DPInnovation BLOG

Digital Publishing Innovation and David McKnight

Content Strategy for 2013: An Association Growth Strategy

As fall hits full swing some of you may be thinking about year end planning and searching for a way to turn over a new leaf (or old one).  Yes, I may be bias but I feel that addressing the opportunities of the information your association gathers and publishes should be a major focus to drive member engagement and overall growth of your association – including revenue.

I’ve centered this blog post on a post by Joe Pulizzi, published Oct 13, 2012.  Word for word, in italics, with my comments (DM) – not in italics.   I think this is critical for association to learn what an expert in the marketing industry is thinking but also to demonstrate how association can excel at Content Marketing.  Based on the strength of your community and content, Associations can outperform more traditional publisher and the for-profit world.   To do so you need three things 1) A Content Strategy 2) Devote resources, but more so an organized team effort, to make the strategy happen 3) a publishing platform or content management system (PubCMS)

Let’s begin with Joe’s post “7 Content Marketing Strategies for 2013” click here for a direct link to the post.

1. Watch “Content 2020 from Coca-Cola

Every time I present at an event, I give the attendees a homework assignment: to watch Coca-Cola’s two-part Content 2020 whiteboard video series. Content 2020 is Coke’s “Jerry McGuire” mission statement on moving the organization from creative excellence to content excellence. Coca-Cola has been a marketing leader for a long time, and here the brand again proves that it is more than qualified to play with the big boys.

(DM) Your first thought might be “Sure, how is out non-profit going to compete with Coke and all of their resources”… well the answer is you don’t.   The point here is to learn and find ways to compete differently.  Innovation isn’t always about something new – actually most of the time it’s about taking ideas and making what you do better.

2. Develop your content marketing mission statement

I’ve surveyed about 1,000 people over the past month, asking each if they have developed an editorial mission, or content marketing mission statement, for their content strategies. Easily less than 5 percent had something like this prepared.

This is a major problem. How can we execute a content strategy if we don’t have a clear vision for why we are developing the content in the first place?  

Every person that touches the content marketing program should know, by heart, what the mission of the content strategy is.

(DM) For an Association this requires that you first clearly understand what your members need – events are a great way to keep that pulse.  Then the second part is as explained before – creating focus from your whole team – events, marketing, membership, publications – to effectively drive thought leadership throughout your organization.

3. A new mindset: Become the leading informational provider for your niche

Brands aren’t taking their content seriously enough. Sure, we are creating content in dozens of channels for multiple marketing objectives. But is your organization’s mindset focused on being the leading provider of information for your customers? If not, why isn’t that your priority?

Look, our customers and prospects can get their information from anywhere to make buying decisions. Why shouldn’t that information come from us? Shouldn’t that at least be the goal?

(DM) I have yet to find an Associations that doesn’t have deep knowledge and thought leadership on the staff and in the membership – own it, command it and in doing so – go big.

4. Utility is key

I absolutely love the Charmin Clean Bathroom App. If you are desperate to find a clean bathroom nearby, and this app provides the answers for you, what do you think the odds are that you would buy Charmin the next time you go to the store?

What if you used Kraft’s iFood app to help you make your next home-cooked meal?

Small businesses find regular answers to their operational challenges at AMEX’s Open Forum.  Take a hard look at your content and see if what you are producing is actually useful for your customers. Is it making their lives better or jobs easier in some way?

(DM) This should be an area of strength for Associations, as your staff should have a deep understanding of what keeps your membership up at night.   At the end of the day it’s not how technical or academic you can be but are you address today’s needs, solving problems, and improving member’s lives.

5. Define and answer your customers’ questions

This is so easy to do, yet most of us don’t do it. Do you have a system in place to compile the questions your customers are asking and post your answers to those questions on the web? The content opportunities that spring up from customer service and sales alone can support your content marketing strategy.

(DM) I heard a CEO of a marketing agency answer the question – “How do you know which social media tools to use and what customers (members) want to talk about”  His answer “Ask”.

6. Employee involvement in content marketing

Take a look at these two projects:

These are two great examples of successful content initiatives that have helped to grow business, were developed from the ground up with a limited budget, and were driven almost entirely by employee content.

(DM) Get examples and an area Associations can excel at because Association not only have staff but membership to help get involved – speakers, though leaders, industry partners.   Dozens of people talking and sharing about a topic can create enough buzz to dominate a topic and make it viral.

7. Co-creation

Andrew Davis’ new book Brandscaping discusses how content partnerships can work. Essentially, a brandscape is a collection of brands that work together to produce great content. I’m starting to believe that this is critical to the evolution of content marketing, as more brands struggle to manage the content marketing process

It’s true that many brands struggle with finding the funding for content marketing projects. Why not work with non-competitive partners to develop amazing and compelling content for a similar customer?

(DM) Another strength of Association’s is that you already have process and events in place to enable co-creation.   It’s critical you tap into these sources and share this wisdom far and wide.   I didn’t say free just wide – there is a way to do both – call me.

OK, I hope this post empowers you to know that with a little strategic planning, the right tools and executed well – your Association is in a strong position to dominate thought leadership in your industry.   Yes, publishers and corporation are racing to build their own community.  They see the value your association has built.  But you have the community and now it’s time to leverage that in new ways to drive growth.

Will a Content Strategy be a focus at your 2013 Strategic Planning?  Call me, I have a lot of old leaves in Wisconsin..and come spring – new ones.


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