Kick-start Your Membership Content Marketing

Lori Halley 21 October 2014 0 comments

Does your small association or club have a content marketing strategy?

Last week, the topic of our Small Membership Advisory Community call was content marketing. These are sessions we hold with small groups on topics of interest to associations, clubs and non-profits. Since we know that membership engagement and recruitment are top priorities for membership organizations, we wanted to look at if and how these organizations were approaching content marketing. The session offered up some great food for thought, so I’m sharing some of the ideas for those who couldn’t attend.

What is content marketing and is it really applicable to membership organizations?

First, for those of you who aren’t sure what “content marketing” is, the Content Marketing Institute defines it as:

a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience

Based on that definition, I’m sure that the majority of small membership organizations are creating lots of terrific content – publishing newsletters, offering advocacy updates, holding educational or industry events. So you’ve got the content development side of the equation covered. And you certainly understand your audience – your members and prospective members. But I’m guessing that most of you haven’t developed a content strategy that clearly plans out how you’re going to distribute your “relevant and valuable content” to attract and engage your audience.

If not, don’t feel too bad, according to the Nonprofit Content Marketing: 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends — North America, “Ninety-two percent of nonprofit professionals use content marketing, but only 25 percent have a documented content strategy”.

Challenges involved with this new content paradigm

If you’re thinking that your association, club or non-profit has been developing and even marketing content for years, you might be right. You may have been publishing a lot of information, but have you been simply pushing it out without a strategy to encourage engagement? Are you sharing it across multiple channels so that you are getting your members’, supporters’ and prospects’ attention; getting them talking about you and sharing this informative content?

I’m guessing that like the participants who joined our conference call last week, your organization is likely struggling to pull together your standard content, such as a quarterly newsletter. Perhaps you’ve recently transitioned this to an online or email version of your former printed newsletter. You may have tried blogging, but weren’t able to keep up a regular schedule, because like one of our Advisory Community members, you're “a one-woman show”!  So you’re time- and resource-strapped and wondering how you can possibly manage any more communications.

In addition, another participant on our call reminded us that we’re all overwhelmed with information coming at us – including our members. So getting our members’ attention and offering brief, relevant content is critical.

Applying content marketing strategy to your membership organization

But the reality is that we all live in a multi-channel, multi-media world. Media fragmentation is a reality we all need to deal with. By developing a content strategy, you can identify the communications channels that make sense for reaching your members and prospective members and what you should be sharing on which channels. In essence, it means looking at all of the tremendous content you have developed and will continue to create, and distributing it in the right format, through the right channels to the right audiences. In other words, content marketing means not just producing “content” but using that content strategically to target an audience or achieve an objective.

Why spend the time and energy on a content marketing strategy?

If you’re still wondering if you need to bother with content marketing at your organization, as Jay Abraham suggested during our Small Membership Advisory call, your content can be...

  • instrumental in bringing in new members
  • a platform that you use to personify the purpose of your organization
  • a way that your members can contribute

As Shiv Narayanan noted, “it’s about creating value”. In addition, here are some of the reasons why an association should have a content strategy that Steve Drake (SCD Group) outlined in a  post last year:

  • To provide enhanced value to members.
  • To recruit participation in conferences, events and other programs.
  • To build awareness of association, industry and/or profession.
  • To enhance advocacy efforts and/or advance our mission.

Tips from our Small Membership Advisory Community chat:

Lamees Abourahma was one of the participants on the Small Membership Advisory Community call who has embraced content marketing at her organization. Lamees noted that they first started blogging, with two posts per week. The organization managed to keep this momentum going, and then added a resource center, with white papers related to the industry and also content contributed by their members. After working at content marketing for three years, Lamees offered the following advice:

    • build your content one piece at a time
    • start with blogging
    • keep the momentum going
    • keep a schedule – have an editorial calendar

How can you get started with content marketing?

Offering some advice he received from a former navy seal training executive, Jay Abraham suggested that organizations just getting started with content marketing should think of it in terms of:

  • targets – what’s the first target you need to go after
  • weapons – what content will have impact, engagement, etc.
  • movements – what’s the best way to put this in place?

Like Lamees, Jay suggests that membership organizations "start small, since small easy wins can move you forward." And Shiv cautioned against suffering from “ducks in a row syndrome”. He suggested that sometimes we wait until we have all of our ducks in a row, but sometimes it’s just best to start something and go from there.

First steps to take to kick-start your membership content marketing

Here are some first steps you can take in getting started with content marketing at your association, club or non-profit:

  1. Identify your goal(s): What are trying to accomplish and how is your content going to support those goals?

  2. Figure out the right medium(s) to reach your audience – How do your members/supporters consume content and process it? e.g., social network, or blog/forum. Start with the one that makes the most sense and build on that.

  3. Determine what you have to work with: look at your “content assets” – content from your website, newsletters, forums, blog posts, journals, annual reports. You have a treasure trove of great information, but you need to figure out the best way to offer it up.

  4. Start small – create a simple editorial calendar. Identify all of the pertinent communications channels (offline, online, and social media) for your audience (members and prospective members) and map out the topics, type of content format and the frequency with which you'll disseminate the content.

Join the conversation

Do you think you’ll consider developing a content marketing strategy? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

And if you’d like to join the conversation, visit our Advisory Forum on this topic here.

You can also offer your thoughts on this topic via our Facebook page.

If you’d like to join our Small Membership Advisory Community, you simply need to complete this form.

Additional resources on content marketing

Here are some additional content marketing resources:


 Image source:
Content Flow chart Blackboard - courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com


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

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Tuesday, 21 October 2014 at 8:30 AM

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