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Stump the Content Strategist - 9/28/2016 -

Maggie McGary

In a high-energy discussion, AM&P members posed some tough questions for our expert panel at the Annual Meeting in June. Read on for a de facto content strategy that works for one association across all its platforms.

By Maggie McGary

I was thrilled to be part of Association Media & Publishingís recent Annual Meeting in a session titled, "Stump the Content Strategist!Ē Amalea Hijar from the American College of Cardiology moderated, taking questions from the audience in an attempt to Stump the Content Strategists ó Kylee Coffman from Delcor, Kiki LíItalien from Amplified Growth, and me. The three of us wore noise-cancelling headphones so we couldnít hear each otherís answers, and each of us had 120 seconds to answer questions about content strategy.

It was a fun and fast-moving session. Unfortunately, those noise-cancelling headphones really did their job, and I wasnít able to hear Kylee and Kikiís answers; but feel free to hit them up on Twitter at @KyleeCoffman and @Kikilitalien with any questions you may have about content strategy. 

Question: How do you define content strategy for your organization?

Response: Iíll be honest and say that as a small staff association (8 FTEs), we donít have a formal content strategy. As director of marketing and communications, I have had "create content strategyĒ on my to-do list since I started but havenít had time to actually craft a formal strategy. That said, this is the de facto content strategy Iíve been using to structure our content across all platforms:

  • Gain an understanding of what kinds of content are important to our stakeholders (members, potential members, the public) using analytics and feedback we get in-person, via website, and social media, and so forth.
  • Maximize the assets we already have, which are considerable, by making the best use of existing content (revamped website thatís more user-friendly; ability to gate some content just for members; use content to drive traffic to website; and use analytics to inform future content).
  • Invest in technologies that enable content to shine and enable monetization.
  • Generate enough revenue to support additional resources to devote to developing a more mature content strategy.

Question: How does an association begin to develop a content strategy? What are the first steps?

Response: The first step is determining whether you have the expertise on staff to craft an effective content strategy in-house or whether itís worth enlisting the help of an expert to get it right. Content is about so much more than just an associationís magazine or print publications, or just the website ó itís about everything the association produces ó web content, digital newsletters, webinars, technical sessions at conferences, publications, research, etc. In todayís world where "content is king,Ē associations have the huge advantage of not only having an archive of valuable content but also an army of industry experts willing to volunteer their time and expertise to developing top-notch content. With all this at stake, enlisting the help of an expert at whatever level the budget can support can be extremely valuable. Start with an audit of existing content, figure out how to maximize what you have, and plan for future content.

Question: How do you determine the goals for your content strategy?

Response: That depends on the organization. Is growing membership your organizationís primary concern? Then probably a content strategy centering around making content a member benefit makes good sense. Is generating non-dues revenue a priority? A content strategy around monetizing existing content and planning future content with a goal of generating revenue is a necessity. Many organizations are concerned with attracting and retaining younger members; if thatís the case for your organization, understanding what kinds of content is valuable to younger audiences and how they consume that content is critical because itís likely different from what the older generation likes, so creating a strategy that caters to younger audiences but doesnít alienate veteran members is important.

Start with your organizationís specific goal(s) then work back from that, as opposed to just starting from scratch or following what brands are doing because that might not be the right answer for your association.

Again, feel free to reach out to me, Kiki,or Kylee if youíre stumped about content strategy. And if I can leave association execs with one parting thought about content strategy itís this:Content strategy is about optimizing your content for your audienceónot about what individual staff members think is most important or internal turf battles over whose content is most important.

Maggie McGary is director, marketing &communications, for the Society of Fire Protection Engineers. Association Media and Publishing sincerely thanks her for covering this event for our members who were unable to attend.


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