Three Keys to Launching a Successful Digital Content Hub
By planning goals and criteria early, staying aware of member needs, and anticipating potential pitfalls, associations can create a content hub that benefits members and the organization.
Housing articles, videos, infographics, and other types of resources, a digital content hub can be a great way for members to get access to important information and dive deeper into areas that interest them on your website. But how do you pull off a successful hub?
With nearly 30 years in the association industry working in research and information services, Ann Feeney, CAE, has helped many associations launch successful content hubs and has learned that the first step is determining goals.
“It’s one thing to build and launch the hub, but you need a plan to curate and maintain it for the future,” she said. “Otherwise, you run the risk of [the hub] being either a ‘these are (more than) a few of my favorite things’ from just one or two members, a repository for thinly disguised marketing materials, or too much content to manage.”
In addition to outlining goals, Feeney shared how thinking through potential obstacles, as well as keeping member needs in mind, will allow associations to create a hub that delivers value to members and the organization.
Use Goals to Drive Criteria
Goals will help determine the functionality of the hub. For example, if you decide the hub is a member-only benefit, that will help clarify who should have access to it and how to organize content and resources.
Feeney also recommends basing the goals on content needs. Is there a gap in a specific topic area? Are you trying to collect personal stories and anecdotes from members, or find a way to tie those personal stories together?
“When I worked at the American Hospital Association, we had a content hub whose goal was to provide valuable content and earn revenue through sharing sponsored content,” Feeney said. “We had a rule that our sponsored content had to add knowledge and value to readers.”
This goal helped ensure that the sponsored and non-sponsored content would be of interest to all visitors.
“Our sponsors were able to establish themselves as thought leaders, and members could take advantage of that thought leadership,” Feeney said.
Consider Potential Challenges
In the planning phase, it’s also important to consider internal and external factors that could create possible issues for the hub, according to Feeney.
“For example, if you know you have limited staff and resources, then you may want to include evergreen content in your hub,” Feeney said. “Then, you avoid constantly updating the content and potentially having outdated information.”
If you think any of the content you plan to include may be controversial, Feeney recommends considering who among your membership would likely raise concerns and bring those groups into the process as early as possible. Controversial content may include anything that has a realistic chance of members questioning why it’s included, such as contrasting approaches to teaching.
“You may not do everything they want but bringing them in ensures that their voices are heard, and you know where some of the problematic issues might stem from,” she said.
Evaluate Member Needs
As you plan goals and anticipate hiccups, be sure to take members into consideration as well. For example, look at your website analytics to determine the top search terms.
“This information might tell you about topics that members need but aren’t articulating because they’re just going to the site, searching, and then looking elsewhere,” Feeney said.
Reviewing surveys and focus group comments, in addition to search history, can give you thoughtful responses to reveal what members are looking for and why.
Consider involving members in the planning process, especially if your association already has a relevant committee or taskforce. If that’s not the case, Feeney recommends bringing in a small group to test the hub to ensure the functionality makes sense and that you meet member expectations.
“Sometimes members ask for a content hub, but that might not be what they want,” she said. “They may want a better search function on your website or better metadata, so testing the hub with a small group is a good idea.”