18 Sep

Perspectives from the Other Side

Valuing the Communications Plan

Club leaders know that embracing technology is of the utmost importance for private clubs. While technology can impact many aspects of club operations, it also plays an important role in communications. In short, communication is key — and while I am a firm believe that there is no such things as over-communication, there are definitely ways to improperly communicate.

Today, there are so many different forms of communication that it can be difficult to know which outlets are appropriate for which segments of your membership, how often to use them, and so on. Instead of inundating members with the wrong kinds of communication, it is important to understand the differences and know how to target your message appropriately. This is where the “Communications Plan” comes into play. Working in a “high-touch” business, private clubs must have a plan in place that outlines how best to communicate — both internally and externally.

Types of Communication

There are many different ways to communicate with members, but let’s break down each individual method and your club can decide which works best for your members.

  • Verbal communication is when a person speaks and the other person listens to understand the meaning.
  • Written communication is when someone reads to understand the meaning.
  • Nonverbal communication is the act of observing or inferring the meaning.
  • Interpersonal communication is understanding someone’s thoughts or feelings through both nonverbal and verbal communication.

At different times, certain types of communication may be more effective than others. As the manager for a private club, it is your job to decide which is most fitting for how you would like to communicate with your members.

How to Communicate

Today, Club leaders are working with multi-generational memberships and a multi-generational staff; therefore, they must understand that different generations prefer different forms of communication. During my years as a club manager, I learned that a multi-channel approach is best. Do members prefer emails? Printed newsletters? Would they rather sit down and have a roundtable discussion with you? As a manager or club leader, you must determine the most appropriate method. But all you need to do is ask! Giving members the option to choose how they receive information helps them feel involved and know their individual preferences matter.

Millennials are obviously very accustomed to using social networks, but today’s technology and “on-the-go” lifestyles stretch to other generations as well. Some clubs have begun to use apps such as ‘Clubster’ to reach their members. In my role as the General Manager of Fox Chapel Golf Club, the management team and I developed an app just for our club. The app was used to create tee times and calendar events that all tied back into our webpage. Today, some clubs have even begun using apps to order food from the pool deck, or organize committees. In general, convenience is what is most important to effectively communicate with our members. You must provide them information in a way they feel is “easy” to access. Even sharing a text message for cancelled or delayed events is a quick alternative to sending out emails in hopes that members will see it in time.

Who to Communicate With

Curating the content to fit members’ lifestyle trends is the easiest way to cater to member preferences. Members need to be aware of what’s happening at the Club, but they aren’t necessarily interested in every single event or announcement. Content should be relevant to their lifestyle and individual club activities. As I explained before, individualization is key! Just as members should be able to elect how they receive updates, it is important to allow members to elect which topics they receive information on. This will help keep them interested and focused, rather than deleting emails because they receive too many.

Of course, in order for internal and external operations to run smoothly, leadership must have a steady communication plan in place for themselves with regards to any positive or negative issues that may arise. There must also be an effective communication plan for internal staff members. Communication should appropriately trickle down from leadership to their staff with regards to how they would like their club to run.

In the past, I’ve talked about the importance being active in your local community. As the General Manager of Nakoma Golf Club, I realized how important it was to reach out to my external community by putting in place actions such as broadcasting PSAs. Your club’s Communication Plan needs to communicate with the community at large, and show that your private club is a good neighbor.

The Bottom Line

It is important to understand these different methods of communication and inform staff so they understand as well. Club leadership should sit down as a team and develop a Communications Plan together. Just as a club’s marketing and branding process should be tied into their strategic planning and represent the Club’s mission and vision, the Board and Club leadership must understand that a Communications Plan is a strategic initiative as well.

A Communications Plan that is effectively put into place can create for a positive impact on a private club’s strategic operations. Your club and your membership need an individualized plan meant to cater to their goals and preferences. No two memberships are alike, and therefore no two Communication Plans are alike. So start brainstorming today and you’ll see the impact in no time!


How has your Club created individualized communications to fit to your members’ unique needs? Email me or share in the comments below!

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