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The power of thinking beyond the membership


Membership organisations have a great story to tell. The trick is understanding how to make the right parts resonate with the right audience.

As an agency full of curious people hungry to tell stories about the world, it’s brilliant to work with membership organisations. Their whole reason for existing is based on a strong social purpose, to provide guidance and often sector-wide regulation for a whole host of important disciplines. Whether it’s law, surveying or engineering, their members do something complex on behalf of society that the rest of us are seldom aware of.

This gives us the scope to create compelling films, podcasts and written content that has relevance to a wide audience. We can then use that wide-angle, overarching story to set the context for a myriad of technical topics that are the lifeblood of a membership’s daily working life and that constitute a big chunk of the value these organisations provide their members.

Keep it all in focus – from emotive story to technical advice

Sometimes, it’s appropriate to invest more heavily in content that tells emotive stories. Often, the investment will narrow down on the niche technical detail. But a powerful membership content strategy should never lose sight of what lies between the two approaches.

As ever with content strategy, the approach depends entirely on the audience you are trying to reach and what you are trying to persuade them to do differently.

So, start at the highest level by understanding which audiences are most important to your membership organisation; this is likely some combination of existing members, students studying for the professional exams you offer, policymakers and politicians focused on the same field as you, relevant journalists and academics and, at many membership organisations, the general public. These audiences – plus any distinct specialisms in your membership – should determine how you organise the content you produce and the way you structure your website.

Having content organised in this way allows you to always make the link between, say, a technical white paper aimed at a segment of the membership and an emotive story about how their profession makes people’s lives safer or better. This link consistently reinforces the main mission of a membership organisation and reminds its members of the value of what they do in their daily lives and that their professional body is speaking on their behalf.

A case in point

Keeping that full spectrum of content approaches in mind also allows you to think about the channels you use to reach those audiences and the impact your content has. For example, you might send members a frequent newsletter highlighting content across that spectrum of approaches but probably relying more on technical updates and advice. You may also use owned social media platforms to push that information and advice more widely.

But you may then decide to invest significantly in a campaign at one point in the year aimed at member and non-member audience segments. This is straightforward to do if your content strategy already outlines that ‘full spectrum’ of approaches.

One case in point is with a campaign we produced and are running for the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). The overarching message of the campaign was that UK policymakers and politicians need to make changes if we are to kickstart economic growth in this country.

This gave us a start point to make compelling films about companies that already demonstrate ideas and hard work that could get the UK growing again, and that also talk about the way economic growth leads to better lives for us all.

In an election year, we can use those films to engage the general public and a policymaking audience (think tanks, civil servants, politicians) to show the role that UK business (and ICAEW chartered accountants) has to play in UK economic growth and why ICAEW is an important voice in that national debate.

But it also allows us to produce thought-leadership content with policy ideas for kickstarting growth and, finally (but no less importantly), advisory content for members about technical challenges that are part of members’ daily work in this area. Topics such as applying for R&D tax relief or setting up to sell a new product line overseas.

Considering all relevant audiences from day one allows us to make one set of content but use it in a wide array of different channels with each of those audiences.  As such, content plays a role that ranges from showing the benefits of the accounting profession and why chartered accountants have an important role to play in society all the way through to showing chartered accountants how to accomplish a part of their job and so contribute to the UK’s economic growth.

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