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
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
"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
- 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
- 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.