Being the tweetstream stalker that I am, I read these two tweets during the Association Media & Publishing conference a while back and, of course, saved them because I’m an idea hoarder too

@KimHowardDC: The website is just a publication in a different format. Hire an editor in chief for it. #amp12

@DanScheeler: Does your website have a chief content officer? #amp12

Association websites were originally the place to tell the world what you’re all about – where prospects, policy-makers, and the press could check you out. Then association management systems evolved and websites became a bigger part of the membership experience. Now, for many members the website is the association – it’s where they find resources, community, and connections to other benefits of membership.

Hopefully, your website is no longer a billboard left to the IT department to maintain, but instead a key component of your digital and content strategies, and aligned with your organization’s strategic plan.

Introducing the Chief Content Officer

In the for-profit world, brands are making content marketing a priority. To manage content strategy, development, and distribution, many have appointed Chief Content Officers, so many, in fact, that Joe Pulizzi at the Content Marketing Institute developed a job description for CCOs.

But Maggie McGary and many of those who commented on her post, Who “Owns” Content, question whether the CCO that Pulizzi describes would work in the association context where the main purpose of content is not to market, but to educate.

I agree that the job description would be quite different, yet I still see a need for a person (or team) to manage content in a more purposeful way. Many large associations have an editor-in-chief for their magazine, but how many have a person dedicated to overseeing the strategy and management of website content? And what about content that’s shared via social and mobile platforms, emails, and online and in-person events?

A Chief Content Officer or team can ensure that an association has a coordinated approach to find, collect, repurpose, create, curate, and share content.

Content challenges

Content remains one of the most valuable benefits an association delivers to members. In the good old days, your magazine and emails might have stood a chance competing for your members’ attention. But now you have competition. Inboxes are full. Social streams (like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter) are saturated. Vendors have discovered content marketing and have the budgets to deliver blogs, videos, webinars, and even conferences. How do you hold onto or reclaim your members’ attention in this environment?

The types of desired content — text, photos, graphics, audio, and video — have increased as well as the channels. To keep your content pipeline full, you have to constantly find, repurpose, or create fresh content. You need an integrated approach to content if you want to keep and grow your audience and maintain your industry supremacy, reputation, and, dare I say, relevance.

Shifting the culture

The association culture can make the content challenge even more difficult. Advocacy talking points are shared with lobby day participants but no one else. Conference videos live only on the conference website. Someone needs to review each department’s content and release it from these silos.

Many associations don’t have content marketing chops. Too often the “build it and they will come” mindset is in charge – “We have such great resources on our website, how come members aren’t using them?”  

You need to find members and deliver content to them or entice them to come back to your site. Start by helping them develop habits to regularly:

  • visit your site or online community
  • pull up your mobile app
  • read an RSS subscription
  • create a “professional reading list” on Facebook
  • search for an association hashtag on Twitter
  • get a digest of LinkedIn group or online community discussions

So much has changed in the last few years that our job descriptions and responsibilities haven’t kept up. In a comment on Maggie’s post, Eric Lanke said his small association was hiring a Digital Content Manager. Content strategy isn’t a social media, website, or magazine issue, it’s a management issue.

How is your association managing the development and distribution of your content?

Deirdre Reid, CAE is a freelance writer who started managing content at age six for her bedroom library and its two patrons, her brothers.