Even though the format may vary with the mode of communication: 140 characters in a tweet or many pages in a law-review style quarterly publication, communicating with your members is mostly about content. What do they want to know? What will encourage a busy lawyer to open an e-mail, or click on a link or pull out a hard-copy newsletter from her briefcase? Your members will be more likely to read your communications if you respect their time. Include the important facts–who, what, where, when, why. Limit the hyperbole. Check the hyperlinks to make sure they work before you press “send.” Limit the number of communications you send. If you are advertising an event, keep a log of how often you send out invitations in each format. That will help you keep on track with how the event is being advertised and will help you to provide a data-based answer to critics on your board who may say “I haven’t seen anything about our annual dinner.” Want some ideas about how you can enhance communications with your members using social media? Check out Social Media Resources for Bar Associations created by the ABA Division for Bar Services.
For those who are tasked with writing president’s messages for websites or newsletters, here are a few thoughts:
President’s Messages There are few people who actively look forward to writing a president’s message. For most, it is one more deadline-driven burden. Under a time crunch, it’s easy to fall into predictable patterns: writing about what an honor it is to serve and listing your goals for your presidential year in your first letter; thanking everyone and remarking how the year has flown by in your last letter. In between you might write about how you hope you will see everyone at your annual dinner or list the people who helped on the conference committee. Taking this approach gets your president’s message out of your inbox but doesn’t achieve its potential for you as a leader or for your organization. As president, you are the most visible face of your association. Your president’s message is an opportunity to connect with members on a personal level. A few thoughtful paragraphs about a subject of importance to you may make a genuine difference for a new lawyer struggling to maintain a meaningful personal life while advancing in her profession or for a jaded lawyer who has seen one too many examples of discourtesy among colleagues. Women’s bar associations are about relationships. Your president’s message sets the tone for those relationships. How do you choose a topic? Ideally, a personal experience or incident will spark a thought which you want to share with others. If nothing comes to mind, is there something topical of importance to your members—perhaps the naming of a local judge or law school dean, the kick-off of a new program or public service project which you can personalize and make relevant to others? Remember, you aren’t writing as a reporter, and you don’t want your letter to be time-bound. In this day of 24/7 news channels and internet streaming feeds, no women’s bar association can compete on timely reporting of facts and opinions. But only you can offer your own unique perspective and reflection on issues of concern. If you’re still at a loss for a topic, think about how to personalize the importance of one of your existing programs or services. Did you meet a mentor at one of your own early women’s bar association lunches? Have you recently met a new admittee who found a job through one of your group’s networking events? Were you inspired by the words of a speaker at your annual conference? Did you meet a close friend through service on a bar committee? Has your year as president given you new insights into the value of being a member of a women’s bar association? Click here for an article from Bar Leader magazine on writing a president’s column. For examples from the ABA Division for Bar Services, click here.
Below are links to president’s messages which we hope will give you ideas and inspiration. Have you written or read a president’s message that you’d like to share with other women’s bar associations? Please send it to us and give us permission to reprint it here!