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Managing Content to Advance Your Members’ Knowledge and Increase Value
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This is an ongoing series of articles in which Association Resources identifies trends and how associations can benefit from case studies and best practices.

By Christopher G. Blake, CAE

Associations produce volumes of content in various forms. Annual Conference educational programs, webinars, online resource libraries, and email discussion groups provide a rich source of content for association members. However, much of this content resides in unconnected silos, so members do not receive the greatest value from this knowledge base.

The challenge for associations is to develop a process to harness this rich trove of content in a way that provides value to members. A leading-edge practice for associations is to focus on “content curation.” Curation refers to the practice of sorting through large amounts of content, organizing it, and presenting the most relevant content in a meaningful way to members.

In a recent article published by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), consultants Jacqui Olkin and Duane Degler outlined a seven-step process for developing an association information ecosystem:

Audit your association’s information. Know what you have and what you need to get rid of, consolidate, and revise as needed.

Know your users. Understand why and how people and organizations use your information and what is most important to them. Focus on standardizing, classifying, and exposing the content your members value the most.

Actively engage in what your members’ profession is doing to create standards and identify information that can be shared. Many association volunteers are subject matter experts in their fields. They are on the cutting edge of establishing standards and best practices for their professions. Engage them in this process.

Set priorities. Get consensus on a “road map” toward improvement. This should be a one-page view of the association’s strategic direction with regard to information sharing. This should be shared understanding among staff and volunteer leaders that is regularly discussed and adjusted according to member needs.

Apply standard terms and tags to your information and plan for the future. Create a flexible system for classifying and organizing your content. Take steps to prepare your content for a time when it can be aggregated and searched. Keep in mind how your members find your information through searches, browsing and cross linking.

Identify partners. Seek out service providers who specialize in information architecture, web design, and other product vendors. Create alliances with other organizations that share your goals and are managing their information.

Beyond this helpful process, associations should use communications systems, both internal (online communities) and external (LinkedIn Groups) to direct members toward its most valuable content. For example, if the staff creates a new online resource library or web page featuring the best content in a particular subject area, put out an announcement in the association e-newsletter as well as on LinkedIn directing members where to find it.

Associations can also use content to generate member engagement. For example, ask members to comment on or rate content, and to contribute to an online resource library on a particular topic. Start an email discussion based on a new white paper or resource.

Content curation can increase member value and engagement through an intentional process to develop an information eco-system that is sustainable and adaptable to changing member needs.

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