5 Tips for Facilitating Member Contributions
Effective association content strategy requires the generation of relevant, timely and informative content. Your organization’s members—subject matter experts in their field—are your richest sources of content. Members relate to other members’ experiences and value their expertise, and their contribution adds credibility to your publications.
So when it comes to keeping a pipeline full of expertly written content, you’re all set—right?
Well…maybe not exactly. To get the member-driven contributions your publication needs, you have to meet members (more than) halfway.
While some members are natural-born writers, others may require coaching. Remember, they are the subject matter expert in their fields, but they are not necessarily skilled as editors and content strategy experts. By meeting in the middle, you can create a quality piece of content that resonates with your targeted audience.
Here are some tips to help facilitate member-generated content and make it an experience your members want to repeat:
- Share contributor guidelines. Contributor guidelines set the tone with basic rules around word count, style and things to avoid. Sharing this from the start sets expectations and can help avoid unnecessary revisions. Don’t send your members on a road trip without a road map. (Need guidance on developing contributor guidelines? Check out this article.)
- Provide a list of questions to get the conversation started. If a volunteer is a strong writer, this may not be needed. However, writing an article may be a new experience for some. Share a list of questions that will draw out their experiences. Ask about why they approached a project the way they did, why it’s important to other professionals, and what challenges they addressed that can provide lessons for others.
- Work around volunteers’ schedules. You have deadlines to meet, but so do your members. Remember they likely are volunteering on top of a day job and other responsibilities. Share a deadline that fits your production schedule and confirm that it’s manageable for them. Add in a few days of “wiggle room” for safety. As the deadline approaches, ask if they are on track or need assistance. Demonstrate that it’s a partnership, and that you want to help them succeed.
- Don’t be afraid to edit (with tracked changes). Did the author use too many run-ons? Speak informally? Forget transitions? Track edits and add comments to explain changes as necessary. If you’re working in Word, use the “simple markup” view so the edits are tracked without overwhelming the document. In my experience, when it looks like I’ve edited with a heavy hand but ultimately improved the quality, the contributing member is grateful for the assistance and extra set of eyes. (I’ve even been told, “Thank you for making me sound smarter!”)
- Show your appreciation and encourage them to share the article. Once the article is published, share a link or copy of the publication with the member and thank them for their time and contribution. Encourage them to share on their own social media channels—it’s something they should be proud of, after all. Let them know they are welcome to collaborate with you again in the future or just share new ideas.
Managing member-generated content is a two-way street that requires collaboration and clear communication. By making the process as seamless as possible, you open the door to future contributions and returning authors—as well as their colleagues and industry peers.
Kristin Fields is a Senior Content Coordinator at SmithBucklin.
SmithBucklin Content helps you position your organization as an authoritative source of timely, relevant, comprehensive and engaging industry intelligence. Contact us to learn about partnering with SmithBucklin Content to create a customized content strategy for your organization.