Channelling the future

The Content Connection, a report by CPL and Ashridge, shows membership organisations need to continually evolve their content strategies if they are to meet their objectives. CPL content strategist Martin Bewick delves deeper into findings that are as relevant as ever during the coronavirus crisis

Do you know which content channel is most effective at engaging your professional membership audience?

The question encompasses so many variables it is almost a red herring. Which section of the audience are you trying to engage? Current or prospective members? Those at the end of their careers or those at the beginning? And, for what purpose do you wish to engage them?

These are just some of the questions raised by The Content Connection, CPL and Ashridge’s report into how membership bodies are using content to grow and retain members. The report was compiled before the Covid-19 crisis, which has only served to make its findings more pertinent than ever.

For the report, CPL and Ashridge asked a range of membership bodies – of different types, sizes, and from across industry sectors – about how the content they produce connects the organisation and its core audience.

Uses for membership content

Asked about the various aims of organisations’ content strategies, the top responses were ranked as follows:

68%: Engage current members
65%: Build awareness of the organisation
62%: Attract new members
41%: Enable members to engage with other members
32%: Encourage lapsed members to rejoin
30%: Drive commercial revenues
24%: Encourage existing members to upgrade their membership

With building awareness and attracting new members rated as priorities, it’s clear that safeguarding the future of the organisation is at the forefront of thinking for communications and marketing professionals.

When it comes to the different content channels used to attract new members, the top responses were:

89%: Website content
84%: Social media
57%: Advertising
54%: Annual conference
49%: Website content – magazine/journal site
46%: Online training or education courses
46%: Recruitment events at universities
43%: Physical training or education events

Across that range, there is huge scope for variations in the type of content created, and that’s without exploring the possibilities within each channel.Take social media, for example. More than 80 per cent of respondents said they used it to attract new members. But which platforms, and how?

In the membership sector, it might be unlikely that you’re setting budget against TikTok right now, despite some of the hype around the platform. It might have been dismissed, as was Snapchat, as not being right for your prospective audience. Instead, the focus for social-media recruitment is on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Is that likely to change? And if so, how soon?

Your membership audience’s behaviours, and the channels you use to distribute your content, are always evolving – especially right now. Your content strategy needs to evolve with them

Evaluating your content channels

While you might not yet be getting behind TikTok, you could decide that the buzz around podcasts is worth investigating. Meanwhile, some other content formats that previously seemed to be written off can take on a second life. Magazine-style content apps, for example, haven’t quite disappeared as forecasters predicted. In newspaper-land, the Guardian released a subscriber-only ad-free daily app in late 2019, shortly followed by an updated version of the i newspaper app.

Then there’s the question of evaluating the various advantages of content that is ‘owned’ (content on your website, blog, YouTube channel, Facebook page), ‘earned’ (content that’s shared or created voluntarily by others), and ‘paid’ (sponsored or advertising content you’ve paid third-party sites to host).

With limited time and resources, not all these can receive your attention, so which should you prioritise? Measurement is vital to content planning, and The Content Connection highlights that for some organisations there is scope for improvement in that regard.

Asked how frequently the performance of content channels was assessed against KPIs and business goals, only 30 per cent of respondents said they checked every month, and only 27 per cent checked every quarter. Twenty-two per cent only checked when needed, for example when considering outsourcing.

This leads to a final question. Is it time to reassess your strategy? Just because it proved successful at some point and to some degree, doesn’t mean the rationale still holds. Your membership audience’s behaviours, and the channels you use to distribute your content, are always evolving – especially right now. Your content strategy needs to evolve with them.

Find out more about The Content Connection and the survey results here.

Read more from Martin on key takeaways from the report:

Martin Bewick – CPL Content Marketing Strategy
Martin Bewick
is content strategist
at CPL

Latest news

CPL’s work in creating a new website and “one of the world’s most environmentally friendly print...
CPL has been appointed to deliver media sales on behalf of a professional body responsible for transforming the...
When coronavirus first broke out CPL charity Wintercomfort needed extra support to maintain key services during the...