Ed Gillett, Communications Manager at the BGS, highlights some key findings from the Society’s recent Member Services and Communications Review.
Since April of this year, BGS officers and staff have been busy working on a review of the Society’s member services and communications, alongside Forster Communications. More than 650 BGS members and non-members have recently responded to surveys or joined focus groups as part of this process.
Our aims with the review were twofold: firstly, we wanted to study the member services offered by the Society and the ways in which we communicate our work; then, to identify how we can improve those areas in the future, and make the Society even better. In July, a final report was presented to BGS trustees by Forster, offering into our current work and a set of recommendations for the future.
Forster Communications’ research revealed some fascinating information about how members view the Society’s services, and how they would like these to develop in the future.
What emerged most clearly was that people are drawn to join and stay in the BGS by their desire to work with others to improve the healthcare of older people. Ninety-five per cent of members said that this was key to their membership of the Society: personal and professional benefits of membership, important though they are, were dwarfed by that unifying theme. This gives a really clear picture of the Society’s core focus, and underlines our unique identity as an organisation.
These findings were reinforced by members’ views on which BGS services they value the most. Access to CPD was a key theme here: as busy professionals, members are motivated by information that will improve clinical practice, and are interested in ways to achieve CPD requirements in the most efficient and cost-effective way.
BGS membership subscription rates were compared to those of other medical societies, and found to be competitively priced. Most members recognised this and felt that BGS membership offered good value for money, although there are still ways we can improve our services to members.
Non-members were also surveyed, and asked about potential barriers to joining the BGS fold: it turned out that non-geriatrician doctors, nurses and AHPs often knew little about the Society, or did not know they were welcome to join us. Only 44 per cent of non-geriatrician doctors had heard of the BGS.
The question of increased membership diversity was relatively clear-cut amongst current members. Ninety-three per cent of members said that we should work closely with nurses, GPs and allied healthcare professionals; Eighty-five per cent of members said that these professions should be welcomed into membership of the Society.
Looking at communications, there were both encouraging insights and areas identified for improvement. The BGS website contains useful resources, but the site needs a comprehensive design overhaul: this is likely to be one of the key developments following the review.
There has been a long-running discussion about the word “geriatrics”, and whether it is a help or a hindrance to the Society or to the specialty as a whole. When asked about this, members said that they felt overwhelmingly positive about the Society’s name, and that it reflected our heritage and legacy.
On the other hand, the BGS logo and visual style were both felt to be outdated, and failed to reflect our values and identity as a Society adequately. This was exacerbated by the confusing collection of different BGS online identities: when you add up our social media accounts (including those for various SIGs), the BGS Blog, event websites, regional websites and so on, there are 23 different “contact points” for the Society online. It was felt this embarrassment of riches risks diluting the impact and consistency of BGS’s public profile.
All of the above insights laid the foundation for the Review’s recommendations, outlining how the BGS might approach member services and communications in the future. These were numerous and detailed, varying from the ambitious and challenging to the straightforward and obvious.
Regarding member services, the key recommendations were:
- Audience prioritisation: working out who our “priority audiences” are, whether internal (members, SIGs, national and regional officers) or external (geriatrician non-members, trainees, GPs, nurses, AHPs). Ensuring that BGS membership is meeting the needs of these core groups.
- Member diversity: increasing the visibility of nurses and GPs within the Society; offering tailored membership packages to different professions; building a tailored communications programme for specialist media (e.g. Nursing Today and Pulse) to attract new members.
- Clarify the Society’s “core deliverables”: support the SIGs and Sections in sharing their expertise across the society’s membership; focus on the dual provision of research and clinical quality at bi-annual meetings.
- Special Interest Groups: set up a working group to develop guidance for SIGs (covering purpose, structure, reporting, membership, sponsorship communications & content ownership), to encourage consistent quality and engagement.
On the communications side of things, the recommendations included:
- Organisational positioning: develop and agree a simple, clear expression of the Society’s vision and beliefs. Use that clarity to differentiate ourselves from other associations and create a confident and unique BGS brand.
- Identity and tone development: develop a new visual identity and branding for the Society. This might include a new logo and colour palette; agree and share clear brand / style guidelines for BGS materials; standardise our tone of voice and copywriting style so that our various materials (from marketing brochures to Twitter feeds to the BGS newsletter) all convey the Society’s identity and outlook.
- Website and online redevelopment: Comprehensively redesign and restructure the website so that it’s easier to use, clearer, and more reflective of the Society’s work; add a members-only area with access to exclusive content; simplify access to BGS resources by investing in robust search technology. De-clutter the Society’s online presence by removing our Facebook & Pinterest pages, and by bringing the BGS Blog and other sub-sites under the same framework as the main website.
For further information about the report, please contact Colin Nee (firstname.lastname@example.org)