You invested in the right technology and developed a solid strategic plan. Now, the team is rolling out new member-success initiatives. Why aren’t people paying attention? The numbers are still slipping. It might be because customers aren’t hearing your important story.
Content, or the words, ideas, facts, and images, that you use to promote your brand, is a powerful sales tool. But if the message is missing the mark or being broadcast on a weak channel, that significant resource is wasted.
The good news is you don’t need a Madison Avenue marketing team to fix this problem. But you do have to get the staff working together. That terrific business strategy can’t be a wallflower that sits on the sidelines waiting for a partner. It’s got to dance with every person in your organization. When the party is over, they all need to leave humming the same tune.
“Strong alignment creates focus. Staff can develop impactful content because they use a laser instead of a flashlight to target compelling messages. This direction helps organizations position themselves as thought leaders on key topics—driving meaningful discussions, sharing unique perspectives, and informing the public, members, and customers about issues and why they matter.
“When the content strategy and the business strategy are strangers, the brand is diluted by that lack of synergy. Communicators in every department are speaking with different voices. They are addressing the issues that are most relevant to their own responsibilities and missing the big picture. Instead of producing results, they are making noise. This weak alignment is the reason why members aren’t listening, and your bottom line reflects that lack of engagement.”
Discover more of Amy’s ideas on content strategy in our new workshop on Udemy.
Make Marketing a Partner
Discussions about content strategy can get complicated. Acronyms like AIDA, USP, BR, and CPA, make it seem like the marketing team has invented their own language. Here’s my recommendation. Leave the abbreviations to the people who understand them. But involve those staffers in your highest-level planning processes and let them translate their magic into shaping the association’s goals and objectives into messages that hit the target.
This advice from Amy is critical. I include it almost every time I write a post on content. “Associations should consider their marketing teams as strategic partners. It’s one of the few departments with a full line of sight across the organization. If the marketing team doesn’t have influence and involvement in developing the strategic plan, there’s a major disconnect, which results in missed opportunities. Marketers are the people on your staff with a 360-degree understanding of your members. It is their job to bring a multifaceted perspective of the customer to every strategic conversation.”
This concept dovetails with the emphasis .orgSource places on integrated strategic planning. Sharon Rice, .orgSource Managing Director of Business Strategy, describes the benefits of having key staffers involved in the planning process like this.
“Integrated planning allows the board to do what they are best equipped for—setting the vision. They communicate the professional perspective,” Sharon advises. “Most groups excel in this role, and a skilled facilitator can keep the dialogue at the macro level.”
Identifying business strategy falls to the executive leadership team. Directors and managers are responsible for turning the vision into realistic goals and objectives that are a framework for every message. The process cuts across the entire organization, and there is constant communication among staffers and departments to ensure alignment. The CEO is the hub that turns the wheel. That leadership commitment is critical to ensure that the work becomes an organizational priority.
Speak With One Voice
At the highest level, organizational culture shapes business strategy. Those values characterize your brand and should consistently inform content. The marketing team is the keeper of the brand. And voice is what makes your brand unique. It’s the association’s personality, and it defines the tone and images that invigorate every piece of content. For example, a medical association will present itself in formal and factual terms; whereas a recreational or cultural organization might look and sound more casual, creative, or humorous. Voice speaks to your customers’ emotional and intellectual preferences and entices them to action.
Voice is not what each department head thinks members want to hear. It is what data and analytics reveal they are listening to. Marketers are charged with identifying your group’s various personas, or fictional representations of the key target market segments, and determining how they want to interact with your products and services.
“Now, more than ever, the focus should be on meeting consumers where they are with the information they want,” Amy observes. “This is a big change for organizations. The best strategy isn’t promoting what you want to share, it’s giving customers what they need and preparing them to address the changes they face. Marketers have many tools available to take the online pulse.”
Qualitative and quantitative data are used to develop these portraits. The following are sources of information that can shape personas, and by extension, help to identify the appropriate voice for your group.
- Focus groups
- Demographic and purchasing data from the AMS, LMS, member community, and other platforms
- Website and recruitment campaign analytics
- Meeting and event statistics
- Industry trends
Communicate Across the Organization
The marketing department is not just an external brand ambassador. They must also provide the authority and guidance that unites strategy, brand, and voice across the organization. Instructions, such as a style guide and taxonomies, are part of this process. But ongoing inter-organization communication and dialogue are even more important.
Everyone on your team should have a deep understanding of the strategic goals and how they relate to departmental operations. Too often plans are reviewed at a staff meeting with little to no explanation about what the various objectives mean for distinct functional areas and how they connect to each other.
In an integrated planning process this discussion occurs naturally as a result of the staff being charged with developing tactics from goals. Our paper Pathways to Organizational Excellence discusses how strategy flows through an organization and informs initiatives at every level.
Marketing is responsible for much of the heavy lifting. They must help business units to find the key messages and talking points that showcase their strategic objectives and can transform words and images into actionable customer activities.
Use Alignment to Increase Agility
Finally, close alignment of content to goals supports quickly seizing opportunities or addressing challenges. When teams across the organization are focused on the same objectives and everyone speaks a common language, time isn’t wasted deliberating about communications or action. Every message speaks with the conviction of strategy, culture, and values behind it.
Learn to develop an effective content strategy by subscribing to our workshop on Udemy.