As associations struggle to serve their members and deal with the economic fallout from the pandemic, experts say it’s crucial for them to cut through the clutter and provide valuable information tailored to their industry.
Providing content is a key way associations can help their members navigate tough times. But in a world overrun with content, it’s important that associations curate properly, say two experts.
Hilary Marsh, chief strategist for Content Company Inc., and Elizabeth Weaver Engel, M.A., CAE, chief strategist for Spark Consulting, recently released “Cut Through the Clutter: Content Curation, Associations’ Secret Weapon Against Information Overload” [PDF]. The white paper offers some strategies to help associations provide the best, most valuable content for members.
“The baseline is providing value,” Marsh said. “The way we need to show value is through the content.”
Associations provide a variety of content. Often, they are curators of knowledge that is important for the industry, but not necessarily tailored to the industry. But just sharing that information is not enough.
“They’re sharing stuff with no context, like the latest industry headlines aggregated from another source,” Marsh said. And while outside experts are useful to members, the context to frame that expert information is how associations show their value.
“You don’t need to reinvent that [outside expert] work,” Marsh said. “You need to add the right context for your particular members. Between your staff and your members, you do have the extra layer of context to add to the raw data.”
Engel added, “The sense making and context providing, that’s what you bring to it. You can say, ‘This is why it matters for us.’”
Since the world is overrun with information, Engel and Marsh said associations can make the mistake of adding to that overflow by not coordinating internally. When departments each put out their own information via social media or various newsletters, members can feel overburdened.
“If that information is not orchestrated internally, [members] are getting tons of information from that association, which may or may not be consistent,” Marsh said. “It’s a content ecosystem; it has to be orchestrated in a way that makes sense.”
Engel suggested that various departments who share content get together and talk so there can be some consensus about what is going on. From there, content can be centralized under one person or group, or coordinated by the groups. “Find the way that works for your association and your structure,” she said.
The other key to curating useful content is by asking questions to determine if it’s a good fit.
“We have a tendency to ask members and other audiences what they want,” Engel said. “You have to ask better questions: What challenges are you facing? What goals are you trying to achieve?”
Member responses to those types of questions can drive the content an association is producing and sharing.
Finally, once the content is produced and published, look at how people respond.
“Pay attention to what happens,” Engel said. “We sometimes create the great thing, and say, ‘Woohoo! It’s finally released.’ Then we don’t pay attention to whether anyone is responding to it. We have to pay attention to what happens.”
Marsh said the metrics can help you figure out ways to improve your content. “We have to go back and look at the metrics,” she said. “We can make some assessments. Is it too long? Is it the wrong headline? Are we speaking in too flat of a way?”