If your association is interested in maximizing the educational value its offering members, you might already know that having a publication is a great asset to your content strategy. Association members want to learn, and there are multiple different ways publications can support that.
For example, an annual event publication could be your biggest print run of the year – and a huge opportunity for revenue growth and boosting member knowledge. But what if you aren’t seeing the results you want to see? What if your readers aren't engaged? To get your members excited about your association’s publication, you have to deliver one that grabs their attention and delivers the resources they want and need.
If your association’s publication isn’t performing well, it’s time to assess your strategy. If your association has never considered creating a publication, ask yourself why.
Association publications boast a number of benefits, presenting opportunities to:
- Establish your association as an industry thought leader
- Strengthen the knowledge of your members + readers
- Build rapport with your community
- Enhance professional relationships with partners + sponsors
- Improve member retention
- Increase non-dues revenue
Did that get your attention? (That last benefit tends to get people excited.)
Pushing out the perfect professional publication is no easy feat, but that’s why I’m here to equip you with six handy tips to improve the impact of your association’s publication.
1. Align Publication Content with Your Association’s Mission
Plain and simple – when it comes to your association’s publication, mission-forward is the way to be. Each element within your content should be an extension of your association’s values, mission, and purpose. When you’re establishing goals for your publication, keep this in mind.
Trust is an important element in any professional relationship, so build on that by seizing the opportunity to demonstrate to members and readers that you practice what you preach. For example, only include advertisements within your publication that directly relate to your content or association’s mission. Be intentional, not random (we’ll go into that more ahead).
2. Crowdsource Design Ideas from Your Association’s Community
I know, I know… we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but your members will. So when you’re brainstorming your next innovative publication design, why not include them in the process? If your publication hasn’t successfully pulled many readers in the past, reach out to your members and ask why. Was last year’s version too ad-heavy? Did it lack compelling imagery? Was the publication lacking interesting or useful content? This is all great feedback.
Including your association’s community in your design process is mutually beneficial – it gives your association quality insights into the type of content your members are interested in, all while boosting engagement and drumming up excitement for the publication. One of your members might even be an amazing photographer or a graphic design whiz eager to contribute and showcase their work, you never know until you intentionally ask and engage.
3. Depend on Data to Inform Decisions About Member Interests
Asking your members questions directly is just one basic method of figuring out what they’re interested in, but you can’t realistically expect every member to engage with your outreach and provide an honest answer. Successful publications are well thought out with their target audience in mind – you won’t get there by playing a guessing game to understand your members.
Tracking behavioral data offers valid insights about how your members engage with your association online. When you pull data to understand member actions, from how they browse your cookie-enabled website to which of your emails they opened vs. ignored, you can target them based on their interests more strategically.
The more your outreach and publication aligns with their real interests, the more successful it will be. Harness the power of data to drive your decisions.
4. Utilize Engagement Tools to Increase Publication Awareness
If you’re thinking, “But where can I collect more data? How do I maximize its impact?” Consider integrating engagement tools like marketing automation and online community platforms with your association’s database (either your AMS or CRM), which grant associations the opportunity to digitally connect with their members like never before. The intelligent data you gather from an engagement platform can help you amp up the buzz around your publication and boost its success by engaging interested readers at the right time.
An integrated engagement platform can allow you to enroll users in campaigns that compel them to purchase items they find relevant based on their web tracking, stated interests, and observed interests. With these tools, your association is going to be more successful at selling publications because you’re doing it in a more personalized and automated way.
You can track activity that yields high quality behavioral data within your online community, gauging members’ interests by monitoring the type of content they post in discussion boards, resources they choose to download, and even times they’re most likely to engage. Using this data you can segment your member base more dynamically, personalizing and automating outreach. This strategy can demonstrate value that improves the member experience, boosting not only the success of your publication, but member retention and association revenue.
For example, let’s say your association publishes and sells medical journals. Floyd is a known user in your online community and data shows that he visited your association’s website and viewed the abstract for a vital medical breakthrough study four times without purchasing the journal. He’s clearly interested, but he’s not biting, so what now?
Well, you could enroll Floyd in an automated email campaign focused on marketing that specific publication to people like Floyd who have observed interest in it, encouraging engagement with your resources. You can nurture him to the finish line through a series of personalized, timely, and relevant automated emails triggered by his actions, allowing you to leverage dynamic content. The content within those emails might include an intriguing sneak peak of the journal (since you know he’s interested), a special discount offer (perhaps price was holding him back), a reminder of what differentiates your publication, you name it. Get creative.
By utilizing engagement tools effectively, your association can build a reputation for delivering quality content to your members. This reputation will drive the success of your publication.
5. Seek Content Collaboration with Association Thought Leaders
About that quality content… your association’s publication should be chock full of it. Achieving this can be incredibly challenging in the face of other organizational tasks that take priority, but strategic collaboration with prominent voices in your association’s field of interest can ease the workload. When thought leaders come together, content inspiration can skyrocket.
The more relevant, diverse, and interesting your publication is, the more likely it is to attract readers. And when you collaborate with content creators or associations that share similar audiences, you have the opportunity to draw new readers to your publication from their network.
So consider offering partners, sponsors, mentors, or community members an opportunity to get their own relevant content in front of your audience (mission-forward, of course). You might have community members who are eager to contribute to your publication for the opportunity to get their work in front of your audience and expand their portfolio.
6. Sell Advertising Space in Your Association’s Publication
While you’re busy engaging relevant folks for content creation, why not mention the prime advertising real estate up for sale within your publication? Your association’s publication has the ability to earn you $erious extra non-dues revenue through the sale of ad space, but you have to be strategic and intentional about the process.
Take advantage of the professional relationships you already have to get started. Tap into your network and market ad space to trusted vendors, sponsors, partners, or any business in between whose values align with your association’s mission. Be sure to fill them in on the exceptional benefits of advertising to your audience, including metrics about how many readers your publication typically pulls and what type of people tend to engage with it.
To maximize the impact of your efforts, utilize the aforementioned engagement tools to strategically target advertisers who are most likely to be interested in your publication offer. Advertising within your online community or other engagement channels also has its benefits.
For example, the Massachusetts Society of CPAs (MSPCA) increased their non-dues revenue by $14,000 when they leveraged community advertising. Read the full case study.
Check out Higher Logic’s Advertising + Sponsorship Success Kit to learn more on this topic.
Ready, Set, Create an Awesome Association Publication
The success of your association’s publication will always fall back on the value it offers. If you’re not giving your members the resources they want, need, and have expressed interest in, they will divert their attention and money toward a competitor that can. Wouldn’t you?
This is why it’s important to be proactive and effectively utilize the tools technology has granted us with today to maximize the success of your association’s publication for years to come.
Want to learn more about how to set your organization up for a solid financial future with flexible, non-dues revenue streams while strengthening relationships and meeting the needs of your members?
Explore the free resources in our Higher Logic Non-Dues Revenue Success Kit below.