When it comes to advertising in trade and professional media, vendors have plenty of choices. While some will turn to consumer media or trade journals, thousands of companies rely upon association media to deliver their message to an industry-specific audience of decision-makers.
Association media provides advertisers and recruiters with direct access to the sphere of influence that the association has with its members. Association media also provides a highly-engaged audience from a carefully-defined industry or profession for advertisers and talent-hungry employers to reach.
“Year after year, more than 26,000 advertisers choose to invest in our associations’ printed and online resources as a way to reach customers,” explained Tara Ericson, group vice president of sales for Naylor Association Solutions. “Some have advertised in business-to-consumer publications before, but once they realize the value of reaching an association’s membership through our clients’ publications, they shift more dollars to our clients’ media,” she said.
“The number 1 focus for a sales team working on association media is to educate and convey the value of the association and its audience to the potential advertiser,” said Drew DeSarle, group vice president of job posting sales at Boxwood Career Solutions. “Employers and other advertisers’ default is to stay with what has worked for them in the past.”
When employers have talent acquisition needs and are ready to post open positions, they tend to think about using the large national job boards such as Monster, CareerBuilder, or Indeed. For companies looking to recruit via targeted industry publications, for-profit journals or trade publications often come to mind before they consider association publications. But, that’s starting to change.
“In order to change employer advertising behavior, our team communicates the fact that professional societies and associations are a primary resource for candidates who are interested in furthering their careers within their respective field,” DeSarle said.
“[For-profit media] can be effective places to advertise, but association media offers an advertiser a highly-targeted audience of decision makers that are typically responsible for the majority of the buying power with their industry,” said Ericson.
“Furthermore, the content in association media is often sourced from expert influencers within the industry,” she added. “Members know they are receiving primary information they can’t get elsewhere — or at least not as quickly — when they consume association media. That’s why association media has higher readership than traditional B2B media, and therefore a better return on investment for the advertiser.”
Why association media?
Association media informs members about industry and legislative news. It updates them about certification or career advancement opportunities. It educates members about new processes, technologies, and regulations specific to the industry. It is usually offered in several formats to serve an audience with different technological abilities.
Depending on its size and membership programming goals, an association could offer one or more of the following:
- Periodicals in print and digital format;
- Annual conference/expo;
- Video series/channel;
- Show/conference guide;
- Membership directory or roster;
- Online career center;
- Group email list or electronic digests.
These media offer advertisers and employers multiple positions to broadcast their message: static print or online ads, interactive online ads, videos, maps, thought leadership content, sponsored editorial, and outserts, to name a few.
The power of integrated communication
Association media channels are best used in complementary, overlapping ways. For instance, a weekly e-newsletter might offer short updates about industry news and influencers, while the quarterly magazine would go into more depth about those same news and influencer stories. The association’s website posts the printed stories in blog form, and presents videos of interviews with those same influencers.
A certification course can offer in-person instruction that is supplemented by educational videos and assessment tools hosted on the association’s online career center, with regular updates about upcoming classes, workshops, or seminars that offer credit toward certification appearing in the e-newsletter. The membership directory signals who has obtained this certification by placing a special symbol next to the names of members who have achieved it, which other members see as they look up contacts — and make plans to have that symbol by their name in time for next year’s directory.
According to the Melos Institute, access to career development and professional networking are two of the main reasons professionals join an association. Publications and resources that cater to those goals are usually more robust than a single-platform publication such as a trade journal or website.
“Unlike the national job boards, association career centers provide employers with access to the community of professionals they serve and offer more than just job listings,” DeSarle said. “The more successful, well-used career centers host career development resources, career-related news, and certification courses, to name a few items. These resources attract not just job seekers, but passive job seekers who are always on alert for ways to advance their careers. So an employer trying to find top talent has a very good chance of reaching both active and passive job seekers just by being present on association media,” he said.
“A major benefit of association membership is [gaining] access to their unique industry content and data. The majority of association professionals will check out what an association offers by way of print publications, e-newsletters, Web-hosted content, and video,” Ericson added. “So if you are an advertiser wanting to reach an industry-specific market, association media offers the best web of complementary media that can carry and amplify your message to an audience who is motivated to use the medium in which it appears.”
In short, association media puts the advertiser within the sphere of an association’s influence.
“The synergy an association creates through a strategically-planned, goal-oriented, and content-rich media portfolio offers the industry advertiser a promotional smorgasbord unmatched by other trade publications,” said Ericson. “The best way to entice companies to advertise in association media is by focusing on the value of their membership. Explain exactly who the members are, what influence they have, and the percentage of the buying power that they represent. Once they get a taste of the true value of the association audience — highly engaged, motivated industry professionals who use their association’s publications to navigate their daily professional life — they are likely to be a repeat advertiser!”
Do you agree? If you’ve advertised in association media before, what factor convinced you to invest in an association publication? If you work on association media, what is your organization’s primary value proposition? Are you asking readers to respond to you?