Content Strategy: Knowledge You Want to Be Known For

Knowledge may be power but it is also value proposition and revenue source in associations. Your content strategy determines the knowledge you want to be known for.

Two years ago I began working with the American Industrial Hygiene Association to define a content strategy and process for accelerating research and development of the knowledge AIHA wants to be known for.  AIHA is a bit pioneering in establishing a system for scanning emerging knowledge needs, vetting priorities for annual investment, and then working with researchers and volunteers to accelerate content development. 

When the project began, I had to clarify that a content strategy is neither content marketing nor content management. We did some upfront research and found most of the buzz and focus at that time were on marketing (social media) and management (especially website usability), not strategy. It’s the difference between defining success as lots of hits and mentions or knowing who you are and what you want to achieve.

Through the AIHA benchmarking interviews and continuing conversations we did discover other associations on the same journey.  This month at the American Society of Association Executives annual conference I attended an education session where the presenters understand content strategy how I now do. Debra Zabloudil, president & CEO of The Learning Studio and John Folks, president of Minding Your Business, Inc., offered good guidance for others on this journey even if your association requires a few different twists and turns in that process. AIHA certainly did.

For me, one simple 4-square matrix visual was the golden takeaway that simplifies how associations should think about their content strategy.  Zabloudil and Folks described the strategy target as low knowledge, high importance areas.  That is exactly where AIHA is now investing research dollars. But I’d advise that associations also will find their sustaining content in the high knowledge, high importance zone. This is where you can repurpose and redeploy your content to different audiences and through different media.

Zabloudil and Folks stressed the importance of upfront qualitative research to understand what is important to members and their future as well as backend evaluation to assess outcomes.  AIHA also takes a research-based approach at the beginning and end of its content strategy cycle.

They also recommended focusing on only five top priorities.  The AIHA content investment portfolio only has six initiatives and one of those involves repositioning and repurposing a key knowledge initiative from several years ago.

And all I can say is amen to their benefits recap. Content strategy will help your association define the most valuable content, or in my words, the knowledge you want to be known for.  More importantly, content strategy can help ensure your association’s future relevancy. 

If content is a big part of what gives your association power, drives your value proposition, and generates the revenue, you need a content strategy.