Yes, I know, Thanksgiving is still a week away, and we have more than a month until Christmas. However, the time for planning your association’s New Year’s marketing and communications resolutions is now.
Let’s face it; if you’re like me, you set a few goals (both personal and professional) on January 1 without much forethought or planning. That lack of preparation is likely why many of my resolutions are long forgotten before the calendar turns to February. Don’t let your association fall into that pattern in 2017. Outline a clear vision for your association’s communications. Then set a strategy for how your staff will achieve this vision. Your strategy should include which platforms you’ll use to reach members and potential members (direct mail, print, email, social media), how often you’ll engage with them and what types of content you’ll share based on their information needs and wants.
Whether you have a staff of two or 20, creating a communications plan will ensure your entire team is working from the same playbook and effectively using your time and resources.
“Unfortunately, doing more with less is a new reality, but with appropriate planning and a written strategy, associations of all sizes can move toward an A+ communications program,” said Jill Andreu, Naylor’s vice president of content strategy and development.
Naylor and Association Adviser recently released its Association Communications Benchmarking Survey. The 2016 study found that the No. 1 communications challenge remains “combating information overload and cutting through the clutter,” with four in five associations believing at least half of their communications are ignored.
Read more about Naylor and Association Adviser’s Association Communications Benchmarking Survey here and take the survey to see how your compare with your peers.
So how do you create strong communications pieces your members want to consume? If you’ve never created a written content strategy before, where do you even begin? Below are five tips to get you started:
- Set your priorities. What is of the utmost importance to your association in the coming year? Is it creating stronger content, increasing your social media presence or growing event attendance? Write down your association’s top priorities, and set communications goals that align with those priorities.
- Get to know your audience. Instead of assuming your association knows what your members need and want, survey them and ask – you may be surprised by the results. Find out exactly what type of content your members want to see, where they want to see it and how often they want to see it, and use that as the basis of your communications strategy.
- Discover what you already do well. Which stories were most read in your digital magazine last year? What social media posts got the most likes or comments? Which conference sessions were well attended? You’ll likely see a pattern as far as what was successful in the past and what wasn’t.
- Focus on what makes your association unique. Ask yourself what your members receive from your communications that they don’t get anywhere else. Content is coming at your members from all directions throughout the day. Look for ways that your communications can stand out.
- Measure your success. Part of your written communications strategy should be identifying how you’ll determine if you’re on the right track. Continually review your plan and the goals you set. If you find something is working well, do more of it. On the other hand, if you aren’t meeting your goals, find out why and be open to changing your strategy.
For an example of an association that sets thoughtful communications goals and strategically plans content across print, digital platforms and events, look no further than MHI, the nation’s largest material handling and logistics association. MHI sets communications goals for the entire year that align with the association’s strategic vision: to create awareness of MHI as a resource for members and the end user community and to engage with this audience for the improvement of their business and the overall economy.
“We create thought-out content calendars at the beginning of the year and a production schedule that we stick with. It’s challenging, but rewarding,” said Carol Miller, vice president of marketing and communications at MHI.
Read more about how MHI has positioned itself as the industry’s premier resource in November’s From the Corner Office interview.
Miller has it right. Creating a content plan for entire year that encompasses print, email, digital, social media, events and education can be a challenging and overwhelming task. The payoff can be substantial though. Your members will see your association as the industry leader it is, and they’ll engage with you more often and in more meaning ways.