Why associations are thinking like digital media companies

We’re in a unique era of media consumption. Only 43 percent of consumers trust the media, according to the most recent Edelman Trust Barometer, a global survey that measures public trust in various industries. At the same time, Americans are highly engaged with the news, and news consumption is largely going digital. The Pew Research Center recently reported that more than 90 percent of U.S. adults now get their news online.

As the conversation around how to distinguish what’s trustworthy in the news continues, an opportunity arises for associations to fill the news gap and speak directly to the needs of their members, other constituents, and the next generation of industry leaders.

Examples of this are already happening.

Several trade associations have launched their own industry podcasts. The National Retail Federation, for instance, produces a show called “Retail Gets Real” that features insightful interviews with global retail leaders, entrepreneurs, and influencers. Over the past year, the hosts have captured leadership insights and trends through interviews with executives from Salesforce, Walmart, Macy’s, and others.

The Associated General Contractors of America, meanwhile, is using social media like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to help celebrate its centennial year. The commercial construction trade association is interviewing members to share stories about their firms’ histories and involvement with the association and is posting the submissions on its new centennial website.

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society launched its first online broadcasting network as a new source for healthcare IT news and a platform for connecting and engaging global leaders and stakeholders.

There are several potential benefits for associations that choose to start producing their own digital news content:

It’s an additional benefit for members

Associations have historically provided information services for their members through education, professional development, research, and industry publications. Leading with educational content over promotional and delivering it on a consistent and reliable basis builds trust and deeper engagement with your audience. Doing this through a digital platform also allows a unique opportunity to gain valuable data and audience insights.

It’s a form of marketing and membership acquisition

These platforms are also lead-nurturing vehicles for potential members. Someone is much more likely to join your association if they already subscribe to your newsletter, listen to your podcast, or follow you on social media. Industry-specific news content can serve as a top-of-the-funnel lure for new members.

It drives revenue

While most associations have relationships with industry vendors and gain revenue through sponsorships, digital news content provides yet another avenue for associations to gain non-dues revenue. For instance, a recent episode of “Shoe-In,” a podcast produced by the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, begins with a sponsorship message from the Port of Long Beach, a key shipping port for many footwear distributors.

It’s a challenging time for associations now with industry consolidation and an aging workforce. While creating high-quality content isn’t easy, the rise of new digital platforms -- from social media to a curated news service -- has significantly decreased distribution costs. Never has there been a more advantageous time for associations to become their own media organizations.

As managing director of SmartBrief’s content solutions, Elizabeth MacDonald works closely with leading associations, nonprofits, foundations and corporations in utilizing and maximizing reliable news and content to engage and inform their target audiences. This post recently appeared in ASAE’s Associations Now Tech Toolkit. Visit SmartBrief at ASAE’s 2018 MM&C Conference, booth 206.