Top recommendations for associations from the Association Adviser 2015 Communications Benchmarking Report: Learn how to integrate and measure.
If you’re like most association professionals, you may not think you have the staff, systems or stamina to create and execute a fully integrated communication strategy. But creating a strategy doesn’t have to be daunting if you just Take AIM (Assess, Integrate and Measure). In Part 1 of this series, we explored how high-performing associations are assessing their member communications. In Part 2, we’ll drill down further into how they’re integrating and measuring their member communications to complete the AIM cycle.
- Designate an Ambassador of Integration.
Effective integration remains a pain point for associations of all sizes, with a paltry 6.3 percent of respondents to our annual Association Communication Benchmarking Study claiming to have a fully integrated communications program. Small associations feel they need to be more consistent; midsize associations want to know how to best utilize content across all channels; and large associations have trouble engaging new members, which can be improved by better communication integration.
Only 6.3 percent of associations report that their communications are fully integrated. Just 5.5 percent of respondents view their communications as best in class.
No matter what your current integration challenge is, appoint someone who can interact with all other departments to ensure that your integration efforts are not in vain. A properly executed communication integration plan not only delivers content across a broad spectrum, but it gives members that consumption choice we outlined in the assessment phase of the Take AIM approach. Having one member of the team who can promote the benefits of integration while ensuring that it is happening on a daily basis will keep your integration goals top of mind for everyone.
- Review available communication vehicles and consider how much more powerful a message can be if it’s repurposed across different channels.
For instance, your pre-conference magazine is mailed to members well in advance of the event. That serves the dual purpose of enticing members and driving registration. How much more powerful is that effort if you create a video that brings the magazine to life, then use social media and your eNewsletter to push that video to members? Within the video, you can tease to stories in the magazine, talk up conference speakers and encourage viewers to follow you on social media. That one example gives members an opportunity to consume information several different ways and gives you an opportunity to drive home your key messages and most important content.
Best practice tip: Measuring results against goals is a critical component of a world-class communications program. Skip this step, and risk losing your position as your industry’s leading source for information—not to mention missing an opportunity to increase your communications budget next year.
- Make sure your content and communication vehicles are ready for consumption on the go.
Integration also helps solve the mobile strategy issue many associations identified as a major hurdle this year. A mobile strategy doesn’t have to be a difficult task—just keep members’ mobile habits in mind as you create your strategy. However, with just half (55.2 percent) of respondents indicating their websites are optimized for mobile and one-third (33.5 percent) optimizing newsletter and blog content for mobile, the challenge seems to lie with technology and cost. Again, a proper assessment with the right questions (How often do members access information on the go?) provides you data (vs. assumption) to support potential financial investments.
- Don’t wait to measure—incorporate it as an everyday practice.
So often, associations put a plan in place and run full throttle toward an end goal of better engagement. We advise that you look at this Take AIM approach holistically, and continually review the goals set in the assessment phase. Did email open and click-through rates increase at a solid rate? Did you customize communications to the degree that opt-outs decreased? What was your goal for better social media engagement (followers, likes, retweets, etc.), and did you reach that goal?
Measure early and often, and chart how your different communication vehicles are performing so you’ll know what’s working best. If you see a high open rate on a weekly digest eNewsletter but low rates on daily blasts, consider removing the daily blasts. Your magazine’s digital edition metrics should reflect where readers spend the most amount of time, giving you an opportunity to provide more of that type of content.
- Track your results, and if you didn’t perform well in a certain area, ask for help.
Associations are notorious for running lean. The great thing about having data that identifies members’ wants and needs in comparison to what your staff is able to deliver is that you can make a case for a budget that includes vendor resources and/or additional staff. So, although it may feel cumbersome at first, the more comfortable you get with making measurement a part of your process, the more likely you are to get the help you deserve.
As we said in our 2014 recommendations, avoid “shiny-object syndrome” and the temptation to be all things to all people. Consider how relatively simple a communications strategy can be with a Take AIM approach. Gather member feedback, deliver great content, monitor results, and watch engagement levels rise.
Jill Andreu, vice president of content strategy and development for Naylor Association Solutions, is responsible for the overall strategy, direction, leadership and management of Naylor’s content department. Her diverse Naylor career – starting as an editor then moving to managing editor, publisher and group publisher – bring both an editorial and strategic business growth perspective to the company. Jill is also responsible for execution of Content 360, a program that provides content strategy and leadership to the association marketplace.