Do You Have a Membership Content Strategy?

Lori Halley 13 May 2013 1 comments

You’ve probably seen and heard a lot of chatter about content marketing. But what exactly does this term mean and how does it apply to small membership organizations?

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 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 timeSteve 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:

  1. 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?"
  2. 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.
  3. Weed out anything that is, as Halvorson suggests “ROT (redundant, outdated, or trivial), and organizing whatever is left”
  4. 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."

Resources for developing a content strategy

In a recent blog post - Creating Content on the Topics You Want to be Known For - Kivi Leroux Miller offers some great advice to non-profits about creating a content strategy around the key topics for which you want to be “the go-to organization.” Kivi explains that you should start by breaking down “your list of topics into three different kinds of content, using a gardening metaphor:  evergreens, perennials, and annual color.
  • Evergreens stay fresh from season to season. Much of basic website content will be evergreen content.
  • Perennials come back year after year, but do require regular maintenance especially when they are growing and in bloom. Much of your newsletter and blog content will be perennials.
  • Annual color is short lived, but full of that extra oomph! Much of what you do in social media will be annual color.

Kivi Leroux Miller also offers another great resource for non-profits - the Nonprofit Content Marketing Cookbook. This is a free “Guide to Creating and Curating Content that Educates, Motivates and Inspires” which offers an explanation of content marketing along with advice and tips on “Planning the Menu: Building your Editorial Calendar”, “Reheating and Remixing: Repurposing Your Content” and much more.

You can check out Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications Blog for her Content Marketing resources.

You might also want to take a look at some of the resources available through the Content Marketing Institute.  They offer a Getting Started Guide or you could check out Joe Pulizzi’s post:  Build a Successful Content Marketing Strategy in 7 Steps.

If you are just getting started with developing a content strategy or have some insight for your peers, share your ideas in the comments below.

Image source: Content Flow chart Blackboard - courtesy of

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Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Monday, 13 May 2013 at 8:30 AM

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  • Debra Askanase said:

    Sunday, 19 May 2013 at 8:56 PM
    Hi Lori,
    Great points, however I generally a content strategy one step earlier, with messaging. I believe that a strong content strategy should reference the organization's messaging and unique positioning. I've worked with organizations that are not clear on their unique positioning, which makes a content strategy almost impossible to develop. In cases such as that, I always suggest stating with messaging, followed by content.

    After messaging identification, your suggestions of goals, assets, and calendar are the logical next steps!

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