Study: Associations Produce Relevant Content, but Struggle to Make It Connect

A new report from Naylor Association Solutions argues that the hard part of association communications isn’t producing the content, but making sure it hits its target. The report suggests that resourcing issues shoulder a large part of the blame.

Associations communicate with their members a whole lot—but even that may not be enough to cut through, because everyone else is doing the same thing.

A new report from Naylor Association Solutions finds that creating relevant content is easy, but making it meet business goals is the hard part—not only because that content has a lot of competition but also because resourcing for these needs is difficult.

Sarah Sain, the director of content and member communications for Naylor, noted that associations are aware that their message is often ignored. So Naylor took steps to better understand why that was.

“Through the 2018 survey, associations have told us they know what they need to do to improve their communications: Understand member needs, goals, demographics, and preferences better,” she said in a news release. “Their persistent challenge is to find more technological, financial, and human resources to make this happen.”

The Association Communications Benchmarking Study [registration] reports that associations are hitting their members dozens of times each month—around 30.7 times on average—but more 68 percent say they struggle with cutting through the clutter.

Increasingly, the key touchpoint for reaching members is social media, representing more than half of all communications with members (16.3 times per month), with digital communication (11.1 times), print (1.7 times), and video (1.6 times) dropping from the prior year.

“In a reversal of 2017 findings, print, video, and digital now are being used less frequently than they were a year ago,” the report states. “Social media continues to be used even more frequently.”

The result of the growing communication frequency is that it’s creating stress for associations, with concerns lingering less about whether they’re creating relevant content (84 percent of respondents say they do) and more about whether it’s hitting on all cylinders. The report noted that just one fifth believe that they have a good handle of what their readers, members, and advertisers want. Nearly half also said that they were having trouble figuring out the right communication frequency with their members.

Other problems on the communication front include time and resourcing challenges that prevent associations from doing things that could potentially improve the program. Close to 60 percent of respondents believe that customizing offerings for different groups of members could help improve engagement, though actually doing that kind of segmentation is rare. Meanwhile, more than 40 percent said they could better promote their communications.

It wasn’t all bad news, however. Some areas where the report found success for associations included private communities, which were listed among the top 10 communication channels for the first time; and an increased interest in printed materials such as newsletters and show guides, which more than half of respondents said were extremely valuable in both cases.

(zentilia/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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