By Caroline Hopkins
Members join associations seeking valuable information, community, and education. All three can, and should, be found in the most tangible benefit of membership: its content.
At the AM&P Annual Meeting in June, Teresa Brinati, director of publishing at the Society of American Archivists; Janet Liao Kornas, managing editor at GLC; and Jane Hoback, managing editor of Momentum magazine at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, led a session emphasizing, among other valuable takeaways, the importance of viewing members not only as a target audience for association content, but as active participants in content creation.
During the session — “The Content Experience: Making Your Content a True Benefit of Membership” — Brinati offered six Rs (and one W) of successful member involvement in an association’s content ecosystem.
Reaping: The reaping element of the content ecosystem is the foundation of content ideation. When it comes to generating new content ideas, members know best what they’re looking for. That’s why associations should involve members from the beginning. Through surveys and analytics as well as calls for articles and book proposals, associations should turn to their members to drive content ideas. When soliciting ideas from members, Brinati recommends sharing ample feedback and positive reinforcement so as to turn members into consistent contributors down the line.
Writing: Written association content intrinsically lends itself to member involvement — but sometimes even the most eloquent writers out of a pool of members shouldn’t just start writing articles right off the bat. Brinati suggests a stepped approach to involving members with written contribution, which could include a writing forum, where those on the content team share guidelines for format and style. They could also implement a shepherding program, in which members are gradually brought into the writing process. Associations could, for instance, host a breakfast that introduces members to written content opportunities across the organization.
Reviewing: The nature of a member-based association is such that, when it comes to content, members are themselves subject experts — and are already well-positioned to take on roles as content reviewers. Tapping members to weigh in on content is one of the best ways to ensure quality, accuracy, and relevance across content. Member review opportunities could take various forms, including journal editorial boards, book publishing boards, and internships that engage young professionals in content review from early on.
Rousing: Members can play a valuable role in rousing content engagement among other members. Regardless of whether they took part in the actual content creation, members can promote and share pieces. To encourage members to take part in rousing content interest, Brinati suggestsasking members to highlight content on their social media accounts. Rousing members to promote content could also take the form of offering discounts to members on books or publications or sharing complimentary samples — be it recent issues or copies of books — at regional meetings.
Reading: The reading aspect of the content ecosystem is the most intuitive of the six elements. Of course, associations want members reading content — that’s why the content exists, after all. But the reading element goes beyond just offering members content and expecting they’ll consume it in full. Reading should be an engaging and community-driven process, in which members gather together — be it online, such as a Twitter chat, or in person at, for instance, member brown bag lunches — to discuss the content and its takeaways. Weekly e-newsletters that draw readers into content across vehicles can also encourage engaged reading.
Reveling: As contributors to an association, members should feel genuinely valued and be offered a host of opportunities to revel in the role they play. Brinati suggests several avenues for member reveling: inviting members to be guest Instagrammers, sending members thank-you notes after they’ve contributed content, awarding certificates or recognition to outstanding content, or toasting contributing members at meetings or events.
Repeating: The repeating element of the content ecosystem is the goal, Brinati said. That is, associations should empower members to continuously take part in the content process. To achieve the repetition, members must have a positive experience with the content, as they both gain and contribute value.
Building on the repeat element of a successful member content ecosystem, Kornas and Hoback offered an additional three Rs — repurpose, reuse, and recycle. Previously written content can gain relevance again with the ebb and flow of current events or industry news, they said, so associations should not shy away from rerunning evergreen content. Some content may even become a greater benefit to members the second or third time it runs.
Caroline Hopkins is associate writer and editor for ASCO Daily News. Association Media & Publishing thanks Caroline for her stellar job covering this session from the AM&P Annual Meeting for our members who were unable to attend.