The Digital Union: How to Reach Out to Your Stakeholders

Written by Michael Mand of Nxtbook Media’s European Office

Trades Unions exist for a very specific purpose; to represent their members to the best of their ability and to protect, promote and inform them through their working lives. The key to this is, of course, communication.
It is vital that Union officials are aware of their members’ concerns – be it working conditions, or a need for training and self-improvement opportunities – and equally important that they are able to effectively communicate relevant information in the opposite direction. This means that they are increasingly required to engage with the digital world.
This can take many forms: we know that around thirty percent of people now prefer to read content digitally, so materials such as newsletters or regular publications need to adapt to this. We also know that people engage with information more closely and for longer when it is contained in a native app (that is, an app which is specific to a particular platform), so tailoring content for the increasingly ubiquitous tablets and smart phones is vital. Using apps as a ‘content hub’, allowing members to quickly and easily access all of the news, useful information and campaigns a union has to offer can also hugely increase the effectiveness of an organisation’s ability to communicate with its stakeholders.
There are cost benefits as well. Going digital can save on print costs, postage, as well as providing a greener solution, something which is increasingly important to people. Engaging members more effectively also helps retain them, as they are more aware of the work you are doing, more easily able to access the assets you provide and better able to engage and communicate with your organisation.
So, what would I suggest to a trades union looking to improve their digital output?
Firstly, ensure that you know your audience; what do they want from you and how can you best provide it? If they want industry news, for instance, ensure that this is clearly available and up-to-date on your website. Keep it user friendly!
Secondly, use digital to engage. If you have a blog, or newsletter, why not package this so that it can be emailed to all members?
Thirdly, what are your key objectives? Do you perhaps produce a publication which provides much needed revenue through advertising? Offer your advertisers digital options and the benefits that this can provide – the ability to include interactive content such as video, for instance – and you can increase the effectiveness and potential income from your clients.
A fourth point: perhaps it is important for you to be aware of exactly who is engaging with your content? Digital allows you to capture data which lets you know who has read your output, which particular things they have accessed and how long they have spent on any particular article or piece of information, allowing you to gain a greater understanding of what it is your stakeholders really want and are looking for you to provide.
Finally, make sure that your content is tailored correctly to individual devices. Think of the difference in screen size between, say, an iPod and an iPad. How easy is it to read on each device? How can that reader’s experience be improved? The better the user’s experience, the more likely they are to engage with your content, the more regularly they will visit and the longer they will spend engaging. It simply ensures that your message, whatever that may be, is more effectively conveyed.
Ultimately, your everyday work is aimed at communicating with and supporting the needs of your members. Digital can help you to successfully achieve this, so take full advantage of the opportunities available.
About the author: Michael Mand has a background working with various public sector organisations and has recently relocated to Manchester, where he lives with his wife Rachel and cat Chairman Miaow.
Michael works at Nxtbook Media, where he helps trades unions and professional associations improve their digital offering to their members, via a range of responsive digital solutions.

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