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Leading With Content: Using Content Strategy to Advance Business Goals


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Findings from the ASAE Foundation-commissioned research study to understand how association leaders are navigating the shifting content development and management landscape. Co-presented with Carrie Hane, and Hilary Marsh

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Leading With Content: Using Content Strategy to Advance Business Goals

  1. 1. Leading with Content Using Content Strategy to Advance Business Goals Carrie Hane Dina Lewis, CAE Hilary Marsh Maggie McGary
  2. 2. What you’ll learn today • How executives integrate content strategy into organization’s member needs, offerings, and culture • How to improve your organization’s strategic approach to content • Where your organization is on the content strategy adoption path and how you can progress How associations are taking a strategic, sustainable approach to effective content
  3. 3. Why content strategy matters for associations
  4. 4. ● Publications ● Newsletters ● Self-study guides ● Clinical guidelines ● Conference sessions ● Webinars ● Research reports ● Events ● Books ● Press releases ● News articles Associations produce so much content! Photo byLacie SlezakonUnsplash
  5. 5. and we have so many channels to fill! Icons: Nucleo
  6. 6. By bgEuwDxel93-Pg at Google Cultural Institute, zoom level maximum, Public Domain, Content is the way our work is manifested in the world
  7. 7. Content is how we deliver our strategic goals PCAR Strategic Plan
  8. 8. Content is our value Photo by Maja Petric on Unsplash
  9. 9. We succeed when we publish in a way that resonates with members Photo purchased from iStock
  10. 10. Content strategy is a win-win (for members and for associations)
  11. 11. Content strategy defined The planning and judgment for the creation, publication, dissemination, and governance of useful, usable, effective content across departments and functional areas.
  12. 12. Old thinking
  13. 13. New thinking
  14. 14. How associations are adopting content strategy Our research project
  15. 15. Why research association content strategy? 2016 Operating Ratio Report Periodicals/Publications • 8.82% revenue/8.11% expense Educational Programming • 9.96% revenue/8.17% expense Decision to Join Current association members ranked dissemination of knowledge or content among four of the top five most important association functions Competition
  16. 16. Project goals • Who is doing it? • Why is it hard? • How content strategy is good for associations • Share real-world successes the community can learn from
  17. 17. Project methodology Phase 1: What are associations doing? • Environmental scan • Survey • Interviews Phase 2: How they are doing it • Survey • Interviews
  18. 18. What associations are doing today
  19. 19. 18 content strategy tactics 1. Content strategy statement 2. Stakeholder interviews 3. Editorial style guide or content writing guidelines 4. Personas 5. Customer journey maps 6. Content audits 7. Content governance policies 8. Collect digital analytics 9. Analyze, and use digital analytics 10.Usability testing or audience surveys 11. Include content responsibilities in job descriptions 12. Central content planning calendar 13. Search engine optimization 14. Training on how to create digital content 15. Metadata strategy 16. Single controlled vocabulary (taxonomy) 17. Content model 18. Structured content approach
  20. 20. Activity Find Your Content Strategy Adoption Level ● Complete Part 1 of your handout, Content Strategy Tactics Find your peers ● Not Started No tactics ● Beginner 1 – 6 tactics ● Intermediate 7 – 13 tactics ● Advanced 14 – 17 tactics
  21. 21. Bonus Tool: When You Return to the Office ● Download an assessment worksheet and review it with your team:
  22. 22. Associations of all types, sizes, and scopes are doing content strategy In varying degrees….
  23. 23. Profile survey participants Second survey participants
  24. 24. Profile survey participants Second survey participants
  25. 25. Profile survey participants Second survey participants
  26. 26. Research summary: Profile survey Content Strategy Adoption Key Beginner: 1 to 6 tactics Intermediate: 7 to 13 tactics Advanced: 14 to 17 tactics
  27. 27. Research summary: Second survey
  28. 28. Common challenges for association content strategy
  29. 29. People, not process It is easy to “implement” in that it is all within the control of the organizational leadership. What is not so easy is getting a person in place who takes this part of the job seriously, and holding that person accountable to it. Creating our cross-departmental Messaging Team about 4 years ago really propelled the non-silo efforts in messaging. We have the team and are perfecting the strategy. It did not happen overnight and we have a ways to go. CEO buy-in to move in this direction was key.
  30. 30. Trusting the data The culture of the association has not yet evolved to a point where the analysis of data drives what is done next, it's still very much reliant on the passion projects of volunteers and staff. Our content team's efforts started in 2011/2012 but in the past year, the association has decided it will take an association-wide data-driven approach to all aspects of association management, and this has encouraged a greater focus on association-wide content issues.
  31. 31. What the future could look like ● Staff working together, not just one person, not competing ● Basing decisions on audience behavior—not perception, anecdotes, or what members say they want ● Flexibility to shift tactics while aiming for same goal ● Organization aligned around members’ journeys and topics
  32. 32. What’s working ● Cross-department content councils ● Research-based personas ● Content strategy roadmap ● Education and empathy ● Get help and support
  33. 33. How to get there The Association Content Strategy Adoption Spectrum
  34. 34. Beginning • Feel excitement • Have permission • I’m planning Intermediate • Feel uncertainty • Have responsibility • I’m executing Advanced • Feel confident & accomplished • Have collaboration • I’m iterating Content Strategy Focus • Tactics • Mindset • Aspirations Content Strategy Focus • Risk: Bust silos → Build bridges • Fear: New models needed • Growth: Small wins → Big wins Content Strategy Focus • Less about how • Tactics are part of processes • Creating/sustaining culture
  35. 35. Beginning profile Top challenges ● Moving from department focus to organizational strategy ● Defining personas ● Defining/measuring success ● Everyone is a content provider 27% of associations surveyed Excitement I have permission! Planning Tactics Mindset Aspirations
  36. 36. Beginning challenges Always put your member first. Your board isn’t first. Your staff isn’t first. Your member needs are first. We have disparate priorities and goals across the organization. Meanwhile, we are investing in new technologies, but just learning to talk to each other (across departments). The hardest thing to do is get a controlled vocabulary because we lack buy-in or even acknowledgment at leadership and staff levels
  37. 37. Beginning next steps To get this result... this Set baseline goals and measure against them - Collect analytics - Analyze analytics
  38. 38. Beginning next steps To get this result... this Discover organizational and member content priorities - Stakeholder interviews - Member surveys and usability studies
  39. 39. Beginning next steps To get this result... this Formalize content planning - Content planning calendar - Style guide
  40. 40. Beginning next steps To get this result... this Inform and begin to educate - Socialize the idea of content strategy - Find ways to communicate up, down, across organization
  41. 41. Intermediate profile Top challenges ● Keeping everyone on track ● Finding time to keep up strategic focus ● Managing content ● Governance ● Creating overarching strategy 55% of associations surveyed Uncertainty Responsibility Accountability Executing Risk: Bust silos → Build bridges Fear: New models needed Growth: Small wins → Big wins
  42. 42. Intermediate challenges All departments think their content is the most important. The CEO gets it, some in senior management understand the importance but to make it an enterprise-level initiative it will take extra resources and buy-in. We have an internal, cross- functional team working on content issues….We're doing a lot of experiments. Getting everyone to participate and contribute content, and manage that content appropriately across all communication channels/outlets.
  43. 43. Intermediate next steps To get this result... this Consistent priorities across departments Connect all work to association strategic initiatives - Content strategy statement - Organization-wide editorial calendar - Include content strategy responsibilities in job descriptions/performance evaluations
  44. 44. To get this result... this Data-based decision making Set KPIs and use analytics to track - Set-up and use analytics - Perform regular content audits Intermediate next steps
  45. 45. To get this result... this Organization-wide buy-in Regular cross-functional meetings - Review data - Provide training Intermediate next steps
  46. 46. To get this result... this Governance Create and enforce guidelines, policies, and standards - Provide training Intermediate next steps
  47. 47. To get this result... this Model for the next stage Form an editorial board - Controlled vocabulary - Implement structured content - Create journey maps and personas Intermediate next steps
  48. 48. Intermediate growing pains It’s gaining traction. A year ago there was no content strategy effort. In 8 months we’ve grown a team from a couple of writers to 20 people with specific roles related to content strategy. Leadership supports it, but is not necessarily actively engaged in (or completely understanding of) the strategy. It's a work in progress and slow- going because we are committed to ensuring this is a cross- functional, transparent effort. We're flying under the radar, and the executive team has little awareness of what we're doing other than when we try to bring a success to their attention.
  49. 49. Advanced profile 18% of associations surveyed Confident Smoothly Operationialized Working strategically Meeting members’ needs and achieving the org’s strategic goals through content Top challenges ● Continuing to evolve with new strategic goals, new initiatives, new staff ● Not getting complacent ● Measuring and learning more
  50. 50. Hallmarks of Advanced Content Strategy Topics (not departments) Organizational Structure (not silos) Member Journeys/Personas Shared planning, shared results Governance (clear roles, responsibilities, and processes) Entrusted to senior staff
  51. 51. What success looks like • Higher website traffic • Association growth: Member renewals, new members • More positive member feedback • Higher attendance at meetings, requests to become a volunteer
  52. 52. Advanced stories Our Content Champions representatives from each department/division meet at least once a month and work to identify content from their department and share information so they can link to one another’s content. We are using our personas and our understanding of industry issues to drive decisions about topics and deliver valuable content. Every department that develops content sees the content strategy as an underlying principle in their work.
  53. 53. Advanced Looking at our content has helped us discover our content gaps and opportunities to produce more content in areas that members want, remove content that’s not relevant anymore. It’s been eye-opening for us, allowing us to package our content in new ways and thinking of it with new perspectives. It all makes sense when you tie the members’ needs with strategic objectives. We are making decisions based on member behavior now, rather than what someone sitting in a committee tells us they want. We are considering the right audiences.
  54. 54. Advanced challenges The biggest challenge we face is a lack of resources (funding and people) to effectively execute a strategy. We are doing the best we can with what we have.
  55. 55. Advanced role models To get this result... this Enable staff in multiple departments to see similarities in what they do and how it serves members and tell the organization’s story together from different perspectives - Make sure top executives and middle-level directors and managers buy in (REALLY buy in) Internal departments share information because they know it’s an organization-wide initiative that will support and benefit the entire org - Make sure content responsibilities are part of people’s job descriptions Make decisions about content volume, topics, frequency informed by how the audience is using content - Gather, analyze and regularly refer to digital analytics
  56. 56. Activity: Where is your organization on the Content Strategy Adoption Spectrum? Complete Part 2 of handout • Reassess: Have you changed your mind about where you are? If so, move to a different group: Not Started, Beginning, Intermediate, Advanced Discuss: • What are your biggest challenges? • What is working for your association? • What are you going to do next?
  57. 57. What does this mean?
  58. 58. What you can be doing now • Get serious about content strategy • Have measurable goals • Lead content strategy
  59. 59. What’s next from this ASAE Foundation project Full report available late fall/early winter Potential tools and artifacts to • assess where you are compared with other associations • make it easier for you to mature your content strategy
  60. 60. Thank you! Dina Lewis, CAE Distilled Logic, LLC @dinalew Carrie Hane Tanzen LLC @carriehd Hilary Marsh Content Company, Inc. @hilarymarsh Maggie McGary McGary Associates @maggielmcg