If Events Could Talk: 10 Strategies for Fueling a Powerful Voice

by Aaron D. Wolowiec, MSA, CAE, CMP, CTA

Has your association conducted a communication audit within the last three years? More specifically, are your meetings and publications teams working together to ensure your association’s events are effectively marketed?

If your events suffer from stagnant or declining attendance, sponsors or exhibitors – or if you have difficulty securing quality speakers – the answer lies not in a silo, but rather in your team. Following are 10 strategies your association can immediately implement to boost the reputation of its signature events and, in turn, its bottom line. 

  1. Branding – A uniform event name, acronym or hashtag from one year to the next is just the beginning. To ensure your members easily recognize an event at first glance, consider how colors, logos, fonts and overall design elements are used consistently across communication platforms.
  2. Differentiation – Briefly scan the professional development landscape and you’ll find fierce competition all around you – colleges and universities, other associations and even your own members. Event messaging must clearly illustrate in both quantitative and qualitative terms how your event is different from the rest.

  3. Value proposition – Every event comprises some combination of learning and networking. One way to elevate yours above the others is to demonstrate the value attendees can expect to gain in both the short-term (e.g., contacts, ideas, goals, objectives) and the long-term (e.g., strategy, tactics, products, services, profit).
  4.  Voice – If your event could talk, what would it sound like? An elderly grandparent? A progressive hipster? Ensure written collateral closely resembles the tone and sophistication of your audience. As appropriate, add in elements of levity, informality, slang and pop culture to also make them fun and interesting to read.
  5.  Brevity – Promotional pieces are not the place to be long-winded. Prospective attendees are inundated with messaging each and every day, so make it easy for them to cut through the noise and connect with your publications. Don’t be surprised if fewer words result in improved open and click-through rates, too.
  6.  Channels – Determine how your association communicates. And don’t just think in terms of print communications – include all digital and social media platforms, as well. Optimal event marketing is multimedia in nature and should include messaging in most – if not all – of these communication channels.
  7. Testimonials – Never underestimate the power of an exceptional experience, particularly by Generation Yelp. Gather and share both written and video testimonials from attendees, sponsors, exhibitors and speakers. Ultimately, it means more coming from their peers than it does from you.
  8. Images – We know a picture is worth a thousand words, so ditch the clipart and invest in a professional photographer to take pictures during your signature events. Use these photographs throughout your marketing materials to tell your event’s story: who attends, how they engage and what they learn.
  9. Sample content – Sometimes prospective attendees and their supervisors are looking for added insurance your event will be worth their time and money. Sharing sample content in the form of slide decks, handouts, executive summaries and video clips may be just the ticket to secure their participation.
  10. Engage volunteers – Identify your repeat attendees and arm them with the tools needed to promote your events. Consider guest blog posts, social media chats and featured magazine columns. Likewise, remove as many barriers as possible to encourage easy sharing of member-generated materials.

While you may not have the resources to employ each of these tactics between now and your next annual meeting, take some time this month to identify and address the low-hanging fruit. Then develop a long-term strategic plan for implementing the remaining marketing and communication ideas, remembering to include representation from both the meetings and publications teams.

At the end of the day, you simply can’t afford to ignore what your events are saying about you, your department and your organization.

Aaron Wolowiec is founder and president of Event Garde, a Michigan-based professional development consulting firm. Event Garde works with association leaders who want to deliver dynamic, meaningful and compelling education and networking experiences. Email: aaron@eventgarde.com

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Six Ways to Intersect Publications and Education Events

by Kim Howard, CAE

Delivering content to your members is one of the cornerstones of not only your publication program, but your education events. We all know that not all of our members attend our events. In a perfect world, they would. Because they do not, how do we share that information while not reinventing the wheel? How do we help sell the value of our education events? How can we showcase the content in the best possible way before, during and after our programs? Here are some ideas.

  1. Go beyond an ad. Cross-promote your events in the publications that you have. When you have a regularly published magazine, your content, if it’s mission-aligned, will likely fall in line with topics discussed at your education events. Is your editorial calendar in line with broad issues that are discussed at your conferences? Are you covering your content through the applicable lens for your members? Many associations have membership that runs the gamut from students to c-suite executives. While it is difficult to serve them all in one publication or conference, you can successfully integrate your content to cater to the cross-section of members. I use the term education events loosely because this could mean an in-person conference, webinar or podcast, lunch and learn or brown bag, etc. Have staff, freelancers or volunteers cover the event and write an article about the topics and subsequent discussion during the event. This is an excellent way not only to generate content for your publication, but to showcase the discussion. It’s also a great way to showcase your volunteers. Many members covet a byline on your association’s blog or in your publication. Covering select sessions at your events drives home the message to those members and the profession in general who did not attend that the event’s content is something to take note of and hear first hand. Think of it as your indirect sales guy.
  2. Give sidebars new meaning. Sidebars help break up your content and add an element of information that otherwise may be awkward to include in the main story. You are likely housing your speaker’s content somewhere on your website and the subject will also pertain to something you are covering in your publication. Remind your readers that the content is still there and provide access to it by showcasing it in a sidebar. You could have content available from a webinar, a whitepaper or a slide presentation from an annual conference session. Use it. You don’t have to showcase the entire resource—just use a link, headline and blurb. And don’t forget your association’s other resources such as white papers, reports, webinars, podcasts, blog posts and other gold nugget of information that shows your members that they have access to solid industry or profession information.
  3. Ask speakers to convert their presentation into an article or interview them. This approach works best if you have your editorial staff attend the selected sessions and figure out which ones will translate into content for your publication. It also helps to weed out the presenters who were less than stellar—you probably do not want to showcase their content in your publication. It’s unlikely their content would translate well in a new format. Add an editor’s note at the beginning or the end of the piece letting the readers know that this topic was first discussed at XYZ conference, webinar, etc. I have used this approach for years and our publications have received many excellent articles that we published.
  4. When you have a hot, timely topic of discussion, ask the speaker or panelists to write blog posts about the subject before the event. There is always some piece of relevant information that he or she wishes they could include, but can’t because of time constraints or it diverts from the subject a little too much for an event. Not only is this a good way to showcase the content, but it creates buzz about your event and may even increase the numbers from last-minute registrations or day-pass registrants.
  5. Cross-promote your education event through Twitter. If you know that certain members are into social media, especially Twitter, and they have fast fingers, ask them which sessions they would consider covering for you. This approach works best live, but after the event, consider picking out the top five or 10 tweets from the meeting and using that information as a sidebar to post-event coverage. The great thing about this approach is that you are covering yet another session that may not be covered any other traditional way. It’s yet another insight into the education content that your meetings and events offer.
  6. Additional ideas might include:
    1. Videos or other enhanced content in digital publications. Careful planning and scheduling can yield good video clips from members when they are onsite.
    2. Executive summaries of content, ideas or discussions to share with attendees/those who were unable to attend as resources rather than simply as informational articles (think of this as a note-taking service or perhaps even enhance these notes with new information to make them that much more useful).
    3. Leverage sample content/learning outcomes/ROI/testimonials in next year’s event marketing materials to make the promotion that much more compelling.
    4. Consider year-round opportunities to position your annual meeting vs. only the 2-3 months leading up to the conference; keep the conversations going.
    5. Consider repackaging content into an infographic or other visually interesting format to help members/attendees digest the information in a new way.

Even if you cannot implement all of these ideas, pick one that you know will work with your membership and any internal constraints you may have. Starting small will be the first step to yielding better results for your educational events and content that you are delivering to your members.

Kim Howard, CAE, is an award-winning publisher and president of Write Communications, LLC. Write Communications works with association leaders to create mission-aligned content for every channel for measureable results. She is the immediate past president of Association Media & Publishing. She can be contacted at kim@writecommunicationsllc.com.

 

The Emergence of the Chief Data Officer: Part 1 of 3

We’re inundated with data. So what? Why care? How does it benefit my association? This three-part series will help you use data to improve your marketing strategies and, ultimately, your bottom line. Part 1 focuses on the emergence of the Chief Data Officer. Part 2 will share practical tips to mine your data. Part 3 will discuss measuring your data through branding, social media and website scorecards.

  • All marketing efforts are measurable and data is not only one of associations’ most valued tools, but a must-have marketing tool.
  • There are more than 100 chief data officers (carrying that actual job title) serving in large enterprises today. That’s more than double the number we counted in 2012.
  • Start determining how you can better use data for the benefit of your association by using Google Analytics (if you’re not already), employing a lead generation (or member generation) scorecard, and by conducting an audit of your current marketing activities.

What is data anyway?

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, data is factual information (as measurements or statistics) used as a basis for reasoning, discussion or calculation. Data is plentiful today, but often underutilized. Data is also meaningless unless it is reviewed, analyzed and used to make mission-critical association decisions.

As an integrated marketer, I believe all marketing efforts are measurable and data is not only one of associations’ most valued tools, but a must-have marketing tool. One of my favorite quotes about data comes from Carly Fiorina, former executive president and chair of Hewlett-Packard, who said: “The goal is to turn data into information and information into insight.” See Hank Berkowitz’s article for more on turning data into actionable intelligence.

In other words, companies and marketers have data, but what are they really doing with it? That is the critical question?

Chief Data Officers are the newest trend

We are already beginning to see the newest C-Suite title emerge: Chief Data Officer (CDO).

In May 2013, Data Management Association President Peter Aiken told Information Management that Chief Data Officers are “more vital than ever.” In August, the Federal Reserve hired its first CDO.

The discussion around the CDO title began in 2012. According to an article by Associations Now, “there is an opportunity for more associations to get in on the data hype,” said Debbie King, CEO of DSK Solutions. Most associations, especially small to mid-size, might not need such a high-level data officer, but instead may hire a director or manager of data information.

The title event has a Wikipedia entry, which defines the role as “a corporate officerresponsible for enterprise-wide governance and utilization of information as an asset, viadata processing, analysis, data mining information trading and other means.”

“There are also Chief Data Officer (CDO) titles emerging given the increasingly complex challenge of Data Management, and growth of Big Data and Analytics, as our world continues to explode in data everywhere,” according to Cindy Gordon, CEO and founder ofSalesChoice Inc. “The new rabbit hole is a very promising one, as companies are increasingly turning to sales analytics solutions that provide an enterprise-wide data flow to maintain a competitive position in the market. Companies are turning to sales prediction analytic solutions that provide an enterprise-wide data flow intelligence into the forecasting process.”

ZDNet cites Gartner Vice President and Analyst Debra Logan in one of its blogs: “Data chiefs tend to have a more compliance-focused role and are emerging, for example, in banking and insurance and in companies with a burden of litigation and regulation.” Some 19 percent of business leaders expect to recruit a CDO in 2014, while 17 percent foresee a CDO appointment, according to a study by Gartner.

Gartner Analyst Mark Raskino shares five interesting facts about CDOs:

  1. There are more than 100 chief data officers (carrying that actual job title) serving in large enterprises today. That’s more than double the number we counted in 2012.
  2. Banking, Government and Insurance are the Top 3 industries for Chief Data Officers—in that order. However, we are now seeing other industries rising.
  3. Sixty-five percent of Chief Data Officers are in the United States. 20 percent are in the UK. There are now CDOs in more than a dozen countries.
  4. More than 25 percent of all Chief Data Officers are in New York or Washington, D.C. It’s a regulatory catalyzed trend—at least in the early stages.
  5. More than 25 percent of Chief Data Officers are women.In case you are wondering, that’s almost twice as high as for CIOs (13 percent).

Data? So what?

Some predict marketers will fail as we face volumes of data that machines are better at processing. Whether you agree or disagree with data, the truth is it exists and is plentiful today. Dashboards and analytics offer a great deal of information about demographics, geographics, traffic resources and much more information than ever before.

Data can expand your knowledge about your industry, competitors, customers and prospects. It can validate or not validate business models and the needs for new products. It can help identify your competitive advantages and market differentiators. It can help formulate marketing strategies. It can provide industry benchmarks and best practice Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). It can help measure and track Return on Investment (ROI) so you can adjust marketing strategies accordingly. In essence, data can inform mission-critical business decisions and make a difference to your bottom line.

Are you using available data to benefit your association?

Most associations can better incorporate data analysis into their strategic missions. Here are three tips:

  1. Connect Google Analytics—a free tool—to your website and review the data at a minimum of once a month. This offers detailed insights about where your traffic is coming from. For example, is your website responsive on mobile devices. One of my B2B (business-to-business) clients receives 20 percent of its website traffic from smartphones and tablets.
  2. While there are many ways to capture and measure data, perhaps the simplest method is a scorecard. For starters and food for thought, here’s a lead generation scorecard we hope you will use and share.
  3. Conduct a marketing audit of your current efforts using the data and analytics you have—even if that data is feedback from your members. Determine what is working well, identify gaps and areas for improvement, then brainstorm about new marketing strategies and tactics that will help you achieve your business goals for 2014.

Download a complimentary marketing audit template from Christina Motley, LLC byregistering here.

Christina Motley is an integrated Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)-on-Demand and member of the Association Executives of North Carolina (AENC) and serves on its Communications Task Force A. Learn more at www.christinamotley.com.

3 Simple Social Media Strategies to See Real Results in 2014

by Corey Perlman

With social media, if you’re not generating new leads or building stronger relationships with existing customers, then it’s just a hobby. And it you’re like me, the last thing you need is a new hobby.

This article will offer three ways for your company to see improved results with your social media efforts.

1. Fish where the fish are.

Where are your customers and potential customers spending time online? Are they active on Twitter? If not, why should you be? You don’t have to be on all social media sites. REPEAT: You don’t have to be on all social media sites.

Decide where your audience is spending time and plant your flag on those sites. If you’re typically targeting businesses, LinkedIn is probably the place you’ll want to spend the most time. With over a billion users on Facebook, chances are good that some of your prospects are active on that site.

Action: Ask 10 current customers to rank in order the sites that they spend the most time on. Use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ as their choices. Follow up by asking how many times in the past month they’ve used each of those sites. You’ll notice a pattern and stay focused on the sites they ranked highest.

2. Be proud of your Digital Footprint.

When people go to the web and do research on your company, are they impressed by what they see?  Do you gain or lose credibility when someone visits your LinkedIn profile?  Today, most first impressions happen online and, with a little bit of effort, you can control much of what they see. Here are three quick ways to put your best digital foot forward:

  1. Have an attractive, user-friendly Website. I don’t care what the other social media pundits say, your Website is still your most important piece of online real estate. It needs to look professional and give your visitors the info they’re looking for in a clear and concise way.  If there’s too much clutter, too little content, or just frustrating to use, it can sabotage your efforts in gaining new members. In my new book, Social Media Overload!I share the five Website mistakes that most businesses make and how to avoid them. 
  2. Increase your fans, followers and friends. If it’s a social media site like a Facebook fan page or LinkedIn profile, nothing says small, unpopular or old fashioned than low numbers. So work on getting lots of fans to your Facebook page, connections to your LinkedIn profile or followers to your Twitter account. Always build your numbers—they matter.
  3. Improve Your LinkedIn Profile. As far as individual social media profiles go, LinkedIn is the place where people tend to go to check you out. Most of your information is public and your profile typically ranks well on the search engines when people search for your name. So it’s important to have a professional looking profile that sells you and your company.

 Action: Here are four things you can do to give your LinkedIn profile a quick makeover:

  1. Upload a current photo. The key word there is current.
  2. Work on those connections. I want everyone reading this to get to at least 250  quality connections — preferably people that you know.
  3. Work on your professional summary. Your LinkedIn profile is not a resume. So your summary should not be a history of your work. Instead, share your role with your organization and some of the benefits to working with you. Talk in terms of your readers’ interests.
  4. Get three quality recommendations. These should be from customers who have benefited from working with you and include reasons why they value the relationship.

3. Be Known as a Thought-leader

What could you share or write about that your customers and prospects would deem interesting or valuable? You should ask yourself this question before you share anything on social media.

It doesn’t matter the channel. It could be your blog, Facebook page, LinkedIn profile or Twitter feed, I want you sharing information that will benefit your audience.

Over time, you’ll start to build trust and credibility with them.

This is, by far, the most effective way to sell your value and yourself. If you deliver this much great material on the web, imagine what they’ll get by working with you.

If you remember nothing else from this article, remember to always Make It About Them. It’s the golden rule to seeing results with social media.

About Social Media Overload:

I wrote this book to help businesses avoid the trap of being overwhelmed by all the hype surrounding social media and focus on the areas that can actually produce results.

The book will help you:

  • Decide which social media sites you need to pay attention to and the sites you can ignore.
  • Avoid Website mistakes almost every business makes.
  • Strengthen your reputation on Google and other 3rd party sites.
  • Stay connected with prospects until they become customers.
  • Generate real business results from Facebook.
  • Learn powerful LinkedIn strategies to turn cold calls into warm leads.

It will serve as a roadmap for you and your team on how to increase leads, strengthen credibility, build long-term relationships, and win referral business.

Please connect with me and let me know how it has helped you! You can email me at corey@ebootcamp.com – send me a copy of your receipt and I’ll send you bonus material from me and my all-star advisors ($1,000 value).

link: www.socialmediaoverload.com/book-bonuses

Corey Perlman is an entrepreneur, best selling author and nationally-recognized social media expert. His first book, eBoot Camp, (Wiley) became an Amazon.com bestseller and received global attention with distribution rights deals in both China and India. He delivers keynote presentations and workshops to audiences all over the world.

Corey’s company, eBoot Camp, Inc., is a social media marketing company that builds and manages online marketing campaigns for businesses.   

Connect with Corey:

www.coreyperlman.com

www.socialmediaoverload.com

855-EBOOT-NOW

www.Facebook.com/eBootCamp

www.Linkedin.com/in/coreyperlman

www.Twitter.com/CoreyPerlman 

To see Corey in action, go to YouTube.com/eBootCamp 

Big Data for Associations

by Jim Thompson, IOM, CAE

In the association community, there is a lot of buzz around the term “Big Data”. According to Wikipedia, Big data is the term for a collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand database management tools or traditional data processing applications. The challenges include capture, curation, storage, search, sharing, transfer, analysis and visualization.

For most in the association world, our challenges come with the curation of our data, being able to search to find the information you need and once you find what you need, trying to analyze what the data is telling us and then communicating that to our key stakeholders.

There are so many examples of things you can do with big data. You can measure the engagement of your membership, you can define demographics (career level, age, geographic location, specialty areas, etc.) and you can use data to determine potential product offerings.

The good thing for associations, unlike those in the private-sector, association members tend to more freely share information with members than most. Of course, these days, it’s not to hard to collect data on your members, potential members and companies. Using companies like Acxiom, Infogroup, or Infutor, you can not only access the data of your potential members, you can also get more detailed demographic about your existing membership.

So, what are some things that “Big Data” can tell you and how can you use that data. One of the most common communications tools associations use is email. Using email companies like RealMagnet, iContact, Constant Contact or even your own AMS email, you can track open and click through rates. However, a lot of folks get excited when they see their open rates, for example are averaging 30%, which is well above the industry average. The problem with that data is that 70% of your audience isn’t seeing your message. To use that data more effectively, review a months worth of your emails and see who isn’t engaged and figure out how you are going to communicate to them more effectively.

Additionally, there are a lot of stats on when the best time to send email is, however, you should really be using your data to find out that answer. Send emails at different times over a few months and then go back and review your open rates and click through rates. You should begin to see a pattern emerging. If you have good data, you may even be able to determine what type of member opens what type of email and when.

One great thing about data is to pay attention to things members don’t want, in addition to the things they do want. This is very helpful when it comes to things like killing the “sacred cow”.

Although, once you determine you have the data, the other challenge for associations is how to visualize that data for your stakeholders, particularly committees and the board. One way is to use visualization tools. Many of those can be obtained fairly inexpensively and can work with the data in your AMS. Tools Tableau, QlikView or Spotfire. It is extremely hard to look at a spreadsheet and see trends. Tools like this can help you visualize your data.

 Jim Thompson, IOM, CAE is the Executive Director of the Association Executives of North Carolina and is a great resource for all things related to association management. 

How Associations Can Leverage the Power of Content and Social Media to Build Audience and Attract Members – Part 2

by Corey Post

In part one of this article, we discussed the importance of content in your recruitment efforts.  We reviewed understanding your audience through personas, constructing an editorial calendar, creating your content, managing your resources and team as well utilizing your blog as your content base.

In this installment, you’ll learn about scaling your content creation, promoting it with social media, and applying success metrics to your efforts.

Repurpose Your Content

Content takes time and energy to produce.  So when you create a piece of content that you’re happy with, or more importantly, that your readers like, you want to maximize it.  One way to do so is through repurposing.  Repurposing is breaking your content up into different forms for different channels.  For example, you might transcribe a video and use it in an article, make a slideshow out of a presentation and place it on SlideShare, or take your top performing articles and create an eBook for your readers.

Essentially, repurposing content allows you to reach more eyeballs and helps you underwrite the cost of production across multiple iterations of creation.

Social Media Platforms

Social media is an incredibly effective channel through which to develop an audience, talk with your members and reach new prospects.  Advertising notwithstanding, it’s inexpensive – accounts are generally free – and offers massive potential for reach.

There are myriad social media platforms from which to choose.  And while it’s tempting to try to use as many as possible, it’s often good to start with a limited number – three or four – and learn how to maximize those particular products.

As an association, you want to be able to reach large groups of interested prospects, often in the business-to-business arena. So consider Facebook, with its unparalleled reach, LinkedIn with its business focus, and Twitter, which has a fantastic viral component baked into it.  Another useful platform is YouTube, which, believe it or not, is the world’s second largest search engine (actually not surprising since it’s owned by the world’s largest search engine, Google).

Use of each platform merits its own post, so we won’t go into depth here, but the two common threads among all platforms are content and connections.  Your content will facilitate connections and your connections will help to share your content.  You’ll use the content from your editorial calendar, blog, and “repurposing activities” to populate your social channels.

So you could, for example, use Facebook and LinkedIn status updates to push out events and summaries of blog posts.  You can also perform similar activities on Twitter, but you’re limited, of course, by its 140 characters per tweet.  With YouTube, create your own channel and consider filming events that you or a sponsor hold.  Another strategy is to interview association members and thought leaders in your community.  Or take a PowerPoint and narrate it while you film.  Video doesn’t have to be expensive.  You can leverage YouTube and deliver value with few resources.

Building a fan/follower base takes time.  But to start, make sure you feature your social profiles on your website/blog, in your newsletter, and in your email signature.  Join industry forums, dive into the discussion and, when applicable, offer helpful links back to content that you pushed to social media.  You might also consider emailing your members to tell them about your social profiles or posts that you think they should know about and give them the opportunity to get involved through guest posts, comments, polls and general feedback.

Success Metrics

Every activity has an opportunity cost.  Content and social media is no exception.  So you want to ensure that your content marketing activities have a positive ROI, which can be calculated through KPIs that you define.  You might consider pageviews on your website or blog, “likes” on Facebook, links to your site, press mentions, blog comments, and, of course, new members.

Use your analytics program if you’re particularly interested in KPIs around pageviews and traffic.  I like to use Google Analytics because it’s robust, free and easy to install.  However, the data can be overwhelming at first, with information ranging from geography to bounce rate. 

Make sure you track all your data relative to your content in both your editorial calendar and any separate spreadsheet that you find helpful.  After several months, you’ll be able to discern patterns on your content and social activity.  You’ll learn what works and what doesn’t work.  Of course, you’ll expand on activities that work and stop, or pivot, on activities that don’t work.

 A Historic Opportunity

Content and social media are powerful tools that you can use to communicate and create value, develop audience, and attract members.  Remember to plan first using personas, an editorial calendar, and resource allocation.  Make sure you maximize your content and reach with repurposing and social distribution. And track and measure through KPIs.  Once you find areas of opportunity, go deep and build on them.

At the risk of sounding like a web cheerleader, I believe you have an opportunity unmatched in history to build authority for your association and in your particular industry.  All you have to do is get started.

About Corey Post

Corey Post, a sought after digital industry speaker and writer, has over a decade of experience helping organizations build membership through social media, content marketing and SEO.  He’s the founder of content strategy agency, Agile Leverage.  Contact Corey to provide digital marketing education to your association members through webinars and speaking engagements. 

 

How Associations Can Leverage the Power of Content and Social Media to Build Audience and Attract Members – Part 1

by Corey Post

Associations create value for their members in myriad ways, from education to networking.  And content marketing, coupled with the massive audience and low cost distribution of social media, offers a historically unparalleled method for associations to communicate and magnify this value.

Below is a general overview of how associations can begin to unlock the power of content and social media to both serve existing members and recruit new ones. 

Know Your Audience Through Personas

 In an increasingly noisy world, the creation of useful, audience relevant content will give your association the opportunity to build authority in the social sphere.  And through that authority, attract fans, followers and members.

I start my content creation efforts with the construction of personas – essentially representations of buyers – or in the case of associations, members.  A major goal of persona creation is to understand your customers so that you can generate valuable solutions and craft messaging that resonates with them.  Personas are developed using data and, to a certain extent, data informed suppositions.  As a result, persona creation is both art and science.

Essentially, you’re looking to generate a reasonably robust profile of a “representative” member, from education and position to demographics and work objectives.  Fortunately, as an association, you probably have a lot of useful data that you can mine, from your membership database to your web analytics. You might also perform online surveys and in person interviews.

Well-developed personas can help you understand both members and potential members.  However, they can be difficult to construct.  If you’d like some help getting started, contact me and I’ll walk you through the steps of building your personas.

Editorial Calendar

Think of your editorial calendar as your map, or guide, to content creation.  Basically, your editorial calendar will help you and your team envision the content creation process, stay organized, and marshal your resources as you build and distribute your content library.

At a minimum, you should have a calendar that will contain both “macro” and “micro” items.  Macro items could include upcoming events such as membership drives, holidays, and activities related to your industry as a whole.  You’ll use these entries to look ahead and prepare for individual calendar months in advance.  Conversely, the “micro” items will include lists of content ideas or titles, the content format such as video or blog post, the author, the editor, the release date and promotional activities.

You’ll also want to allow for content status, such as if an article is in production, in editing, ready for release, or published. 

Finally, it’s a good idea to track results of your individual content efforts.  You’d want to answer questions such as:

“Did the video on our legislation initiative get 30 views or 500?”

“Did our infographic on membership benefits receive 100 pageviews or 1,000?”

You’d attach these key performance indicators (KPIs) to your goals for a content piece so you can determine payback on your efforts.

Content Creation

 Personas and editorial calendars will help you organize and create targeted content.  Once you have a strategy, you can begin to develop initial content ideas.  You can start by answering the question, “What subject matters and topics are important to my audience?”

There are several tools you can use to help you ideate.  To begin, use your web analytics.  Look at what pages people are viewing on your site.  Examine bounce rate and the amount of time spent on a page.  Look for articles that generate a lot of feedback and comments.  The pages with the most reader consumption and engagement are often on topics that your audience finds of interest.  Take these topics and expand on them with related stories.  You can also run surveys and ask your readers what they want to learn about.

Other tools that you might consider are Quora.com, Google Trends and Google Suggest.  Quora will help you find questions…and answers…that are popular around a specific topic.  Google Trends will tell you about the popularity of keywords and terms.  And Google Suggest (which you’ve probably seen when Google tries to complete your search queries as you type them into the search box) will provide insight into information demand.

Essentially, data for content creation is everywhere.  You can find seeds for ideas and customize them for your members and prospective members using your personas.

Your Marketing Team and Resources

Association staffs have immense variability in size.  So the content resource budget and staff for a one-person association will most likely drastically differ from that of a 20-person association.  Regardless of your resources, when planning for content creation and distribution, you need to determine:

1) Who will prepare (write, edit, shoot, design) your content

2) Who will promote your content via blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.

3) How much you can afford, financially, to invest in production like video equipment, outside designers, software, etc.

Fortunately, knowledge and passion are often more important than gross resources.  So consider all your stakeholders.  Is there an event planner, intern, or volunteer who loves your industry, writes well, and wants to get more involved?  Reach out to people that both want to and can contribute.  As an association, you have access to a lot of talent – from speakers to veteran practitioners – that can allow you to scale your content program.

Your Blog – The Center of Your Content and Social Media Operation

Your editorial calendar and content ideas will feed your blog, which is analogous to the “heart” of your operation as most of your content efforts will flow from it through the social media platforms.  For example, if you were to announce a membership drive, you’d write about it on your blog and push snippets of that write-up to your Facebook page and Twitter account.

Before you set up your blog, you need to choose a blogging platform.  While there are a variety to consider, I like WordPress.  It’s free and you can host it on your own server.  Further, it offers a virtually unlimited number of design and functionality customizations through themes and plugins.  For example, plugins will give you the power to easily promote your content on all the major social media platforms so that you and your readers will be able to share your content with respective fans and followers.  In addition, you’ll be able to increase engagement through polls, surveys, and comments. Finally, WordPress will help you organize your content and make it more discoverable through its innate system of tags and categories.

Whichever blog platform you choose, think of your blog as the command center for content and social media.  Place your stories, videos, images, and events on your blog, which you own, and use it to populate your social outlets, which will drive readers back to you blog.

In part 2 of this article, which we’ll post next week, I’ll show you how to scale and promote your content.

Corey Post, a sought after digital industry speaker and writer, has over a decade of experience helping organizations build membership through social media, content marketing and SEO.  He’s the founder of content marketing and branding firm, Agile Leverage.  Contact Corey to provide digital marketing education to your association members through webinars and speaking engagements.