Your association likely has no shortage of content, from conference keynotes and breakouts to magazines, newsletters, white papers, videos, and more. The problem isn’t having the content your members need—it’s organizing it in a way that your members can find what they need, when they need it.
“The Internet has changed everything,” said Robert Bartel, chief innovation officer with the Endocrine Society, at the 2017 ASAE Annual Meeting. “People don’t need more information, they need to sort through all that information—they need you to prioritize and give them not just what they want, but what they need.”
Here’s the eight-step content strategy Bartel’s 100-year-old, 18,000-plus-member professional medical society used to deliver greater value to its members, their patients, and the public.
1. Discovery—review the data and interview stakeholders. The Endocrine Society began by putting together a knowledge integration task force comprised of members of the key content creation committees. Said co-presenter Hilary Marsh, president and CEO of Content Company Inc., a content and digital strategy consultancy, “They de-siloed the committees so they could work on topics across the siloes.” Added Bartel, “Committee members want to do this anyway, to have their content in the newsletter and website and have sessions at the annual meeting.” They interviewed staff to uncover current content gaps and to better understand member needs, and also to get a better handle on how content supports the organization’s needs.
2. Create empathy-based personas. Who are our top-priority audiences; what is going on for them, and what do they want from us? “A lot of times, people think about technological capabilities and business drivers, but they forget the user needs,” said Marsh. They held an initial brainstorming session with staff to come up with the four most important groups of stakeholders the society serves, what each wants from the society, and why they want it. “The ‘why’ is really important,” said Marsh. Once they had developed the four personas, they then held another brainstorming session with all the content creation committees to determine what the different personas had in common.
3. Content audit. What do we have, and how effective is it? Review all the various sites and microsites, newsletter, social media channels, and any other content channels you have to determine what exactly you have on hand, and how effective it is in achieving the organization’s and the members’ goals.
4. Taxonomy. What are we creating content about, and how do we ensure that we all describe our content in common ways? “Coming up with a topic list was the hardest part,” said Bartel. “How people talk about the topics could get political, and not everyone understood the value of aligning the siloes.”
5. Comparative content analysis. How are we doing compared to the other content sources our audiences use? “We asked members to compare our site with other association and nonprofit websites. How easy are the benefits to find when compared to competing associations?”
6. Content best practices. What does successful content look like? Develop a good understanding of what your organization's goals are for your content so you know what you're shooting for.
7. Content guidelines and governance. Develop your own “rules of the road,” they said, including who’s going to be responsible for what.
8. Plan for transformation and migration. Everything has a lifecycle, including your content. Develop a plan for how you will decide what you will keep, what needs to be fixed, and what needs to be deleted, and when.