How to Determine Whether Your Content Strategy is Succeeding

18th March 2020

Content is how your organization manifests your programs, products, and services – your advocacy efforts, educational courses, conference sessions, etc. Therefore, the strategy for your content needs to be interconnected with the strategy for those programs, products, and services.

Words Hilary Marsh

(This is the third article in our content strategy series. Catch up on the first two articles: Why Your Association Needs Content Strategy & How Content Strategy Will Help Your Association Thrive)

Content success is business success

All too often, organizations don’t connect content with the work it supports – and because of that, they use inadequate measures to determine success. Prime among these is simply measuring content success by reporting on page visits or views.

For example, why does it matter if 1,000 people visit the page about your conference? The information about the conference exists to inspire people to register for the event – so a good content measurement is not how many people visit the page, but how many people register. If you’re aiming for 100 registrations, for example, it would be fine if 100 people visited the page and then registered.

Associations often assert that a goal for conference content is that only the right people register. That’s valid – and we could measure that too, if we benchmark how many of the right and inappropriate people registered for the last conference, adjust the content to make it clear who the appropriate attendees are, and then measure the results for the updated content.

Similarly, for the member discount programs you offer, the goal is not to get lots of visits, but to inspire members to take advantage of those programs. If the pages about the programs are popular but conversions are low (aka, few people click through to use them or at least find out more), it could be because the programs themselves are not compelling, or it might be because the content doesn’t showcase how the programs would be beneficial to the member.

Business success is content success

In order for your content strategy to be successful, your association needs to be aligned. Your people need to collaborate, or at least cooperate.

There are several things that serve as “organizational glue” for content: 

  • that the organization has and uses a shared, transparent content calendar
  • that the organization has a single organization-wide taxonomy used on your website, your LMS, and any other platform you use to house content – journals, courses, webinars, conference, magazine, etc.
  • that responsibilities for ensuring content effectiveness rest with both folks who have expertise in the subject matter and those who have expertise in presenting content – and that these responsibilities are part of their job descriptions and serve as one of the elements of their performance reviews.

I recently asked the CEOs of four US associations about what content strategy success means to them. These CEOs told me they focus on measurable business results, smooth processes, and confirmation that the organization is using its resources most effectively. And content plays a significant role in all three of these.

This piece was provided by Hilary Marsh, president and chief strategist of Content Company, a content and digital strategy consultancy that helps organizations get better results by improving their content practices. Content Company’s clients include the American Bar Association, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Endocrine Society, National Association of Convenience Stores, Institute of Food Technologists, and Florida Realtors.  You can find Marsh on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Slideshare.

CEOs want to know that the organization’s offerings — its products, programs, services, information, resources, and tools — are achieving their goals. Content strategy success with this lens means the organization is doing several things:

  • Creating content of and about its offerings that inspires the target audience to see the organization’s value and benefit and that inspires current people to use the offerings. Executives value audience engagement and retention as important metrics.
  • Creating content about the organization’s offerings that inspires prospective members to join/buy because they see the value for themselves.

CEOs have made strategic decisions about what the organization offers, and they put the right leaders in place within the organization to hire staff to keep those offerings compelling, current, and relevant to the audiences. This takes a deep understanding of the audience’s needs, as well as their context. 

The CEOs all addressed the issue of silos: from their perspective, their internal silos have gone away, which has enabled everyone in the organization to think about content in new ways. This requires more holistic decision-making, more collaboration, and better identification of audiences and meaningful goals.

Three steps to get started

  1. Empower your association to create and measure your “return on content” by ensuring that each piece of content has an explicit audience and measurable goals.
  2. Make sure that each piece of content aligns with the organization’s strategic goals, helps a specific target audience address a challenge or solve a problem, and exists in context of other content the organization is publishing
  3. Get the association’s executives, subject-matter experts, and content creators to make the necessary commitments to effective content  
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