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Emily Nash

By: Emily Nash on March 7th, 2018

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Newsrooms and Associations Have More in Common Than You Might Think

Email Marketing | membership marketing | Content Strategy

A recent report conducted by Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism shared insights from organizations aiming to grow by converting readers into members. While news organizations have long led the charge for creating waves with clickable headlines and newsworthy stories, what’s changed is their source of revenue through membership. So, now we are taking successful initiatives from journalists and applying them to associations. 

No one ever became a member of a journalism site offering news that feels like a commodity.” (1)

In addition to the latest from Columbia University as reported by Associations Now earlier this year, we decided to connect with HighRoad’s client, Lindsey Loving, Communications Manager at News Media Alliance for her insight on the topic of creating value-add critical insights about industry news to their newsletters. Here’s where News Media Alliance is excelling:

    • How-To series: They implemented a new How-To series for news producers. In this initiative, they provide tips and resources on trending news and journalism topics they know their members want to learn more about.

    • Feedback: They started making the conversation two-way by asking for feedback and suggestions on additional topics to cover in the series; giving readers a reason to come back for the next installment.

    • Consistency: They incorporated consistency by featuring the newest How-To section each Wednesday, providing regularity and something for members to look forward to.

    • Critical Insights: Another new initiative is the addition of CEO statements in response to developments on news media hot topics. This helps to establish News Media Alliance  as a go-to resource for an industry perspective.

Loving went on to summarize their formula for success as, “We use our newsletter to share the latest statement with our audiences, and through consistently commenting, we have become recognized as a source for news-related commentary. We want to make it as easy as possible for our members to grab whatever they need for a story, and through our newsletter, we can funnel the information they are looking for directly into their inboxes in a predictable way.”

To pull it all together with other findings from the report by Columbia University, we are noticing that news organizations are shifting from traditional media revenue models based on advertising and subscriptions to one of value-added membership. (Where subscription is a passive revenue stream, the membership relationship equals greater input from the reader - as associations should know all too well.)

Additionally, for profit giants on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter aim for gamification of their content to drive users to constantly check their phones for notifications, all while news organizations aim for creating habit-forming newsletters to drive users to constantly check their inbox. As a result, we are finding an exciting framework to apply to associations' potential for growth. In framing the challenge of associations' growth through the lens of journalists (and maybe even social strategies gaming their apps), we begin to answer how we can make association newsletters habit forming among readers.

Beyond converting readeres to members, both news organizations and associations are tasked with maintaining the relationship. Once converted, both news companies and associations are charged with demonstrating how membership yields benefits. Associations would find value in better articulating how membership makes their work possible plus illustrating the value that association produces for their members. Associations can learn to create better member experiences from a journalist's approach to storytelling, rigid data analytics for behavior insights, and in-depth content strategy and planning. Lastly, associations have a wealth of value to share through member’s stories. More often than not, associations can better capitalize on this type of content.

So, I’ll leave you with this. Associations will gain results by better balancing content with a personality-driven voice and value-added expert giving content - context. According to the Tow Center report, your newsletter should be targeted, written (not just curated) by experts, presented in a conversational tone, delivered on engaging formats, and based on subscriber habits and data. Communications professionals at associations should add “engagement editor” to their roles because they are not just curating, they are not merely segmenting, but they are adding a narrative style that reflects the organization’s personality and style.

The greatest value of the association newsletter meets where the value of the association as told through stories and news meets audience and members needs from the organization.

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About Emily Nash

Emily is a Digital Advisor with 10 years of blended experiences in inbound marketing strategy, email marketing & marketing automation, marketing technology, content production, social media, and advertising. With a versatile background in freelance, consulting, and corporate settings, Emily specializes in identifying and implementing effective digital strategies for associations and businesses. She’s also a host of HighRoad's Rethink Association podcast, where she discusses mainstream marketing and technology solutions and how association growth and recruitment goals can appeal to younger generations.