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Is Your Content Pulling Its Weight? - 4/23/2014 -


Mary Mackay
Attentive strategic planning, calendaring, and analyzing results leverages your content so it can measurably help attract new members and generate increased revenue.

By Mary Mackay

In a nutshell: Don’t be boring, don’t be irrelevant, and do provide content that adds value to your members while positioning your association as a valuable source of information.

John Foley, Jr., speaking on "Creating a Compelling Content Marketing Strategy to Grow Your Association” at Association Media & Publishing’s March 18, 2014 Lunch & Learn in Chicago, was anything but boring as he energetically exhorted attendees to focus on what makes some content more marketing worthy. Specifically, he emphasized the importance of attentive strategic planning, calendaring, and measuring results to leverage your content so it pulls its weight in attracting new members and generating increased revenue.

Foley, president and CEO of interlinkONE and author of the book "Untethered Marketing,” organized his ideas into three segments: Content Marketing; Ready, Set, Start the Content Engine!; and Leveraging Your Community-Created Content: A Case Study (with input from panelists representing three different associations). Suggestions from the audience took center stage as he helped attendees think, rethink, or reaffirm how to create strategies appropriate for their different associations, with a focus on the importance of a conscious plan and consistent tone.

Foley also highlighted the importance of implementing a pull-not-push strategy and not being afraid of disruptive or thought-provoking content (the idea is to attract attention, after all), as association publishers work to bring people to their organization’s websites and create community.

"Creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage your target audience–with the objective of driving inquiries” is how the Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing. So how do you choose what content to distribute? Listen to your members, think about what matters to them, and focus on that—the most effective content helps develop a sense of community, while also sharing relevant news and information.

There’s content to be found everywhere in an association, Foley says, and making sure that staff and members share "their” content so it can be repurposed and pushed out should be part of the overarching strategy. Among others, types of content that came up during the discussion included member testimonials, blog posts, informal videos, infographics, webinars, press releases, ebooks and white papers/epapers, and conference programs—any and all of which are resources to tell your association’s story, build awareness, attract new members, establish authority, generate added revenue, improve your SEO, and get your expertise and website shared.

Once you’ve identified your many kinds of content worth sharing, determine what channels and platforms are best for sharing each type of content. Of course, the range has gone far beyond print and static websites to encompass video, enewsletters, blogging, and social media—and Foley recommends focusing on LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube to rev up your social media engine. Since we live in an increasingly visual world (52 percent of all web traffic is now video-based), incorporating video has become non-negotiable, and in addition to YouTube, you have to think about sites such as Vine, Vimeo, Vevo, Metacafe, and Flickr. Infographics offer another visually compelling way to tell specific aspects of your association and field’s story.

And, if your content doesn’t look good on a mobile platform? "You’ll lose everyone,” Foley says.

Other useful takeaways from the three-hour session included:

  • Organize and deliver content relevant to your community—content that matters, informs, entertains, and is worth your members’ time. Don’t mask promotion as content; people know when they’re being sold.
  • Think like a member. Listen to and use the voice of the member, use case studies to answer questions, and be thought provoking.
  • Know your members and prospective members and choose the right channels for them. It’s all about multi-channel marketing.
  • Recognize that content is everywhere in your association. Engage staff and members in identifying it so you can build a centralized and more comprehensive content library.
  • Go back to the basics—Who, What, When, Where, Why. Tell the story, create a narrative.
  • Embed your online community platform in your website. Allow members to share their content easily with one another—they’ll thank their association for providing the hub.
  • Think video! 65 percent of people learn through visual consumption. YouTube is the #2 search engine. Think video!
  • Content must look good on a mobile platform. That’s not optional.
  • Don’t be boring. Whatever else you do, be relevant.

Mary Mackay is marketing director of the American Library Association. Association Media & Publishing thanks her for graciously covering this session for our members who were unable to attend.


 

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