by Mary Jo Rossi, Media Consultant to Rains Lucia Stern, PC
These are challenging times for public employees, especially for law enforcement personnel. While being on the job as a police officer or deputy sheriff has become markedly more dangerous, our officers are also enduring cuts in pay and benefits by local governments grappling with budget challenges.
Public safety association members everywhere are angry – rightfully so. Especially when they receive that first paycheck – the one that requires them to take home less and contribute more.
How do you get the message across to your members that you and your board are working hard when their paycheck cuts might be incorrectly sending them the opposite message? This is where a good member communications program becomes important – especially when you can’t always depend on your members attending regular membership meetings.
A good communications program will keep your members up-to-date on the following:
• Contract negotiation issues, where appropriate
• General information about changes in department policy
• Decisions made by your board on behalf of your members
• Legal issues and updates on LDF cases, where appropriate
• Ongoing political activities by your association
• Events and activities sponsored or supported by your association
I have worked closely with a dozen or more associations and I can say with certainty that the Oakland Police Officers’ Association has the most thorough member communications program in Northern California. Here’s how OPOA put together this model program to keep their members updated:
First, OPOA board members collected personal emails addresses of their members – not city or county work emails which are not private. OPOA was successful in getting 80% of their members’ personal email addresses – so they could keep them informed. (Some associations instead use members only pages on their websites, but in the end, members only pages are not private and are subject to hacking.)
Under the direction of OPOA’s President Barry Donelan, the association signed up with Constant Contact (constantcontact.com) to organize the sending out of member emails. Constant Contact charges $50 or so a month to provide you with an email template and a professional method of communicating via email.
Each month, OPOA then sends the following out to its members using the official OPOA banner:
• A message from the President and Vice President
• Labor news near and far (what is happening around the country)
• Information about important meetings and events
• Specific association updates and positions on new or old regulations
• URGENT NOTICES requiring specific action
• Association political activities
The goal is this: If you keep your members updated on key actions by your board and other important issues, it will be a lot easier at contract time and after to ask your membership to step up when they have been kept in the loop. They will also better understand the hard work you and your board members are putting in because they have been regularly updated.
If your association does not have a plan to keep your members informed, consider checking out the OPOA model or develop a hybrid plan of your own. For more information about putting together a member communications program for your association, please contact Rains Lucia Stern, PC.