Equip Your Members for Content Success
Wednesday, December 9, 2020
There’s no voice more powerful than your members as contributors to your association’s content strategy. They can provide their expert views and knowledge that speak directly to the interest of their peers, whether it’s by providing first-hand advice on how to tackle common issues or by diving deep into a topic that affects the overall profession.
But if your organization doesn’t establish clear standards to help your members communicate their ideas effectively, you’re setting the association and its members up for failure. Fear not: Creating content standards isn’t hard, and it helps both you and your association deliver great content.
What are content standards?
Remember high school? Before an assignment, a teacher would provide a list of parameters: Three pages, double spaced, citations needed, etc. Rubrics help establish what is expected of a student and create a clear path to success.
Content standards are essentially rubrics. They create benchmarks so the content delivered aligns with the standards of the association, on topic and the right length. They also create clear roadmaps for people who are non-writers to create meaningful content.
Content standards will vary depending on your organization and the strength of skill your volunteer contributors have. You can be as thorough as you need to be. But be careful not to be too vague. Make sure your content standards are attainable and clear.
Determining your standards
Content can be acquired and used in a myriad of ways. There are a few things to consider when building your standards:
What kind of content is it? Content doesn’t just mean a written word. Maybe you’re asking for videos or pictures. Maybe you’re asking your members to tweet or post on Facebook. Figuring out the type of content you need is going to change the frequency of submission, the length of your content and format in which it’s accepted.
Where is the content going? Do you have a content hub? A blog? A newsletter or magazine? Will be in print or digital? Asking these questions will help you determine how long content should be, and what other materials—if any—you might require along with the contribution.
Are there certain topics you want to avoid? Once, I had a content committee that I did not address this with in the standards. They were a medical association, so I assumed they would write about their lives as medical professionals. I was wrong. Because I did not explicitly explain I wanted things only relating to their professional lives, I was inundated with their daily musings of coffee places, good books to read and how to relax on your time off. Make sure you are clear with what you want, in addition to what you don’t want.
Delivering your standards
Once you determine your content needs, it’s time to actually write them down and communicate them. Circulate these to your broader marketing team for review and input. It’s good to have a second set of eyes on them in case there’s anything you missed.
Share them with your writers too, and if possible, hop on a call to explain what you’re looking for. It’s sometimes easier to express to people what you want face-to-face (or voice-to-voice). If you have some previous examples of great content, share those as well. Giving people something to work off of will help them understand the expectations you have, and help everyone have a better content experience overall.
Here are some things to get you started on making your own standards:
- Length of the piece
- Do you need pictures/video included with it? What are the size requirements?
- What format do you need your materials submitted in?
- Do you have any topics you want/don’t want to cover?
- When is the deadline?
- Do you have any examples for reference?
Your members are your organization’s most important content contributors. Providing a well-thought-out set of content standards and guidelines will help ensure that you retain their interest, their input and their expertise.
Kate Jacobson is a content coordinator at SmithBucklin
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