Association Publications: To Print or Not to Print
Launching a New Publication or Revamping Your Current One?
Your publication is the vehicle that represents your association and can be one of the most valuable benefits of membership.
A member-centric approach to your association publication will not only pique the reader’s interest but keep them wanting more. Outreach and engagement strategies for the publication should be deliberately shaped around your members, and since you’ve clearly defined the type of engagement you’re seeking, create content that drives that action.
Relevant content and important industry news should be a part of every issue.
Equally important is consistent branding and messaging style throughout all member communication channels to ensure your message is clear. Consider your publication a networking tool and align it with all your association’s outreach strategies.
So, How Do You Know What Information Your Association Members Want?
Surveys are powerful tools that will help align member needs to your association’s communication goals. When framing your member survey, the results will be more effective if you include a few open-ended questions to allow the member to elaborate on their response. Include agree/disagree scale questions. This allows respondents to answer more precisely, and it provides more nuanced survey responses to analyze.
When conducting a survey, be prepared to get answers you were not expecting, and be sure to act on them.
Your survey may reveal how members want to consume information in your publication. There has been a long debate over print vs. digital, and varying opinions that sway regularly. Is print really dead, or did it gain an ally?
Print and digital can be synergistic, but let’s explore the pros and cons of each, and how they relate to your organization.
Print vs. Digital Publications
With the average American spending over six hours a day looking at a screen, a printed copy of your publication may be a welcomed change for your readers.
The print version of a publication must be unique and well-crafted or members may lose interest after receiving the first issue. A printed copy should visually and physically enhance the value of membership, so consider having it printed in full color on quality paper.
Print provides a sense of credibility that other platforms lack. The member will feel invited to read it, will want hang onto it, and may share it with colleagues.
That said, we live in a digital world, and a digital publication may make the most sense to your association. Digital publications are cost-effective, quick to produce, and easy to access on most devices. They offer features print cannot like the addition of audio or video and the ability to edit even after publishing.
One of the most valuable attributes of a digital publication is the ability to analyze distribution and user behavior. You’ll learn what articles were clicked on the most, how long the reader stayed engaged in the content, from where they’re reading, on what ads they clicked, and more.
Coupled with the information gathered from your reader survey, you’ll be armed with a wealth of knowledge and can begin to shape your content around the information your members want and need to see in your publication. We suggest gathering data from every publication for at least six issues before deciding whether to keep or change your content strategy.
Both print and digital publications have a common, ever-so-important benefit to associations: non-dues revenue.
Subscriptions can be sold to non-members, and the publication may even become a member acquisition tool. Engage your communications staff to seek out paid advertising, or work with a production partner that has an in-house ad sales team.
Advertising is content, so it also must be relevant to your readers. With a successful ad sales team, your publication can be self-supporting or even generate revenue for your organization, so it is equally important to have a strong advertising strategy.
Whether you choose print, digital, or both, keep in mind that your publication is the voice of your organization. If the strategy is framed around your members’ needs and stays consistent with your brand, your publication will be seen as one of the most valuable resources to your members.
Go ahead, tell your story!