Why Content Strategy is the New Member Engagement Strategy

Associations need to rethink their communications strategy to build an engagement model more targeted to members’ evolving needs.

It doesn’t take much effort to recognize that the pace of change in all walks of life is accelerating. Whether it’s yet another black swan event or a new, unforeseen trend (TikToking grannies anyone?), things are changing quickly. This is true on a professional level as well. Nearly every industry is facing significant disruption, and many are ill-equipped for both the rate and scale of change they face.

In such an environment, the need for information is paramount. For associations, the opportunity to grow loyalty by serving their professional members’ rapidly evolving informational needs is substantial. But, the traditional, events-based model for member engagement may no longer be sufficient.

A new way to look at member engagement

According to Association Adviser’s 2022 Benchmarking Report, four out of five association executives count tried-and-true association services like conferences, continuing education, networking, and communication among their top member engagement strategies. Too often, however, what’s missing from the equation is an ongoing supply of credible information targeted to members’ quickly changing informational needs.

Associations wanting to increase the value they provide their members may want to set aside the traditional member engagement model and begin thinking in terms of content strategy.

ASAE’s Director of Content and Knowledge Resources, Jenny Nelson states that “Trusted and relevant content is the core of the association value proposition. Recent ASAE Research Foundation studies point to members’ high expectations and shifting needs for content in the future, making a holistic content strategy even more valuable.”

This is not to suggest that content strategy will replace your organization’s member engagement strategy; only that, because the need for timely information among the professionals in your industry is likely more acute than ever, the traditional tentpoles of member engagement — events, magazines, and newsletters — are likely no longer enough to sustain engagement.

Member engagement will be determined by an association’s commitment to members’ ongoing content and informational needs. And, ultimately, members will reciprocate their commitment to the associations they belong to at a level commensurate with how well their informational needs are served.

In other words, your association’s content strategy may be a more appropriate lever to influence your organizational mission because engagement will be predicated on how well members’ content and informational needs are served within the disrupted industries in which they function.

For association members, content is king

ASAE Research Foundation’s report, Association Content Strategies for a Changing World defines content strategy as “the planning and judgment for the creation, publication, dissemination, and governance of useful, usable, effective content across departments and functional areas.”

According to the ASAE’s Impact Every Day, 92% of association members and executives that “serving as a trusted resource for information” is at the top of the list of goals for associations of the future.

While providing relevant and important content is one of the most valuable services associations can provide, it is also becoming one of the most challenging aspects of association management, however. According to Association Adviser’s 2022 Association Benchmarking Report, 43% of member engagement teams feel understaffed. Compounding the challenge, PCMA’s 2022 Salary Survey finds that one out of 10 respondents were terminated and their previous position remains unfilled. One out of 5 said members of their staff had been furloughed or let go.

Fortunately, however, there are tools available to assist association leaders interested in supporting a more robust content strategy without creating an additional strain on their organizations’ already limited internal resources.

How a Resource Library supports your association’s content strategy

An online Resource Library, which can be custom-built or available through a third-party partnership, can serve as the springboard for a robust association content marketing strategy in three important ways:

1. Content aggregation

For members, when it comes to content, it’s not a matter of quality vs. quantity. The truth is, it’s both. If they search widely enough, your members already have access to a wide variety of high-quality resources available to them from numerous sources. But members shouldn’t have to search on their own for the professional information they need when they can turn to the association they belong to as the primary channel for their content needs.

A strategically built Resource Library platform allows you to aggregate high-quality third-party content specifically targeted to your members’ needs and interests. And, because the resources are developed by industry experts, including suppliers, vendors, and sponsors, your association does not have to expend its own resources for new content creation.

As Melinda Bentley, COO of the Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants (TXCPA) puts it, “As a non-profit association, we don’t have unlimited resources to create customized content for all member interests.”

TXCPA is now averaging seven new pieces of content in its Resource Library every month, according to Bentley, including white papers, podcasts, videos, how-to guides, and reports. Best of all, the organization does not have to shoulder the burden of creating the additional resources, which complement the content they’re already developing.

“The constant flow of new content added to our Knowledge Hub each month gives us a reason to engage more frequently with our members,” echoes Amy Spencer, marketing and communications manager of the Utah Association of CPAs (UACPA), which also recently launched a Resource Library on their site. “The high-quality resources they now get from us on a regular basis reinforce the value of their membership.”

2. Content distribution

Another benefit of a robust Resource Library is that it offers a built-in distribution platform that allows associations to promote content to members. According to Association Adviser, 31% of associations struggle with ways to promote their own content.

Not only does a Resource Library promote third-party content to members, it can serve as a channel to promote your own association’s resources, providing more member touchpoints. A Resource Library provides an easy way for associations to feature their own content that might otherwise get lost on a website or buried in an email newsletter.

The Nebraska State Bar Association (NSBA), for example, uses its Resource Library to promote its own webinars, guides, research reports, and more. Executive Director, Liz Neeley explains that the organization’s Resource Library offers “an immediate communication strategy where you are pushing out new content or highlighting resources — and it’s a constant reminder to our members about the resources we have available for them.”

3. Member insights

Built the right way, a Resource Library platform should also include a performance dashboard to track and analyze readership and member behavior patterns in real-time. The analytics within an association dashboard offers insight into areas of need and the topics resonating most among members. Associations can leverage that insight to influence their own member programming.

TXCPA’s Bentley, for example, regularly checks the analytics in TXCPA’s Resource Library dashboard and sends the data to her communications staff to inform the organization’s own content planning.

White Paper:

Growing Non-Dues Revenue with an Online Resource Library

Monetize your content strategy

Of course, associations have the option to build their own customized Resource Library. But should you choose to partner with a third-party, like Lead Marvels, our technology allows the content featured within the Resource Library to be monetized into an incremental, non-dues revenue stream. Corporate sponsors, such as vendors and industry suppliers, can generate leads from their thought leadership content, and that revenue is shared with the association.

Additionally, there is no cost or necessary investment in new staff or technology when you partner with Lead Marvels. To learn more about how our proprietary technology can be white labeled and fully branded for your organization, request a demo.

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