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6 Keys to Communicating with a Multi-Generational Membership

Editor's Note: Today's blog post is brought to you by RCS Strategic Alliance Partner and founder of the Howland Marketing Group, Ashley Howland. DON'T MISS her free RCSU webinar happening next week, "Communicating with a Multi-Generational Membership". REGISTER HERE. We'll see you there!

“The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love to chatter in place of exercise.” - Socrates, 5th Century BC

Yes, you read that right--Socrates, 5th Century BC. Yet, this quote sounds like it could have been spoken today about “the Millenials” by one of the older generations. Nothing ever really changes, does it?

The truth is, every generation shares more in common with their predecessors than they think they do. In the hospitality and private club world, impeccable guest service is our specialty but most of us don't realize that same level of service also applies to our member communications.

If you’ve attended a hospitality conference within the last year or two, “Millennials” has certainly been the buzzword du jour. This generation more than any other seems to have perplexed the traditional private club model (read our blog post on this topic). However, Millennials may be the future of your club, but at present they are only one of the generational groups represented in your membership.

As we all know, the country club atmosphere is made up of a cross section of different generations, family types, and interests. Like any industry, we have to figure out the best way to not only serve this multi-generational landscape but to communicate with ALL of them simultaneously. Oftentimes, this leads to a wild west-type scenario where it’s every member for himself/herself to find out the latest information from their club. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Before we delve into the tips section of this blog post, it’s important to know what defines each generation and which ones are represented in our clubs today. Technically speaking, generations are a group of people born around the same time. Their worldview is shaped by the times in which they were raised and also influences their opinions, beliefs, values and most importantly--their expectations.

Almost all generations are represented in private clubs whether they are members themselves or the children and grandchildren of members. They include:

Click on the links to read more about the characteristics of each generation.

As you are probably aware, what works for one group may not work for another. It can seem overwhelming to communicate with these different groups of people because not only are they different from each other in their expectations and beliefs, but they like to be communicated with in completely different formats. Check out this chart from Pew Internet Research:

To help make sense of all this, I’ve compiled a few tips. You can hear these tips in much more detail during my RCS webinar on April 20: Communicating with a Multi-generational Membership.

1. Don’t assume. Ask your members how they like to receive information.

Before you revamp your member communications strategy, start by going straight to the source. You can create an email survey very easily using tools like Survey Monkey to survey your members and find out if they like the current communications tools or if they prefer something different. Try emailing the survey to your membership base and then mailing a paper version to your older membership base or offering it at the club and reminding members to take it when they have time. But make sure the survey is relatively short and only takes a few minutes to complete. A lengthy survey may overwhelm your members and hurt your response rate.

2. Test, test and test some more.

Once you determine the results of your survey, pick a few of the most popular communication tactics and start with those--or continue with your current methods if your members are responding well to them. Test them against each other and see which ones perform the best. A good communications strategy always includes testing and reiterating. Communications is a constantly evolving platform and there will always be new ways to reach people--look no further than the current social media landscape (more on that later). Just as you would rework your menu selections and update the decor in your dining room, you should do the same for your communications strategy. Don’t leave this important part of your member satisfaction behind!

3. Communications is not one-size-fits-all.

Today’s club member is not like the “Cleavers” as it once might have been. RCS founder and president, Whitney Reid, wrote a great blog post on this topic. But I digress…

An evolving membership means evolving communications platforms. For those of you who remember when televisions first came on the scene, I’m sure your parents or grandparents may have been a little leery at first. Or when the Internet came about in the 90’s. Some thought these new technologies were just fads while others embraced them and low and behold they changed the world. I give you these examples to illustrate a point--there will always be different mediums in which we communicate and they are always changing and sometimes faster than we would like.

Right now, social media is king (we'll explore these tools in depth in my webinar), but that doesn’t mean that print materials, websites, emails and good old fashioned “snail mail” doesn’t still have a place. In fact, they all play a huge role in your member communications. The tricky part is figuring out how to allocate the resources to communicate on all of these platforms! I am a firm believer that private clubs should have a dedicated member relations/communications position. Some do and some don’t, but the fact remains that communicating with your members is just as important as maintaining the atmosphere of the club and the condition of the golf course.

4. Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself.

Not only do you have to make sure you’re using different platforms to communicate with your members, but you have to over-communicate in some cases to get their attention. Case in point, I’m a member of a private club myself that my family and I are extremely fond of. Our club has amazing programming and events but sometimes we don’t find out about them until after they happen. There are lots of reasons for this, but as a Millennial, I’ll admit that it’s hard to get my full attention. I’m a mother of two active boys and I work full-time so sometimes it takes a lot of repetition--on multiple channels--to get a message in front of me. Busy families who are doing their best to keep it all together are some of the hardest to reach because we have so many messages coming at us on a daily basis.

Did you know that experts estimate the average person is exposed to around 4,000 to 10,000 advertising messages on a daily basis? That’s a lot and it’s easy to see why. For example, I have a few different email addresses for business and personal needs. I have a Facebook account, an Instagram account, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and now Snapchat. I also have to keep up with my text messages, kids' schedules and pay attention to the mail that comes to our house. Just typing all of this makes me exhausted, but I'm sure you see my point. We all live in a world of information overload so to get our attention, it really has to stand out! I say all of this to show you that sending one email or posting something once on your website or newsletter may not be enough. In today's world of social media, you have to reach people through multiple platforms, multiple times.

5. Try out a private club app or SMS technology.

Apps are the new frontier in private club member communications. You've likely heard of or have one of these apps and if not, you can check some of them out here. The beauty of an app is that it can house--in real time--all of your club's calendars, scheduling functions, photos and more in one place on the communication device your members use the most--their smart phones. You can even use the app's push notification functions to send pop-up messages or texts to a member's phone alerting them of an event or reminding them of an action they need to take. Since most of our communication these days is on a smart phone, your club's communications strategy should have a mobile-first mentality. However, for members of the older generation, paper newsletters, fliers, mailed invitations and even email still work well. They may not be as quick to adopt an app or opt in for text messages.

These are just a few tips to keep in mind when communicating to your multi-generational membership. Please join me on April 20 to go even deeper into the world of club communications. Hopefully, you've seen our ads, emails, and blog posts...we're trying to practice what we preach. ;)


Ashley Howland, founder and president of the Howland Marketing Group, is a trusted Strategic Alliance Partner to the RCS Hospitality Group. Ashley is a marketing, branding, and social media expert and can work with RCS to assist any club in drafting a watertight social media and communications strategy. Find out more about how RCS can help at

#millennial #technology #clubmanagement #Millennial #miscellaneous #deliveringexperiences #communication #socialmedia #webinar

Whitney Reid Pennell
 Founder & President

Whitney Reid Pennell is the founder and president of the award-winning RCS Hospitality Group (formerly Reid Consulting Services). She is a published author and widely praised seminar leader, with over 20 years of club operations management and consulting experience. 

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