Use a content calendar to engage members in 2019: associations now

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By Tim Ebner / January 15, 2019
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Member experience fluctuates with activity throughout the year, which is why a content calendar can help you plan for member engagements in 2019. Here are some tools and techniques to get you started.

At the start of a New Year, it’s a good idea not only to set a few New Years Resolutions, but also to think about upcoming activities and ways you’ll engage your members in 2019.

As a journalist, one tool I live and die with is my calendar. As well as allowing me to stay focused on upcoming interviews and deadlines, it helps me identify pressing stories. Often times, these hot topics are most relevant within a certain date range, or they can be related to an event that takes place on a specific date, such as a report publication or a conference. Everything is happening on my trusty calendar.

What I’m building is basically an editorial calendar that helps me anticipate what people will be talking about in the future – and is a great fodder for stories and blog posts with themed news. And it seems to me that this is a strategy that membership teams can adapt to shape future member engagements.

As we all know, members have both busy times and ‘off season’ times. Knowing these annual rhythms can help associations plan ahead or refine an engagement strategy.

The main benefit of a content calendar is that it helps association staff collaborate and coordinate on a variety of engagement opportunities. With the right schedule and the right processes in place, it is possible to schedule content, marketing, email, and social media campaigns to coincide weeks, months, or even a year to the end. advance. Here are some considerations to keep in mind when creating your calendar:

Design for collaboration. Your association probably already has a few planning calendars that revolve around the member, including marketing plans, social media calendars, or editorial calendars. In a blog post from December, Ben Sailer, content marketing manager at digital marketing company CoSchedule, shows how to bring these planning activities together by creating an optimized content calendar for organization-wide collaboration.

While some teams may rely on a printed calendar, PDF file, or spreadsheet to guide their content planning work, Sailer argues that a more collaborative tool, such as an online calendar or content management app. project, can help an organization’s staff prioritize content engagement throughout the year. A word of warning, however: if your content calendar includes multiple departments, Sailer suggests choosing a tool that allows users to organize and filter calendar items by project type and team member. “If you don’t stay organized, you’re less likely to be successful,” he writes.

Plan quick brainstorms. To create a robust content calendar at CoSchedule, Sailer and her team begin with a brainstorming session that only takes 30 minutes. In the first 10 minutes, meeting participants write down as many ideas for content and stories as possible, a process that avoids group thinking. Then, these ideas are read aloud before participants evaluate and discuss them. The Sailer team repeats this brainstorming once a month to have enough content ideas in the pipeline to fill CoSchedule’s content calendar.

In a video, Sailer explains how the process works:

Association membership teams can use a similar process to generate ideas for member engagement. Brainstorming is a great opportunity for cross-departmental collaboration, especially if you already have marketing, communications, and writing teams planning and producing content.

Look for smart opportunities to resurface. It might seem counterintuitive, but a content calendar shouldn’t focus solely on producing new pieces of content. Also review existing “evergreen” documents that could be refreshed and resurfaced to create opportunities for member engagement in the near future. The Society of Women Engineers, for example, leveraged its reallocation power by creating an integrated marketing and advocacy campaign based on letters from a century ago.

Even if your organization doesn’t have a historical archive to draw on, you may still have opportunities for smart resurfacing. Start by looking at the online content your association has produced over the past year and analyze traffic and engagement rates. These metrics could indicate content that performed well in 2018 and could be adapted for re-release in 2019.

Do you use a content calendar to help guide engagement opportunities? What does it look like and how do you use it? Share your comments below.


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