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Mission, Message, Medium: Multi-Channel Content Publishing in Associations - 6/11/2013 -

Hotels do it. Corporations do it. And associations should market their content, too.

By Hallie Martin-Hanlin

"Often, we donít think of our publication, our e-newsletters, our website as products that are potentially designed to sell things, but that's part of what they can do," says Carrie Hartin, chief operating officer of Network Media Partners, Inc. Whether itís memberships, subscriptions, or products, association publications can help sell it.

Associations disseminate content through events, research, videos, and print and digital publications, but also need to evolve to further tell their story, relate with their members, and help advertisers utilize custom content, Hartin says. Social media is one vital tool that can have an enormous impact in content marketing.

Take what the American College of Chest Physicians did: It took the organization to Twitter and Facebook, and its traditional publications to mobile and web outfits.

The ACCP's presence in social media outlets (namely Facebook, Twitter, and the online community) had a slow start. It set up profiles in 2009 "so no one could go out there and get them before we did," says Jennifer Stawarz, manager of communications. But by the end of its fiscal year 2012, it had 3,200 Facebook users and 1,500 Twitter followers.

How did ACCP do it? Through a survey, ACCP found out that its members wanted more relevant communications, more engagement, and more brand presence. So ACCP hired a full-time social media specialist and set out to meet specific goals and strategies.

Realizing that social media would augment the traditional ways its members receive information, ACCP used Facebook, Twitter, and other sites for content marketing, member engagement, education, and brand awareness. The association adapted the content for many outlets and repurposed it in creative ways. For example, ACCP balanced its editorial content with promotional and informational content, as well as hard and soft news. Online mediums were also personalized for members.

All of this had an immensely positive result. Not only did ACCP increase its footprint in social media, more users are talking about its posts and pages.

Social media wasn't the only way ACCP evolved its content marketing strategies. It also brought its flagship 77-year-old print publications to mobile devices and online.

For example, ACCP determined that its members needed information at a patient's bedside and utilizing mobile devices was the best way to supply that information. ACCP decided to develop an app for Apple products and partnered with a company similar in size to develop its software, says Nicki Augustyn, director of publications at ACCP. There were many challenges and decisions that went into the app including the scope of the content, how to package the content, design, and pricing.

"You don't put something out there and consider it done," Augustyn says. For instance, after the app was released, ACCP had to change its pricing model.

The business outcome has been positive. Over time, Augustyn says ACCP believes revenue will grow, but the association does have to share that revenue with the software development firm and Apple.

ACCP also developed a mobile website for members who are Android users, but still see about 73 percent of the mobile web traffic coming from Apple devices, she says.

In addition, ACCP created e-books for its textbooks and other publications. When people talk about e-books, they are "not speaking a common language," Augustyn says. This project also had its challenges. ACCP publishes a lot of tables in its books, but tables arenít very compatible with e-books. ACCP also wanted the books to be searchable. Eventually, ACCP decided to publish books in an XML format online, on the same website where its CHEST journal is published. The e-books keep the same look and feel as print publications.

What's next for ACCP? The association is trying to move from experimenting to developing a strategy, developing best practices, and focusing on electronic-first production.

Hallie Martin-Hanlin is the communications manager at the Sun City Hilton Head Community Association.


 

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