Emma Thompson, Director
Over the past few years, we’ve helped membership organisations with a variety of research-driven projects that have measured satisfaction, helped to refine the member offer, uncovered sector challenges, informed value propositions, evaluated communications and more.
In doing so, we’ve also helped them understand their members more effectively, sometimes using relatively simple segments such as membership grade to establish reasons for joining, motivations for being a member, what they need to help solve their challenges and their perceptions of the membership body. As a result, organisations have been able to develop their products and services to better meet member needs and refine the way they communicate, to create a more personalised experience.
Despite taking a segmented and targeted approach to all of these business areas, a process that would benefit hugely from deeper knowledge of audience preferences, challenges and needs - and one that is sometimes overlooked - is content planning.
For some organisations - perhaps smaller bodies with limited resources or those with a diverse membership - developing and delivering authoritative content on a regular basis using the right channels to ensure members are kept up-to-date and see the organisation as their go-to source of quality information is a big ask. Initial research in the annual member survey may tell you the topics your members want to hear about most, or whether they prefer webinars to physical meetings, but to make sure your content is read - and valued - you need to know a bit more about them as individuals.
Here’s a simple example. A member, who is an academic in the sector, approaches the organisation with a paper they’ve published describing a new technology that you know other members will want to hear about. Writing a compelling headline with a few lines of copy and a link to the open access journal in your next e-newsletter isn’t the only - or most effective - way of getting the information to your members. Other academics may jump at the opportunity to read the whole paper and contact the author with their questions. But senior decision-makers in businesses will want top-line information: what does it do, why does their company need it, how much does it cost? Operational colleagues may need to know how to access it, how it works, how it integrates with other technology. Students may want some background to its development, an overview of what it does and whether it’s a good example to include in their dissertation.
The trick to ensuring every member gets what they need is to know enough about your members to be able to package the information into content that you know they will engage with. An interview with the paper’s author published in the next issue of the member magazine will have a different audience to the 5-minute webinar that describes the way the technology solves a problem better than its predecessor.
And the conference presentation that follows later in the year gives the technology experts a chance to share the details of their paper, network and discuss the next opportunity or collaborative project.
Know why they need that content
The way your content is delivered can be informed by some simple member segmentation or by more detailed profiling to create member personas. Either way, once you know who you connecting with, how to connect, when, what they want to read (and what they don’t), and - most importantly - why they want to read it, you’ll be better placed to create invaluable content for each of your target audiences.
For some inspiration, perhaps take a look at the Content Marketing Association’s industry reports, or visit The Chartered Institute of Marketing or MemberWise websites for blogs and other articles on content and content strategy.