 which enable other employees and members (and even broader industry groups) to stay engaged and have a sense of connection to something that feels familiar. Country Clubs and Golf Clubs setting these types of forums are widely designated for their industry leadership. I am personally hosting a virtual breakfast with a group of club professionals to learn from each other as a community so we can all improve. This type of content collaboration should be the new normal as more and more clubs and companies are realizing we're all in this together.