Breaking Through the Noise: Creating Content That Connects

Sarah Sain, CAE, Director of Content for Naylor Association Solutions, offers simple strategies to overcome common content struggles.

Content creation and distribution is a powerful means of driving traffic and increasing member engagement for associations. But for some association professionals, it can also be a great source of frustration.

In the 2021 Association Communications Benchmarking Report, which surveyed nearly 500 leaders of North American trade associations, professional societies and association management companies, half of the respondents said they needed to improve their content strategy, and more than half felt that their content and communication department was understaffed.

“The amount of content and the possibilities for delivery platforms has grown exponentially in the past 10 years since we started the Benchmarking Report,” says Sarah Sain, CAE, Director of Content for Naylor Association Solutions. “All of these choices leave some associations feeling overwhelmed — you want to do a little bit of everything, but you only have a few staff members and you just can’t tackle everything.” But here’s the good news: You don’t have to.

The key to a successful content strategy is not doing everything on every platform, Sain notes. “It’s really about having an understanding of your members’ consumption habits, so that you can focus on the format and the communication vehicles that are going to have the most relevance for them.”

Sain says that savvy content marketers use a variety of methods to determine which platforms will have the most impact. “Utilizing member surveys, focus groups and looking at data like open rates of emails and newsletters can give a very clear picture of what your association responds to best. This way you can prevent your team—or yourself—from getting stretched too thin.”

The truth is that most associations produce a tremendous amount of content—sometimes without realizing it. “You can take one piece of content, such as a recorded webinar, and break it down in so many ways,” says Sain. “You can create multiple articles from the transcript, you can break out quotes for social media posts, you can use the audio as a podcast. There are many ways to expand your reach without having to start from scratch with each piece of content.”

And for small association teams, an untapped resource for content is members themselves. “Your member base is a wealth of knowledge that can help create articles and videos,” advises Sain. “And that not only provides great information, it really elevates that member, too, by showcasing them as a thought leader in the industry.”

Content touches every aspect of an association, and Sain has seen that successful communication teams remember everything they put out there has a specific goal. “If the goal is to increase registrations for an event, the content needs to go deeper than just saying ‘Here’s a link to sign up.’ It should explain what they are going to learn, who they will meet when they’re there, why their attendance matters—both for them professionally and for their association. Strong content provides that ‘why’ for members.”

In a world where there is so much information constantly coming at us from all directions, many associations feel like they are getting drowned out. Seven in 10 of respondents of the 2021 Association Communications Benchmarking Report believe members are “too busy” or “have too many competing options” to invest time with their content.

This is where Sain says associations need to remember who they are and what their mission is: “Even though there are competing options out there, the important thing for associations to remember is that they are a trusted source, and they should think of themselves that way. In a world where it’s hard for people to understand where to go to get accurate information, associations have to remember that they are that gold standard of reliable information for their members.”

Naylor Association Solutions provides innovative association tools and services for strengthening member engagement and increasing non-dues revenue. Our offerings include member communications, management of live and online meetings and events, online career centers, Association Management Software (AMS) and Member Data Platform (MDP), full-service association management and online learning. A strategic partner to professional and trade associations in the U.S. and Canada, Naylor serves more than 1,700 associations across 80+ industries. For more information, visit