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Content and the Art of Doing More With Less - 6/11/2013 -

The survival of our publications hinges on providing valuable content in as many places as our audience needs it.

By Erika Pontarelli Compart

As association professionals, we’ve made an art of doing more with less. But as our audience diversifies how it prefers to take in information, we’re being called upon once more to do even more. In fact, the very survival of our publications and information resources hinges on our ability to meet the challenge of providing valuable content in as many places as our audience needs it.

To this end, cross-posting content is more important now than ever before. Giving readers an opportunity to read our content on whatever platform is important to them reinforces that they’re important to us, notes Kim Kett, director, business development, for GTxcel.

"We’re trend-hopping right now” in terms of the platforms people are using to read content, says Glenn Cook, editor in chief of the National School Boards Association’s American School Board Journal. So how do you figure out if your readers are actually reading? Most electronic editions of publications can automatically track click-throughs for you, and those data sets can inform decisions on how much print to keep and which publications can safely go digital.

Cook, for example, found that his association’s print publications had a 1.7 pass-along rate, versus just an 8 percent open rate for digital pubs. So the key takeaway is: Be sure your audience is firmly ensconced in the digital space before you shelve your print products.

Produce, Reuse, Recycle

Kett points out that many associations have about a 20:1 ratio for total association staff versus publications staff, even though publications are considered a key asset. So how can folks who are so outnumbered redouble their efforts to boost content?

One way is to call on freelancers a bit more — for instance, asking them to write one piece for print and a separate 200-to-300-word piece for use in an email newsletter or as an "online-plus” sidebar to a print story.

It’s imperative to "get the wire service mentality into an association world,” says Cook. Where the AP or Reuters would have a second- or third-day take on an ongoing story to satisfy subscribers’ needs for the latest updates, associations must be equally creative in coming up with fresh angles for their own stories.

Multimedia Library

Another way to reuse content or add value to existing content is by adding multimedia features. As more people tune in to video and other multimedia sources (according to comScore, Americans watched nearly 40 billion online videos in November 2012 alone), we would all do well to have more face-to-face video interviews and other multimedia offerings in our content library, Kett advises. "It doesn’t have to be a Steven Spielberg production,” she says. "It can have more of a grassroots feel.”

Online Archive

One major challenge to finding the ideal website content formula is that how people spend their time online is changing. More and more people are spending time on social media, and that’s reducing the amount of time they spend on other websites. Nielsen recently reported that "consumers continue to spend more time on social networks than on any other category of sites — roughly 20 percent of their total time online via personal computer and 30 percent of total time online via mobile.”

At one AM&P-sponsored roundtable discussion, a few participants noted that their sites’ traffic has dipped or that readers have come to view their website as a searchable archive rather than something to pore over page by page.

"To meet our audience’s online needs, it’s vital to have a core content strategy,” advises Tori Miller Liu, director of information systems and communications for the Global Cold Chain Alliance. Citing the Brain Traffic blog’s "quad” concept for content management, she says the key considerations are:

1. Content-Focused Elements

§ Substance: What kind of content do you need, and what messages do you need to communicate?

§ Structure: How is your content prioritized, organized and presented?

2. People-Focused Elements

§ Workflow: What is needed for content initiatives to launch successfully and maintain quality?

§ Governance: How are content decisions made, and how are changes implemented?

It’s important for association communicators to be ever mindful of the resources already at our fingertips — or just beyond — in our quest to do more this year.

Erika Pontarelli Compart is communications and editorial director for the Public Affairs Council.


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