Here are six strategies for achieving more member-bylined
articles in your publications.
By Apryl Motley, CAE
"Iím too busy.Ē
"Iím not really much
of a writer.Ē
"Iím not sure if this
is the best topic for me to address.Ē
These are the
responses members often give when you contact them about writing for your
publications. If they sound familiar, you know that getting your members to
become authors can take more than a little convincing. At the same time, you
hear from members over and over again that they most value content generated by
With that feedback in
mind, many association publishers dedicate time and resources to ensuring "the
member voiceĒ resonates in their publications. While it can be difficult to
build a member author pool, certain strategies will make it more likely that your
membersí names will appear as bylines in an upcoming issue of your publication,
on your blog, or in some other content-driven medium.
- Make it easy by providing
guidelines and/or templates. Itís helpful if you can point members to specific
author guidelines and other resources on your associationís website. Even
better, they will find it helpful if you provide examples of recent articles
that serve as good examples of what youíre looking for in a well-written
member article. In addition, templates can work especially well when
youíre trying to build an online library of a certain kind of article,
such as case studies. If potential authors can easily see what information
is needed, the task of writing might seem less daunting.
- Start small with a monthly
Q&A format. One
of the best ways to identify potential authors is to get them writing for
you in some format. For example, you might ask a specific group of members
(i.e. CEOs) to serve on a panel, which would mean that they would agree to
receive a monthly question to which they will provide a brief (150-200
words) response as their schedules allow them to do so. This is a
low-pressure way of establishing regular communication with a potential
You want to keep an eye out for
those panelists who respond regularly and often write responses longer than
requested. Depending upon the desired
length of articles for your publications, when you contact them about writing
an article, youíll be able to tell them that they are half-way there.
- Monitor listservers and other
community forums. That same member who tells you that he or she doesnít have time to
write an article might be very active on your associationís listserver or
blog. Tap into that personís preference for written expression and offer
to work with him or her to develop an article based on an extended version
of a particularly insightful post. This strategy works really well when
you send the member a nicely formatted and slightly edited version of his
or her post. Who could refuse an offer like that?
- Plan well in advance. Your members are not the best
people to contact when you have a last-minute hole to fill in your publication.
Typically, they need lots of lead time to do their best work. Most member
authors require two to three monthsí notice. As you plan, think about what
else these members might already be tasked with doing. Does your request
to write an article fit in nicely with other tasks they are completing on
behalf of the association, or does it add to their plates unnecessarily?
Timing is a key factor in persuading members to become authors.
- Touch base throughout the
process. You donít want members to feel alone in
the editorial process. Maintain regular contact with your member authors
to make sure they are on track to meet their deadlines and determine if
they need help with any aspect of their articles. Perhaps, you can point
them to other resources internally that might be useful as they complete
By the same token, make these
communications meaningful and try to bundle them so that member authors are not
receiving one email for the copyright agreement and another requesting a photo.
The more that you coordinate your efforts internally; the better it will be for
you and the member author.
- Make it worth their while. An expression of gratitude
definitely goes a long way. Members who write for both your print and
electronic publications should receive a personalized thank you note from
you along with additional copies of the publication if applicable.
Consider recognizing your authors at annual meetings by hosting a special
reception just for them or giving them buttons or stickers that say, "Iím proud
to write for XYZ publication.Ē
As much they appreciate public
recognition of their efforts, your authors may appreciate professional
recognition even more. If your association offers a certification program that
requires ongoing continuing education for re-certification, consider giving
members credit for writing articles.
should make the authoring experience a pleasant one for your members. Even
better, itís their word-of-mouth marketing about how great it was to write for
your publications that will help most in building your member author pool.
Apryl Motley, CAE, is
a freelance writer and communications consultant.