By Apryl Motley, CAE
By now, you know the drill. Are your members able to access your association's content from anywhere at any time? Hopefully, the answer is yes. Sure, it's a tall order, but it's what your members expect in the digital age.
Meeting member expectations was the key driver when the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) decided to revamp its content strategy. "ACCP has changed a lot in terms of how we present our content," says Jennifer Stawarz, the association's manager of communications. "We conducted a full communications audit a year ago and discovered some very interesting things."
For instance, the audit confirmed that members wanted to access ACCP content using mobile devices. "We know that our members are using mobile devices more and more for both personal and professional reasons," Stawarz says, "and we wanted to make sure they could access content anywhere at any time."
"Our clinicians are mobile," notes Nicki Augustyn, managing editor, CHEST, ACCP's monthly peer-reviewed journal. "They are in their workspace when they need to access our content."
With so many channels available for providing content and the expectation that it be available 24/7, how do associations decide which channels should be their focus? Stawarz acknowledges that "it's definitely a process" that develops over years as organizations determine the right mix of channels for their members.
"We've added and taken away channels based on member surveys," Stawarz says. For example, ACCP members still want to receive the association's monthly journal in print, but they also want to access it electronically. So ACCP provides both print and electronic versions (desktop, mobile, or iPad) of the publication.
"Members want our content in all different ways. Some want mobile; some only want print," Stawarz explains. "We make sure that we give members information how they want it. We can't cater to everyone, but we generally provide content in the manner that our members would like."
This level of content development and channel management requires "looking at the full suite of channels that could be available and exploring them. We're always looking at how we can repurpose or adapt content to meet the specifications of each channel," she continues.
"We've moved from a trial-and-error approach to the development of a strategy for each channel, such as establishing business practices for creating apps, for example," Augustyn notes.
However, "associations often struggle with the resources to analyze channels and take next steps," says Carrie Hartin, chief operating officer, Network Media Partners Inc. "Many are trying to get in front of content development and be less reactive."
To successfully develop their content strategies, Hartin says organizations have to find ways to work with a broader group of constituents internally: "This allows for more cooperation and gets everyone on board with your goals. If you get a broader group on the bus in terms of content development goals, you'll get there faster."
Jennifer Stawarz, Nicki Augustyn, and Carrie Hartin were co-presenters of "Mission, Media, Message: Multi-channeling Content in Association Publishing" at Association Media & Publishing's Annual Meeting in June 2012.
Apryl Motley, CAE is a freelance writer and communications consultant and a member of the Association Media & Publishing Content Creation Committee. We thank her for covering this Annual Meeting educational session for our members who were unable to attend.