Marketing strategy, social media 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.

But most associations don’t have a content strategy. Why? Well we asked you and this is what you said:

• 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 last year when we finalized this year’s budget.
• 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?

Let’s look at these more closely.

Don’t truly know what a content strategy is.

You’re not alone. Content strategy is relatively new, only formally defined in 2009 by a Content Strategy Consortium. But it’s been around long enough and you’ve been producing content long enough that it’s time to learn what it is and why it matters for your organization. There are a lot of information out there about what a content strategy is and here are a bunch of definitions for you all in one place. But, I like to describe it this way:

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.

Don’t know how to develop a content strategy.

It makes sense that if you don’t understand what a content strategy looks like for your organization, then you can’t develop one. Here is a step-by-step guide, but it comes with this caveat:

This is how to create a starter content strategy: one that will let you experience the difference between working with one vs. without one on a small scale. But, you will become addicted to the results and will never create content without one again so you won’t be able to work until you develop a fully formed cs, so be forewarned.

There’s no budget because we had never heard of content strategy last year when we finalized this year’s budget.

OK, that is understandable for today, but it won’t work for next year. ‘Nuff said.

It’s nobody’s job.

I could write a book on this one. Whose job is it to develop an organization-wide content strategy for an association? At ASAE13, the fast answer was the marketing department. It’s a good instinct, but if your association suffers from silos, how is that going to help the editorial or membership content teams? And who is going to do the marketing work while the marketer shifts focus to this for 7+ weeks?

The swift pace of change in business fuels the creation of new job descriptions: enter Chief Content Officer. Here’s just a little of the job description released years ago:

The Chief Content Officer (CCO) oversees all marketing content initiatives, both internal and external, across multiple platforms and formats to drive sales, engagement, retention, leads and positive customer behavior.

This individual is an expert in all things related to content and channel optimization, brand consistency, segmentation and localization, analytics and meaningful measurement.

The position collaborates with the departments of public relations, communications, marketing, customer service, IT and human resources to help define both the brand story and the story as interpreted by the customer.

Clearly written for corporations rather than associations, it’s pretty easy to extrapolate that to associations. And equally as easy to surmise that this role doesn’t exist in the typical association. Yet.

I believe that the CCO role in associations might actually best consist of a team; heads of marketing, editorial and membership. This helps keep initiatives moving if one person should leave and multiple people have a more chances of infecting their colleagues with their ideas than one person does.

Silos are still strong in the association culture, so no idea where to begin to develop one.

One person can create real change. Could you be that one person?  Can you be a leader who reaches out to ‘them’ to make them part of ‘us.’

If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner. Nelson Mandela

No buy in from leadership.

There is no getting around this one, you need their support to implement a content strategy successfully. Leadership is going to have to be shown the import of having one and the best way to do that is to speak their language: show them the data for the success that you have had with using content to achieve business goals on the small scale and how content strategy is the key to scaling it.

Our content marketing is OK as is, so why do we need a content strategy?

This is a nonsensical. And scary. Without a content strategy, how do you identify which metrics prove the efficacy of your content efforts? You need to prove the need for and use of resources in your content program as well as whether or not you are achieving the intended goals. Content strategy identifies the “why,” therefore you need one to measure if you are achieving anything that directly supports top-level business goals.

The business marketplace is changing and associations are facing competition from sources that they never encountered before. American Diabetes Association now has competition from just about every major hospital to be the purveyor of reliable knowledge and advice surrounding diabetes and its management. American Physical Therapy Association now faces competition from a forprofit provider of online learning to APTA’s own members and prospective members.

And if you’re niche is women in finance, law or technology then you likely know that you are facing a multitude of online content resource competitors, just one of many examples is the GlassHammer, a site for ‘women executives in finance, law, technology, and big business.’ Not convinced? Maybe American Express Open Forum is a more compelling example.

It is time for associations to perform as a world class content marketers or face losing marketshare. Associations aren’t used to that eventuality, but it is possible today because your targeted audiences are so desirable to forprofit content providers who reach your audience through the social channels and online. And they do so for profit. And you can bet that they aren’t putting out content willy nilly with no plan. And you can bet that they don’t invest resources if they can’t demonstrate that the investment achieves results.

It is time for associations to perform as world class content marketers and to do so demands starting with a solid content strategy.

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