The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as: “a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” But in the case of associations and other membership organizations, your “target audience” for whom you are “creating and distributing” content, consists of your existing and potential members and supporters.
By their very nature, membership organizations are involved in content marketing without even realizing it. But it’s not purely a marketing strategy - content is part of your raison d’être or mission. After all, your members expect your organization to keep them abreast of information in your field. Research, such as our Small Membership Insight Survey, indicates that one of the key reasons members join associations is for professional development and to learn best practices and information about their field. As Becky Rasmussen (of AMR Management Services) suggested in a slide presentation last year, “associations should be great content marketers...you have established relationships, a wealth of content, a foundation of trust” so what’s holding you back?"
You may have lots of content - but do you have a strategy?
Your organization may be the king of content for your sector - offering publications, newsletters, webinars, workshop presentations and website content. But while you use content to engage existing members and build your membership, what you may not have in place is a content strategy or an editorial calendar to strategically manage all of this great content.
Why do you need a content strategy?
An article - Map Out Your Content Strategy - that appeared in Associations Now a few years back by Lauren Kelley, offers a good answer to that question: "Content without strategy is just content... Without a strategy, associations can get stuck in a content hamster wheel: They're perpetually scrambling for content at the last minute, and it can end up being substandard."
In the article, Kelley suggests that a content strategy can help membership organizations promote consistency of message and save time. Steve Drake (SDC Group) summed it up nicely in a post last year: “Too often... our content is produced without any content strategy and without a common core. And, as a result, associations fall short and don't get the full return/results for the resources invested on behalf of our members.”
Where to start?
If you are just getting started with developing a content strategy, where do you begin? Here are some suggestions for getting started that I gleaned from the Associations Now article:
- First – identify your goal(s) and “key performance indicators” or create a “Content Marketing Mission Statement” - as Kristina Halvorson, CEO of Brain Traffic suggests: "define what your key performance indicators are within your organization. What is it that you are trying to do as an organization? How is your content going to support those goals?"
- Then take a look at your “content assets” – content from your website, newsletters, forums, blog posts, journals, annual reports, etc. – clean out your virtual closets.
- Weed out anything that is, as Halvorson suggests “ROT (redundant, outdated, or trivial), and organizing whatever is left”
- Start with a simple calendar: "Inventory all the different communications channels you have, including offline, online, and social media," and use your calendar to map out the topics you plan to cover and the frequency with which you'll disseminate the content."