Defining the Content Lane
Planning, developing and executing a comprehensive content strategy is a complex initiative. There are many necessary steps that organizations can and should take as part of the process:
- Undertaking an in-depth content audit.
- Surveying members to assess their preferences.
- Creating specific and targeted content categories.
- Launching a branded content outlet.
- Educating the team and the audience about the purpose of the content effort.
- Consistently communicating the purpose of the content initiative.
Those last two steps often don’t get the attention they should. But they are important for any organization to consider for the long-term consistency and effectiveness of its content strategy.
Why? Because if your association doesn’t clearly define and communicate the intention of its content strategy, that strategy is at risk of drifting and becoming watered-down.
Here’s an example of how that might happen: An organization decides to develop and launch a branded online publication or content hub. The goal of the effort is to provide timely, relevant and educational content to members of the profession the association targets—thereby establishing the association as a thought leader and a trusted provider of industry news and information.
Shortly after the content hub launches, however, various people on staff decide to start inserting different types of content—promotional information about an upcoming event, perhaps, or an announcement about a staff appointment. While that information is critically important to the organization and its membership, it doesn’t belong in outlet designed to publish industry content. Publishing content that doesn’t fit the mission of the publication dilutes the purpose of the publication, and can be confusing to the audience.
The best way to define your organization’s content lane is to consider your association a publisher—an authoritative, even objective provider of information to an industry. Taking that approach can help ensure that the right kinds of content is published and distributed in the right ways, avoiding both internal confusion and audience confusion.
Here are a few steps you can take to help clearly separate and delineate your organization’s industry publishing efforts from its member communications efforts:
- Establish a content brand. This is critical because it gives a name and identity to what you are doing. Think of the brands of publications you might follow in your everyday life. When you hear Sports Illustrated or Entertainment Weekly, you know what those content brands deliver. Your organization’s publishing brand should prompt the same kind of immediate recognition by its targeted audience.
- Explain the content brand’s purpose—internally and externally. This is not only necessary, but also bears repeating—frequently. Internally (meaning for your staff and partners), explicitly define your content or publication brand’s mission and purpose. Externally (meaning for your members and your intended industry audience), create house ads or marketing campaigns that clearly state what your content brand is and does. Adding a tagline can also help—for example, “The Official Publication of the XYZ Association.”
- Establish a member communications strategy. This addresses the other side of your communications efforts—the non-publishing side. Your organization should clearly define how it communicates important information to members—for example, in an email newsletter that is clearly distinct from any newsletter associated with your content brand. Defining how you communicate important information to members is as important as defining your content and publishing strategy.
Taking these steps will help boost the effectiveness of your content strategy—and ultimately increase its ROI.
Jason Meyers is senior director of content strategy for 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.