Tip of the Week Archives

4 Clues You’re Due for a Communication Audit

Through research and a critique of member publications and other materials, a strategic communication audit can help determine the effectiveness of your communications program, assess the mix of communication vehicles, and identify opportunities to enhance those efforts. Here are four hints it’s time for a communication audit:

1. Certain constituencies/ audiences complain information isn’t targeted enough. Newer, younger members may feel content doesn’t address their needs while others want more specialized, customized content. Customization becomes a key issue.

2. Members say they are getting too many emails, not enough information of valueDespite multiple communications on key topics, your target audiences say they can’t find the information they need. They don’t feel you are listening to them.

3. Content in print publications, on websites, and in e-newsletters is repetitive and overlaps with inconsistent messages and brands.

4. Open rates are declining and members are disengaging, opting out of electronic communications, complaining about website functionality, and ignoring social media posts.

 4 Tools to Create Custom Infographics

Vibrant infographics can be a great way to enliven data and draw in readers, but they can be a challenge if you don’t have the proper resources on hand. Check out these four online tools to help create custom infographics in a pinch:

1. Visual.ly is a “one-stop shop” for creating data visualizations and infographics, and features a marketplace that connects project managers with designers who can meet their design needs. (From $1,500)

2. Piktochart creates premium, interactive infographics using more than 115 available themes and allows you to share and measure results. (Basic free, Pro from $14/month)

3. Wordle assembles word clouds from any text or website with an RSS feed that you can customize with color schemes, typefaces, and more. (Free)

4. Text is Beautiful uses word frequency to create informative text visuals in a variety of styles, such as concept webs and clouds and correlation wheels. (Free)  

3 Ways to Modernize Your Media Kit

Strategizing your revenue efforts for the coming year? Here are three tips to streamline your media kit to boost sales in 2014:

1. Play up visual content. Incorporate strong visuals that demonstrate the value of your media offerings. Try presenting your media kit as an infographic or featuring a video that profiles your member testimonials.

2. Break out of the box. Maximize your cross-channel platforms – and avoid crowding – by organizing content that needs to be printed vs. what can be posted online or curated into a portal for easy access.

3. Use your research. No doubt, hard data makes the sale, so don’t skimp on clear demographics that underscore the products and services your audiences need most.

3 Tips for More Compelling Design

Great design can be the difference between readers engaging with your content or overlooking it altogether. Here are three quick tips to create more compelling designs in print and digital:

1. Steer the eye. Decide what you want the reader to see first, then create order on the page and a clear path for the eye to follow.

2. Consider the bigger picture. Pay attention to the size of headlines, copy, and graphics and how they fall on the page. Intersperse these items with white space to avoid pages looking too “busy.”

3. Spice up stock art. Use stock art as a base that you can build on and customize to better fit the story and increase relevance for readers.

3 Tips for a Robust Social Media Policy

Most associations engage in social media, but few have a formal policy in place that lays out guidelines for posting, leaving them open to legal risks. Here are three tips to consider when creating and posting social media content to ensure you’re protected:

1. Publish an official “Terms of Use” or “Social Networking Policy.” In addition to a policy for staff, develop guidelines for posting by members, subscribers, and the general public that ties into your overall social media strategy.

2. Monitor your platforms. Check up on postings and conversations throughout the day to enforce the rules and remove posts that are offensive or could have legal ramifications, such as copyright infringement, defamation, etc.

3. Clarify who is posting. If you are posting on behalf of your organization, let users know. If not, staffers should state that their posts are personal opinion and not the organization’s official stance.

 5 Apps for Publishing & Media Pros

Busy association publishers and communicators are often working on the go. So to save time and stress, check out these five straightforward apps you’ll actually use:

1. iAnnotate (Apple iPad, Android tablet) – Editors and productions staff can read, mark up, and share Acrobat PDF documents with ease. $9.99 

2. HTML Cheat Sheet (Apple iPhone, iPad) – This quick HTML reference tool also allows developers to write and edit code within the app. 99 cents

3. Basecamp (Apple iPhone, iPad) – Project managers will appreciate convenient, shareable storage for discussions, files, and to-do lists. Windows/Android devices can access it via a Web browser. Subscription required (free app)

4. Snapseed (Apple, Android, Windows) – Edit and enhance photos and graphics anywhere with this award-winning app designed for professional photographers and designers. Free

5. Prompster (Apple, Android, Windows) – Perfect for any presentation or speech, this app smoothly scrolls text at a readable pace like a teleprompter. $9.99

4 Tips for Collaborating with Freelancers

Even great writers need direction, so it’s important to provide newly hired ones with the necessary support to produce quality pieces – especially if you want them to stick around. Here are four tips for helping new freelancers become fully engaged regulars:

1. Get it in writing. Make sure assignment details, such as topic, deadline, word count, and rate, are outlined in writing so the scope of work is clearly defined for both parties.

2. Offer a model. Give freelancers sample pieces that match the style, tone, and composition of your publication, and provide valuable organizational knowledge.

3. Pinpoint key questions. Reinforce the specific questions you want the piece to address. Encourage frequent communication in case the angle of the piece begins to change.

4. Follow up with feedback. Show writers the edited version of their piece so they can see what you changed and adapt for future assignments.

 3 Tips for Getting (and Staying) Organized This Spring

Spring has emerged in many areas bringing sunny skies, bright blooming flowers, and, for many of us, the desire to restore order to our work. Here are three easy tips for refocusing your media efforts before summer:

1. Reevaluate your media planner. Make time to review editorial/production lineups for the rest of the year. Are topics still relevant? Have bonus distributions changed?

2. Put mid-year meetings on the books. Before annual vacations make planning difficult, solidify important meeting dates – such as your sales and budget meetings – with all team members now.

3. De-clutter your server. Hefty design files and rich media clips can easily clunk up your server. Organize materials by project or topic and archive them so you can free up space for new projects.

3 Tips for Managing a Daily Publication

Daily publications can be a great communications asset, offering relevance, frequency, and visibility. But they also require consistent planning and man power to thrive. Here are three tips to work smarter, not harder:

1. Make it an event. Pick a firm publishing date and time and stick with it – most email marketing services offer an auto scheduling option that can help you achieve this. Readers will appreciate the consistency, and the routine can help staff stay organized.

2. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Establish a pipeline of meaningful, bite-sized content to populate your daily. Work with staff to repurpose past print and web articles, blog posts, extra interview information, or even LinkedIn discussions to prevent scrambling for content.

3. Keep revenue in mind. While your goal might not be to turn a profit now, consider opportunities that will help boost advertising, membership, and visibility later, such as offering your daily pub to members and nonmembers alike.

3 Tips for Navigating the Future of Content Development

At Stratton’s recent Smart Media Roundtable, senior association communications professionals discussed the evolving media environment and how they are creating strategies for content integration across departments and on different platforms. Participants shared these tips for maneuvering today’s media world:

1. Be a risk-taker. Experimentation is a key part of responding to change. Your triumphs and failures can help mold successful communications strategies in the future.

2. Coordinate your efforts. Maintaining a centralized content strategy inclusive of various departments can be challenging. Coordination is often best achieved through top-down leadership support and efforts to educate staff on the value of a collaborative approach.

3. Stretch your skill set. Today’s environment requires nimble communicators who are fluent in media creation across various channels. Cultivating these skills offers professional flexibility to expand your content’s reach and to integrate projects more seamlessly.

 4 Tips for Changing Your Journal’s Style

Looking for ways to adapt your journal to magazine format and style? Try these four tips to help engage your audience without sacrificing content quality:

1. Add multiple subheads. Feature articles rely on subheads not only to break up the copy, but also to draw in the reader and enhance engagement.

2. Describe your infographics. Rather than simply numbering them, title your charts and tables with headlines that explain the information and give context to the article or sidebar they reference.

3. Relocate footnotes. Air out pages while still allowing facts and quotes to be verified by directing readers to online resources for footnotes and other information.

4. Preview what’s to come. Entice readers by including a deck with each article that summarizes the topic, and consider adding short bulleted lists of key takeaways near the opening spread.

 3 Ways Pinterest Can Boost Member Interest 

 If a picture is worth a thousand words, Pinterest has a lot to say. Association publishers and communicators have tapped into this popular social site to reach members in a powerful, visual manner. Here are three ways to use Pinterest to connect with your members:

1. Tell your story. Put a face to the name of your organization with boards and pins that reflect your mission and show your members, staff, and events.

2. Share news and resources. Create boards around important issues and resources, and pin a mix of content from your organization and your members. Enable social sharing options to help spread the word.     

3. Track the latest trends. Follow industry thought leaders and pin what’s new in styles, colors, and layouts to help keep your communications – and your members’ – on the cutting edge.

 3 Research Measures that Matter Most

In our research with association publishers, we’re often asked which research measures are the most critical. Of course, we’d argue that all measures are important, but when pressed, we’ll point to these three measures that reveal the most about a publication’s success or lack thereof:

  1. “Must-read factor.” Your publication should be considered “must reading” by two thirds of your readers.
  2. Content relevance. At least seven in 10 readers should rate the relevance of content in your publication as “excellent” or “good.”
  3. Content utility. At least one third of your readers should have modified a process or adopted a new procedure as a result of reading your publication.

3 Ways to Get More from Digital Offerings

Digital publishing is growing in many areas – more than 5 million digital editions are being produced annually, and even Newsweek plans to go all-digital in 2013. But how can association publishers position their digital offerings to build readership and boost revenues? Here are three ways to facilitate digital engagement:

  1. Enhance your editorial with videos, audio, polls, animation, and other rich media that add value to your products and create a more interactive experience for readers and members.
  2. Maximize your audience reach by offering both native and web-based apps as well as a solid, intuitive platform so members can easily access and digest your content.
  3. Develop clear goals and strategies to optimize the platform for all users – members, advertisers, and others – and use current data to regularly refine your efforts.

 3 Tips for Successfully Branding Communications Vehicles 

The name of an association’s magazine, newsletter, or blog gives a first look at an organization’s mission, target membership, and more. Successful names marry brand and purpose, which pays off in increased membership, page views and subscriptions, and engagement. Here are three tips for better branding of your publications and other member communications:  

1. Set the tone. Select a name that speaks to the nature of your organization, and its mission and membership. Using industry terminology in your branding can help members identify with your offerings and draw them in.

2. Keep it consistent. Chances are, your organization has more than one communications vehicle. If so, consider all of them as a group when rebranding. How can each maintain its individual identity while still communicating a cohesive package?

3. Stay on message. In order for readers and members to remain engaged and involved, stay true to the new brand in your content, delivery, and outreach. Members will more easily recognize and appreciate the targeted information.

 4 Tips for New Revenue Generation

Association publishers are grappling with the challenges of generating revenues in a diminished-print and evolving-digital media landscape. But innovation and success still abound, as we found recently at our inaugural series of Smart Media Roundtables. Here are four strategies association publishers shared for creating new revenue streams in today’s climate:

1. Be willing to invest. Associations that want to be on the cutting edge for online offerings also need to be willing to make strategic infrastructure investments to get to that next level – and be realistic about expectations.

2. Build your online identity to compete with the big guys. One association found success in launching a separate, commercial website for its magazine, offering paid listings of new product announcements, press releases, videos, white papers, case studies, and more. The site includes news, features, and blogs, as well as featured products and other paid content.

3. Scan the competitive landscape for opportunities. With social media and online communities, everyone can get into the content- and revenue-development game, including members. Pay attention to new vehicles being pushed out – mine them for ad prospects and learn from their approach.

4. Nonmembers can be customers, too. Marketing nonmember subscriptions is a way to introduce your organization to students, prospective members, and others while also providing additional revenue.