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Association Communications

501c Communications

Association Communications

AKCG has helped non-profit associations that represent a wide variety of industries, professions and causes to successfully enhance their reputations, raise their visibility, weather crises, rebrand and reposition themselves, and boost membership.

Communication platforms are in a perpetual state of evolution, and with over 30 years of experience in working with trade associations, professional societies and cause-driven organizations, we fully understand that effective communication is an essential ingredient needed for these organizations to turn their aspirations into tangible achievements.

What is Association Communications?

Association communications involve the skillful and systematic spread of information to move forward the goals and interests of trade associations, professional societies, and other non-profits. 

Often serving as unifying forces within industries and professions, these organizations promote cooperation, engage in lobbying endeavors, offer education, and provide certifications.

Effective association communications entail crafting messages that resonate harmoniously with members, suppliers, policymakers, the wider public, and other stakeholders. This orchestration amplifies the organization’s influence and impact across the sectors they serve. 

Unique Challenges Faced by Associations 

Associations face their own set of challenges when it comes to communicating successfully with staff, members, donors, and other stakeholders — because all of these stakeholders are invested in these organizations like no others.

The most common challenges that associations face include:

  1. The need to recognize how strongly stakeholders believe in their organizations’ missions and the vital role that they play in their lives, both personally and professionally
  2. Donors and members expect that their voices will be heard as communication programs are developed and implemented
  3. The multitude of internal and external stakeholders that non-profits must serve, and often in a much different way than organizations in the private sector
  4. Recognizing the essential role that diversity, equity and inclusion must play no matter what challenges a non-profit may face

Finding a balance between these diverse interests while maintaining a consistent message requires careful planning.

How is PR for Associations and Professional Societies Different?

Tailoring a strategy to trade associations, professional societies, and other non-profits entails a nuanced approach that acknowledges the unique ecosystem these entities inhabit.

Distinct from conventional PR campaigns, association PR juggles multifaceted goals at the same time. This includes getting members more engaged, promoting causes and advocating for change, educating the industry, and becoming a recognized thought leader in the field.

In an effective association, PR strategy, media relations, thought leadership and crisis communications synergize seamlessly.

  •   Media relations involve strategic connections with journalists and outlets to spotlight the association’s endeavors, events, and positions.
  •   Thought leadership uses the knowledge and expertise within the association’s ranks to position the organization as a respected source of industry insight, fostering credibility and influence.
  •   Crisis communications fortify the association’s capacity to deal with challenges openly, safeguarding its reputation and building trust during difficult times.

How AKCG Can Elevate Your Associations Visibility

Collectively, our staff has decades of experience working with non-profit organizations, trade associations and professional societies.

Our approach hinges on finding compelling stories that make you a respected expert and thought leader in your sector. Then, we use our robust relationships with the media to channel your associations key messages through influential outlets.

We help our clients achieve the following:

  •     Commemorate milestone anniversaries
  •     Share important information with their members’ customers and other stakeholders
  •     Change their names to reflect new missions and responsibilities
  •     Manage changes to time-honored certification programs
  •   Prepare for and address crises ranging from financial mismanagement to sudden leadership transitions

Finally, we know how to craft smart marketing and communication campaigns that deliver real results, and we pride ourselves on delivering excellent returns on the resources that non-profits are prepared to invest in communications.

Association Communications FAQ

Why is PR important for non-profits such as trade associations and professional societies?

PR is a foundational tool for trade associations, professional societies, and other non-profits, enabling them to communicate clearly with members, stakeholders, and the public. It propels their profile, beckons new and existing members, streamlines engagement, and bolsters advocacy endeavors for important causes. Lastly, PR guides these organizations in adapting to internal and external changes, crafting thought leadership, and confronting crises confidently.

How can associations ensure communication consistency across different channels?

Associations should establish clear brand guidelines and messaging frameworks. These rules and guidelines should stay the same, regardless of what platform or channel they are on, including in component branding and positioning. Spokesperson training is often essential in getting everyone on the same page inside the organization and helps keep messaging consistent and unified.

How does crisis communications differ for associations compared to businesses?

When associations respond to crises, they often have to handle worries from members, take care of their industry’s reputation, and deal with what the public thinks all at once. They need to be open about problems while also caring for what their members and the industry need. This is something unique to associations and sets them apart from regular businesses.

Case studies

Learn About Our Work

The New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police and AKCG partnered to highlight the positive, important and critical contributions that police make in the lives of NJ residents. Through a robust media relations campaign, AKCG secured media coverage throughout the State and helped position the Association’s board members as thought leaders on various topics, including police accountability and the importance of building strong police-community relationships. AKCG also developed “Leading the Way,” a social media campaign designed to highlight the efforts that NJ police chiefs and departments are doing within their local communities.

The Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association (MDA) tapped AKCG to develop a multiyear strategic plan to promote milk and dairy products — focused on typically dairy-averse populations — across multiple states. Driven by research, the plan was designed to confront misconceptions and to showcase the role of the MDA’s members, its dairy farmers, in promoting good health.

AKCG has advised the members of the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel (CSIET) on sensitive issues impacting the student exchange industry for more than a decade. Additionally, the AKCG team promoted issue and crisis preparedness through webinars, byline articles and scenario-specific road maps exclusive to CSIET’s members and specifically geared toward the needs of student-exchange organizations.