It can be difficult to balance an association’s desire to make a national impact and its need to recognize and celebrate the efforts of its grassroots membership. We walk this delicate balance with many of our clients—including the National Federation of Independent Business and the Daughters of the American Revolution—and we’re challenged to find creative ways to present local chapter content so that it’s still compelling to a national audience.
In the case of NFIB, that means sending members a tailored MyBusiness magazine: Tucked inside a member’s magazine is a page or more devoted to that individual’s state-focused news. In the case of DAR, we publish the Daughters newsletter, a separate piece devoted to the events of its local chapters and committees, and package it with American Spirit, a national magazine.
Occasionally a local chapter’s content has a broader appeal and finds its way into the pages of MyBusiness and American Spirit. But how do you know when to integrate the two? We asked Courtney Peter, DAR publications coordinator and our go-to contact for all things Daughters-related, for her advice on keeping the local/national communication seamless.
How can spotlighting local content benefit the overall goals of a national association?
“Introducing chapter content into a national association publication can strengthen the link between the organizational mission, which may seem large and abstract, and the grassroots level,” Courtney says. “Every association began as a small group working to publicize its message. Chapters not only serve as a reminder of those beginnings, but also as vehicles for membership recruitment and local ambassadors for the organization.”
What have you learned about merging the two?
“Association publications are often used, at least in part, as public relations devices, and chapters serve that same function in their communities. When integrating the two, be sure to remember that the chapter content is intended to support the purpose of the publication. Look for examples that relate to the national mission while retaining a local element. Both criteria are important because focusing on one at the expense of the other could lead either to an irrelevant item with regional appeal or a tired restatement of a national initiative. But combining the two—with, for example, an article about a DAR chapter holding a Constitution Day event at a local bookstore—provides a tangible example that readers can connect with.”
What kinds of local content would you tell an association counterpart to avoid?
- “Don’t allow the publication to become a forum for chapter PR unless that is your original intent.
- “Do avoid printing items composed mainly of a roll call of attendees at a meeting or event. While chapter members may be excited about seeing their names in print, a list won’t provide dynamic content or establish a connection with a reader.
- “Do aim for a subtle integration rather than an overhaul. Hopefully you will gain a fresh editorial device that reinforces the mission of your publication. “