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Your Association’s Content Marketing Plan for 2014: Create, Listen, Engage, Convert - 4/2/2014 -


Mark C. Wills
Distributing content alone does not an effective marketing strategy make. How can you bring more people to the party?

By Mark C. Wills


"Associations can’t be laggards when it comes to technology.” That was the gauntlet thrown down by Monica Bussolati at Association Media & Publishing’s March 20, 2014 Washington, DC Lunch & Learn, "The Epic List of Content Marketing Tools.” (Download Bussolati's e-book, "Epic List of Content Marketing Tools.")

As Bussolati, who describes herself as a content marketing interventionist, demonstrated during her comprehensive presentation, there are innumerable content marketing tools. That’s why it’s crucial for associations to stay on top of what’s next to retain or expand its audience — and to keep that audience’s attention.

"It’s all about Google and discoverability,” Bussolati said. It’s gotten to the point where Google has become synonymous with searching — "the Kleenex of search engines,” as she put it. With recent studies showing that the average adult’s attention span is about one-third that of a goldfish, you must catch a consumer’s eye in record time. Consequently, one of the pre-eminent buckets of content marketing Bussolati highlighted was search engine optimization.

First and foremost, she said, associations must regularly produce fresh, relevant content, which drives traffic. As a corollary, that content must be rich in, and coded with, relevant keywords in page titles, URLs and body copy, and it should be coded by the communications team rather than IT. This helps services like Yoast, Moz, Firebug, and the amusingly named Screaming Frog provide statistical guidance on how to raise your site’s profile. Think: "How can we bring more people to our party?” Bussolati said.

Once you see how traffic is being directed to your content, you can use site diagnostic tools like Ahrefs, Site Meter, WooRank and HubSpot to see how well your content is being received. 

Content should also align with your association’s mission—or at least your communications strategy. It’s even possible to work backward from an end goal and produce content that brings you where you want to go. Bussolati used the restaurant chain Sweetgreen as an example. Its founders had always wanted to hold a music festival dedicated to social responsibility concerns—energy consumption, recycling, and local sourcing — and they saw the launching of a popular restaurant chain as a means to that end. By focusing on content core to their mission, it took a mere three years to go from the opening of the first Sweetgreen to the first ad hoc, 500-attendee Sweetlife Festival. And now, four years later, the festival is so popular, it must be held at a nearly 20,000-seat venue.

But not everything is that picture-perfect when it comes to content marketing. For one thing, there’s a lot more competition, particularly from the for-profit world. These days, it seems every organization is a media outlet, generating content to drive engagement. Two key examples of this are the Coca-Cola Journey digital magazine and Lifetime Fitness’ Experience Life magazine. Corporations that move into the content-creation space often end up capturing an audience once considered solely the domain of associations.

Therefore, distributing content alone does not an effective marketing strategy make. To ward off competition, Bussolati said, you must have your "finger on the pulse of your membership.” This means there must be curation and listening components to any campaign. Tools like TweetBeep, SumAll, and IFTTT allow you to gauge the direction in which the conversation around your brand is going.
Bussolati also recommended using curation tools to monitor trends, stay abreast of news about members, and engage with members and prospects. That can mean tracking hashtags on Twitter or gathering relevant TED Talks. Or you can use a site like Quora, where you can ask and answer questions or be pinged when discussions about topics of interest arise.

If you listen and curate, you’ll also be better able to determine what should be premium content (i.e., members-only) and what should be available for free.

Perhaps most importantly, with every content-driven engagement comes the prospect of conversion. And that’s an area where you definitely don’t want to be a laggard.


Mark C. Wills is communications manager for the Public Affairs Council, the leading association for public affairs professionals. Follow the Council and Mark on Twitter. Association Media & Publishing sincerely thanks him for covering this Lunch & Learn for our members who were unable to attend.



 

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