The website team created a Coronavirus Support Zone in the space of just a few days. This zone consists of five separate areas:
Local Support: This has links to local organisations that will help in times of need and who, in turn, might require volunteers to help deliver services. Group Inspiration: This shares best practice amongst our own groups for keeping going but also information we gather from sharing Facebook posts.
Life as we know it: Here we share experiences and thoughts on coping with everyday life in these difficult circumstances.
Communicating without email: This encourages use of techniques such as a group forums on our website, telephone and video conferencing etc. to keep in touch with contact names for support.
Quirky humour: Loads of content on social media which most of our members will not see. So an opportunity to lift the spirits through humour.
Links to the zone are at the top of our home page along with links to Government guidelines and Third Age Trust. Anyone can see our content in the support zone by selecting this link:
The regular News Flash emailed newsletter to our members provides direct links to these zones and encourages members to contribute material. It hoped this will not only help others to feel they are not alone, but also create an understanding within the membership that the use of the website can fulfil a useful purpose in support of U3A objectives.
To date the humour zone is the most popular of the five zones so perhaps we all do need to be cheered up in these dark days.
Specific items of content are also linked and promoted by our embryonic Facebook and Twitter accounts.
The team are very mindful that not everyone has internet capability at home and these tend to be the older and probably most isolated within our membership. So, apart from encouraging group leaders to make on-going phone contact, we have also promoted a facility for members to obtain phone number contact of their friends within a group by contacting the membership secretary. She will act as a go between, ensuring both parties are happy that contact details are shared.
It is also worth mentioning that the ingenuity of groups in keeping contact should make excellent local media coverage to keep the name of U3A in the public attention and this is something we are looking to explore in the weeks ahead.By the time of our 20th anniversary, Ilkley and District U3A had only moderately changed its communications and publicity profile since 1997. When the membership crossed the 1500 threshold, and still on an upward trend, we decided to review our internal communications and administrative systems. A Trustee-led Communications and Publicity Action Group was tasked with fully utilising IT to achieve this objective. We worked with the existing website team to transform the way news and information is disseminated to the membership and created a user-friendly, revitalised website. This was linked to a fortnightly email update, to appease IT-resistant members.
All the changes we made acknowledge the need to address the expectations of our new intake of members for whom technology is a way of life.
How Ilkley U3A manages its communications
There are five separate but related subsets of the Communications Team: The Eye, a six-monthly newsletter with an electronic copy of the website; Social Media; Website Improvement team; Public Relations and News Flash, an electronic news bulletin that goes out twice a month.
The purpose is to help members get more from U3A, increase public awareness of U3A and improve membership participation in U3A.
A glossy, full colour, A4 size publication with a print run of 1500 copies. Appearing in May and November each year, recent issues have grown from four pages to eight. Content includes features, stories and pictures of interest both to our existing membership and to the wider public. We distribute this to our members and public venues throughout the district. Some of the stories have additional multimedia content provided on our website. The masthead of the EYE contains a QR code which if scanned on a smart phone or tablet will direct you to the online version. Check it out here.
The current issue of the EYE asked members to submit a photograph depicting a Yorkshire Landscape. These are now on our website, and members can vote on their favourite. View the entries here.
This is a newsletter sent via email every couple of weeks to c. 1,500 of our 1,800 members. The rest either opt out of the publication, have a joint email address or perhaps have no internet capability. News Flash often redirects readers to items on the website, keeping members engaged in all our platforms. Read the latest News Flash.
We are increasingly active in raising awareness of U3A in our local community. This is mainly by providing copy and photographs to our local paper. We’ve also done open days at retirement home complexes and talks to a large local employer as part of their programme of preparing staff for retirement. We have also printed flyers for distribution via local surgeries, libraries and appropriate social hubs.
Website Improvement Team
We realised that in order to be a successful vehicle for communication, our Website needed to be much more dynamic with constantly changing content. So the home page changes regularly with U3A news stories, group of the month feature, and a section to get the brain cells working. A recent change has been to make the joining process more intuitive. Video is held on YouTube with links from the website. We link to the website via News Flash and group pages are kept updated with recent visits and presentations. It is recognised that for the next generation of members, a dynamic and relevant website is one way in which an organisation is judged.
A recent addition to our group has taken this modernisation further by reviving our dormant Facebook and Twitter platforms. These have achieved early success, attracting interest from far and wide. In our latest venture, strong links are promoted between a Facebook page and Twitter feed, the website and News Flash, often cross referencing content. Our Social Media presence has connected us to those who would not otherwise have been in touch: we have had an invitation to a celebration of life from the daughter of a late member who did not know how else to make contact and we have also been referenced by organisations hosting visits by our various interest groups, all helping to build awareness.