I was lucky enough to have a well-attended session at ASAE13 where I was presenting about content strategy. Thanks to @StaceyBoyd for taking and posting this photo (I hope you eventually found a seat.)

One of the reasons I present is that it is a singular opportunity to have a dialog with many associations to learn what you need and what’s on your mind when it comes to content strategy.

And while it took a little while for the attendees to warm up, warm up they did! The questions, once they started, were coming fast and furious and didn’t stop until 45 minutes after my session ended. And when the dialog did come to a close and my companions in conversation slipped away to other sessions, I was standing in an outer hall across the World Congress Center thinking ‘wow, what great questions. What a goldmine of info.’

Let me share what I learned from you, associations…

Why you are interested in content strategy?

  • You need to develop one.
  • You are looking for guidance for repurposing your content.
  • You’re trying to determine which content assets should be gated and which should be open access.
  • You have a lot of content but not really sure what to do with it.
  • You fear that your content isn’t always relevant to your members’ needs.
  • You’re looking for integration and alignment across the association (I <3 this one!).

We rolled out an association content marketing readiness survey in 2012. (What? You didn’t participate? Don’t despair, you can add your voice to the 2013 survey.) What we learned is that there are a few big barriers that associations are facing in developing a content strategy and we discussed those and a couple more last week.

What are your barriers to developing a content strategy?

  • Don’t truly know what a content strategy is.
  • Don’t know how to develop a content strategy.
  • There’s no budget because we had never heard of content strategy when we finalized our budget last year.
  • It’s nobody’s job.
  • Silos are still strong in the association culture, so no idea where to begin to develop one.
  • No buy in from leadership.
  • Our content marketing is OK as is, so why do we need a content strategy?

Probably the most salient issue that arose in my content strategy session is a persistent one; in our community of associations, we are not really sure what a content strategy looks like. Associations know content. Associations know strategy. It seems we should know what it means when you stick those two words together, but most associations seem unsure of what a content strategy means for them.

So, let’s look at what the heck one is here, but you may find this blog post useful too.

What content strategy is – explained in sound bites

  • If you create content for a business then you are quite familiar with the tactics that involve the what, where, when and how, content strategy is what provides the all-important why and who.
  • Contention strategy defines the intention of your content.
  • Content strategy defines what to measure to assess the efficacy of your content marketing.
  • Content strategy is the planning for the content marketing.
  • Content strategy is a necessary first step if you create or deliver content of any kind.
  • Creating and delivering content without a content strategy is about as effective as handing out business cards to anyone you pass on the street in hopes of drumming up business. Sure, you might get lucky, but almost anyone is going to agree that a better strategy is in order.

Social media strategy, marketing strategy and now content strategy. Because we are an information-sharing economy and associations, like corporations as well as the local furniture store, are using content to engage and move audiences to take action, a strategy for your content creation and delivery must be in your toolkit.

Your new strategy is going to answer, with certainty, the following:

  • Where should we put our content creation energies and resources?
  • Is our content effective?
  • Where is the best place to engage our audience with content?
  • What does our audience really want from us?
  • What type of content is resonating the best with our audience?

#ASAE13 is interested in content strategy, but most associations still seem to be stuck in a limbo trying to resolve their well-deserved pride in their content skills while embracing a need to ramp up their content marketing skills.

Newton’s first law of motion states: an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. Well, that unbalanced force to spur associations to action in this area has arrived: forprofit content creators are tripping over each other to get to your highly targeted audiences. Armed with honed content marketing processes, they are competing for your members and prospective members’ limited dollars. The tool that they wield to come between your organization and your audience is content

If you’re thinking, ‘that’s not happening in our niche,’ just wait. They are disrupting another niche at this time, perfecting their deliverable – like online learning or an aggregated info microsite – and they are no doubt rolling it out to new verticals soon. Perhaps yours is next.

I saw again at #ASAE13 that associations are asking smart questions about their content and content strategy, but the time is certainly here for smart action.

This post was originally posted on SocialFish on August 19, 2013 but has since been retired.

By Monica Bussolati