On my return flight, a red-eye, from Portland to Houston, I sat next to a woman who was feverishly playing a handheld blackjack game (circa 1986, with digitized sounds and cards that looked pixelated). I couldn’t even suggest headphones or ear buds because this gizmo wouldn’t have had a jack for them. I closed my eyes and tried to rest.
“Is that sound normal?”, she asked.
I opened my eyes and tuned into what she was asking about. I nodded. She nodded.
“Do you fly much?”, she asked as soon as I closed my eyes again.
“Several times a year.”
She confessed she had only flown twice in her 52 years and she was scared. If she hadn’t told me I never would’ve known. She didn’t look scared. She didn’t act scared. I was glad she had told me.
We spent the rest of the flight talking about the sounds she heard and about the grandson she was about to see for the first time in two years. She needed someone to reassure her and talk with to get her mind off of her fears.
Your members won’t always give you such direct insight into what they need. Sometimes they’re not sure. Sometimes they’re too busy with their own day to go into what you could be doing for them and sometimes…on the rare occasion, they don’t care enough about your organization to help you address their needs.
There are Two Things Every Member Organization or Community Manager Needs to be Doing
Listening. Whether you are part of a direct conversation or following your members on social media, listen to them. People give you answers in subtle ways (and sometimes not so subtle ones). I didn’t ask the woman on the plane if she was scared. She told me after I had my eyes (and ears) open. If you’re lucky, the conversation will be obvious but sometimes it takes a bit more digging like reading a member’s blog post.
Conversing. There’s an art to conversation but in the case of your members, they just need to feel like you have time for them and are responsive. If you’re always running around, conversation is difficult. If your answers to their questions are one-worded, they won’t feel inclined to share much.
It’s difficult to find the time to listen and talk with your members but it’s becoming increasingly important as member expectations have changed and the demands on their time continue to mount. You must find a way to do these things. If not, time won’t be a concern because you won’t have many members.
The picture was taken from Beacon Rock of the Columbia River Gorge forest, 40 minutes outside of Portland.