Monday, September 18, 2017

Hurricanes and Asynchronous Communication

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma were on everyone's mind these last few weeks. Even if you weren't directly affected by them through mandatory evacuations, storm damage, or the tragic loss of life, the hurricanes were undoubtedly on your mind and they probably impacted the way you did your job.

My social media feeds were full of examples of associations pitching in to help storm victims or otherwise changing their marketing and communications strategy to give members in the hurricane affected areas a break from what otherwise must be an onslaught of association messages.

My association, however, didn't do any of these things. We have members in Texas and Florida (Houston and Sarasota, to be precise), but everything coming out of our office was, damn the hurricanes, full speed ahead.

I'm not bragging. In fact, I feel a little ashamed. We don't have that many members in the affected areas. A few personal reach-outs would have been easy and probably would have been well received. Hey, how are you guys doing down there? We're thinking about you. We'll lay off for a few days, but please, let us know if there is anything we can do to help.

Perhaps it is the overwhelming asynchronicity of our regular communications that is responsible. Increasingly, real-time communication with our members only happens in person at our live events. My schedule and theirs are so full of meetings and travel commitments that even phone calls have to be scheduled. Hey, there's something I need to talk to you about. What's your schedule look like for the next two weeks?

In this environment both my members and I have become used to and somewhat proficient at asynchronous communications through email. Just this past week my Board chair and I have been discussing topics for our next Board meeting, with his emails coming in at 1:42 AM as he moves from Europe to India.

In this way, the idea of suspending communications to members in hurricane affected areas seemed unnecessary. After all, I'm already not expecting an immediate response. Whether you're in the office and everything is fine, on the road on a planned business trip, or, heaven forbid, forcibly evacuated from the path of a terrible storm, getting back to me sometime in the next couple of days is totally fine.

Was I wrong?

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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