Features

Harness the Power of Your Association Publication

By Sarah Sain • March 13, 2018

Does your association’s publication have members saying, “Wow!”

It should. After all, your publication is one of the most effective and important communications pieces that your association uses to reach members. According to the 2017 Naylor Communications Benchmarking Report, print magazines continue to be among the most highly rated member communications channels – 68 percent of all association executives surveyed consider their member magazine very or extremely valuable.

For that reason, you want to make sure your association magazine appeals to as many readers as possible with an eye-catching and inviting design. If those two words don’t describe your current magazine, then maybe it’s time for a redesign.

Most publications are given a fresh look every few years. And while a publication redesign does require time and resources, it has a big impact and helps you engage more with your members – making it well worth the effort.

At the outset of a publication redesign, you’ll want to set goals for how your association will determine success. Here are four objectives your publication redesign should accomplish.

  1. Clearly Communicate Your Value

Your association’s publication should incorporate your association’s mission and vision into the content and visual design. The message that is conveyed through the text and images on every page should help your association take another step into the future. If your mission is to educate, every page should convey knowledge. If your mission is to champion the industry, every article should advocate for your members. Look for new ways to present this information so members are excited about what they can accomplish only through being a member of your association. Help them remember the reason they joined your association with every piece you publish.

Don’t be afraid to bring in a professional team of writers, editors, graphic designers and printers. A publishing partner can offer unique advice based on years of experience. Look for a partner that will serve as an extension of your own team and approach a redesign with your goals in mind.

  1. Increase Member Engagement

How do your members prefer to read your publication? That’s a trick question. Different member segments within your association are likely to have different preferences when it comes to how they consume the news and information you send – yet you still need to make sure you’re reaching all of those segments. Members’ preferences may also change based on the type of content. In-depth and highly technical articles are better served in a print format, but your members may prefer lighter reads to be sent in a way that can be read on the go. Offer a balance of both so members can engage with your association where they are when the moment is right.

When it comes to the redesign, whether it’s a website, social media, newsletter or interactive online edition, take all your digital communications into consideration. These components should not be an afterthought; instead, discuss early how the redesign of your publication can be carried seamlessly throughout your digital media. You’re creating a brand for your publication, and you want to make sure that whether your member interacts with your publication in print or online, they know they’re engaging with a trusted source.

  1. Earn Greater Non-Dues Revenue

Suppliers, vendors, partner members … different associations call them different names, but the same remains true for all: They are a valuable and vital segment of your association membership. They join your association to grow their businesses and reach the influential people making things happen in your industry – your members!

Suppliers are willing to pay to be in front of your members in a number of ways, including advertising and content in your publication. A well-done redesign increases the value of your publication, so it goes to reason that your advertisers will also receive more value and returns on their investment in your publication. As part of your redesign, consider new avenues for suppliers to promote their products and services. Give them the opportunity to put their brand and their expertise in front of your members in ways that are upfront but not pushy, and you’ll help both suppliers and regular members become better at their jobs.

  1. Grow Your Influence in the Industry

Your publication should be a valuable member benefit, but it’s also a tool that your association can use to reach potential members and elevate your standing and credibility in the industry at large. Your publication is a way for your association to showcase the expertise of members through well-researched content (presented in the most visually appealing way, of course) that incorporates members’ stories, experiences and years of knowledge. In a world where fact-checking is de rigueur and the slightest error will earn your publication the label of “fake news,” make sure your publication can rise above the noise and be known as reliable and relevant.

Finally, don’t forget to create an annual content strategy. Plan to communicate about a wide range of topics that meet the information needs of all professionals in your industry. Make sure the average professional in your industry get something out of every issue, every directory, and every visit to your website or blog. Conduct a reader survey at least once to a year to make sure you’re providing the content that members want to see/read/hear and adjust your plan as needed.

To gain more help mapping out your association’s next publication redesign, attend our CAE-eligible webinar at 2 p.m. March 27. Register here.

About The Author

Sarah Sain is a senior content strategy and development manager with Naylor Association Solutions who works exclusively with allied societies and meeting professional organizations. Email her at ssain@naylor.com or follow her on Twitter at @ssain7.