Use a Content Calendar to Engage Members in 2019

The member experience ebbs and flows with activity throughout the year, which is why a content calendar can help you plan for member engagements in 2019. Here are a few tools and techniques to get you started.

At the start of a new year, it’s a good idea not only to set a few New Year’s resolutions, but also to think about upcoming activities and ways you’ll engage your members in 2019.

As a journalist, one tool I live and die by is my calendar. In addition to keeping me focused on upcoming interviews and deadlines, it helps me pinpoint time-sensitive stories. Often these news topics are most relevant within a certain date range, or they might be related to an event that takes place on a specific date, such as a report release or a conference. It all goes on my trusty calendar.

What I’m building is essentially an editorial calendar that helps me anticipate what people will be talking about in the future—and that makes great fodder for stories and blog posts with topical news pegs. And it seems to me that this is a strategy that membership teams can adapt to shape future member engagements.

As we all know, members have both busy periods and “offseason” moments. Knowing these annual rhythms can help associations to plan ahead or tweak an engagement strategy.

The key benefit of a content calendar is that it helps association staff to collaborate and coordinate on a variety of engagement opportunities. With the right calendar and processes in place, it’s possible to schedule content, marketing, email, and social media campaigns to coincide weeks, months, or even a year in advance. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind as you build your calendar:

Design for collaboration. Your association probably already has a few planning calendars that revolve around the member, including marketing plans, social media schedules, or editorial calendars. In a December blog post, Ben Sailer, content marketing lead at the digital marketing firm CoSchedule, demonstrates how to bring these planning activities together by building a content calendar that’s maximized for organization-wide collaboration.

While some teams might rely on a printed calendar, PDF file, or spreadsheet to guide their content-planning work, Sailer argues that a more collaborative tool, like an online calendar or project management app, can help staff across an organization to set priorities on content engagement throughout the year. A word of caution, however: If your content calendar will include multiple departments, Sailer suggests picking a tool that allows users to organize and filter calendar items by project type and team member. “If you don’t keep organized, you’ll be less likely to succeed,” he writes.

Schedule quick-sprint brainstorms. To create a robust content calendar at CoSchedule, Sailer and his team start with a brainstorming session that takes just 30 minutes. In the first 10 minutes, meeting participants write down as many content and story ideas as possible—a process that helps to avoid groupthink. Then, those ideas are read aloud before participants rate and review them. Sailer’s team repeats this brainstorm once per month to have enough content ideas in the pipeline to fill CoSchedule’s content calendar.

In a video, Sailer explains how the process works:

Association membership teams can use a similar process to generate ideas for member engagement. Brainstorming is a great opportunity for cross-departmental collaboration, especially if you have marketing, communications, and editorial staff already planning and producing content.

Look for smart opportunities to resurface. It may sound counterintuitive, but a content calendar shouldn’t focus solely on producing new content pieces. Also look at existing “evergreen” materials that could be refreshed and resurfaced to create member engagement opportunities in the near future. The Society of Women Engineers, for example, leveraged its repurposing power by building an integrated marketing and advocacy campaign from letters that date back to a century ago.

Even if your organization doesn’t have a historical archive to tap into, you may well have opportunities for smart resurfacing. Start by looking at the online content your association produced over the past year and analyze traffic and engagement rates. Those metrics could point to content that performed well in 2018 and may be suitable to run again in 2019.

Do you use a content calendar to help guide engagement opportunities? What does it look like and how do you use it? Share your comments below.

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Tim Ebner

By Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. MORE

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