Approaching potential members

Before approaching a potential member, a little preparation may help

What do I want to achieve with this conversation?

  • Sign them up?
  • Gain their commitment to an activity?
  • Raise the profile of the union?

What do I know about them?

  • What is their role?
  • How long have they worked here?
  • What objections might they have?

Is this a good time to talk?

  • Do I have time to have a complete conversation?
  • Are they busy?
  • Is it almost their lunchtime

Do I have all the information I need?

  • Membership forms?
  • Leaflets?

A model you can use: Seven stages of communication

This model may be useful to help structure your conversations. It’s for you to adapt according to the situation.

Stage 1:

Introduction - When you first approach a member/non-member, you need to give them some background information on yourself, explaining your role and what you want to talk to them about.

Suggestions - Tell them who you are – your name, your role within PCS, your job, which team you work for. Explain why you want to talk to them.


Stage 2:

Build Rapport - Before you can have a conversation with someone when they will be open and answer your questions honestly, they need to feel they can trust you and that you’re actually interested in what they have to say

Suggestions - Let a conversation develop naturally.  Ask how things are going at work, what they do, how long they’ve done it etc.  Or if you already know them, talk about tv, news, music, sport or what they did at the weekend.


Stage 3:

Identify collective issues - Your intent here is to discover if any issue(s) they may have or are concerned about effect more than them, i.e. are collective issues. Do others have the same concerns?Are they widely (across the whole department) and deeply (staff feel strongly about it) felt?

Suggestions - Ask open questions like:

  • What’s ………like?
  • How do your conditions compare to …..?
  • What would you like to be better?
  • How do you feel about that?

(Always ensure you have correctly identified the issue, by asking more questions and double-checking before moving to stage 4).


Stage 4:

Anger - Your intent here is to tap into the person’s anger or fear, about the way they are being treated by developing a sense of injustice. Get them to talk about the impact upon their lives and health etc. (perhaps in a way not done before)

Suggestions - Express empathy with the person.

“That’s terrible!!”

“How do you feel about that?”

“How does that affect your family/colleagues/friends etc?”

Give the person the sense that they are part of a widely-felt collective feeling

“We’ve heard that from lots of people.”

“I’m sure you’re not the only one…..”


Stage 5:

Hope/Educate - Here you want to give the member hope that they can achieve change as part of a collective (PCS). Give examples where the union has made improvements by organising and campaigning collectively. Use comparators and show them that it is possible to win.  

Suggestions -

“In HMRC, PCS reps deal with that by……”

“Things won’t change, if we do nothing. Ministers are susceptible to pressure”

“We can make a difference, if we all get together over this”


Stage 6:

Action - Here you may be a point to recruit them and/or organise them to create either a formal or informal meeting to discuss these issues with others. Your focus needs to be on taking this as far as they want to go: these are their issues and your part is in helping them to organise around them. What other ways can you help them to organise?

Suggestions - Forms of action:

  • Joining PCS
  • Get them to others who are in union
  • Attending a meeting
  • Signing a petition.


Stage 7:

Closure - You’ve listened, you’ve found out their issues. You’ve suggested possible next steps. Now close the conversation and agree some follow-up contact/timescales. Make sure they have your and the local reps details.


  • We’ve talked about the importance of ……. issue and people working together.
  • You’ve agreed to……..
  • I will……….
  • How about if we meet up next week to see how we have both got on?


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