Notwithstanding these weekly three hundred and fifty words, the Chamber of Commerce struggles like all small businesses to send out its message in the manner in which our audience wants to hear it.    

Newspapers, social media, printed newsletters, email, podcasts, telephone, in-person announcements – there are more options but it is harder than ever.  The many and varied communication channels open to us have made it easier to send information but ironically less likely that we actually are reaching our target audiences.  Focused strategy is key. 

Complicating the challenge is a very diverse audience with different preferences on how and what they want to know.  News? Events? Deals and specials? Community information?  How-to’s and tips? Advocacy?

Small businesses without dedicated marketing and communications staff are particularly challenged.  It is tempting to try everything and share everything but impossible to do it all.  Those who say it is easy to be effective on social media if you “just” post a little each day are probably the same people who manage to get up daily to work out at the crack of dawn.  Not so easy.  Like anything effective, it requires dedicated time, discipline and resources.

“When” you sit down to do the communications and marketing is only one piece of the puzzle.  Before you sit down, you had best understand who your audience is and how your audience wants to receive information.  For example, the Chamber of Commerce does not have to communicate through District 97’s digital backpack, which reaches the families of thousands of elementary school students.  Not our market, not our vehicle.

We are pleased to be in the newspaper.  We probably need to ramp up our LinkedIn presence as that is oriented towards professionals.  Facebook is less clear – people are spending lots of time on that site.  We use our email list – but how effectively, we don’t know.  What works best for business people?

Time to find out.  We encourage all business people in the community to take our survey, even if you aren’t a Chamber member.  Help us determine the best way to get the right information to you.  You can take our survey at

Join the discussion on social media!

Cathy Yen

Cathy Yen is the Executive Director of the Oak Park River Forest Chamber of Commerce.  She has lived in Oak Park for 21 years and done business locally, first as a retailer and then as a small business...