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What Membership Organizations Can Learn From Magazines

image of man reading an association magazineA guest blog by Kyle Sexton.

The events staff is nagging the communications staff to send just one more email to put some cheeks in seats or satisfy the sponsors’ visibility expectations according to the sponsor agreement.

Membership staff want an email that pokes members for leads or reminds members of the upcoming advertising deadline. Communications staff bugs the membership team for compelling human interest stories to no avail. And who is going to remind the CEO her the article for the enewsletter was due last week?

There’s no downside for your events staff to send just one more email—except that your organization loses valuable attention.

Get more tools to help your association thrive
in the Association Success Kit.

The pressures created by misalignment cost you money in the long-term because they cost you attention in the short-term. Ultimately, attention is more important than money because having people’s attention means they could buy and buy again. Once you lose their attention, you lose their money for good.

How do we create a new narrative for our organizations? (Hint: Narrative)

Magazines contain some clues. Fast Company doesn’t run articles about the deals a writer found on Amazon. Instead, they pose ideas like “What Amazon Is Really Selling – Why CEO Jeff Bezos Scares Apple, Google – and His Own Investors.” Headlines like these direct the readers’ attention to the tightrope. He might fall. You don’t want to miss that, do you?

Your local newspapers (you know, the ones you groan about) might use a more contrarian approach to headlines than you would like, but you don’t have to be contrarian to provoke a reader. When a provoked reader is your member, we call it member engagement.

How are we losing the attention of our members?

  • Crying wolf
  • Repeating ourselves
  • Yelling
  • Talking about ourselves
  • Confusing urgent with important
  • Lack of caring for readers’ time

To remedy your attention problem, get organized around your audience instead of your internal needs. Here’s an example.

Before: Association swears in new board members

New board of directors of the association were sworn in on Jan. 5th

After: My Path to the Boardroom

New board chair has history of service, inclusion

The first headline and sub-head tell you everything about the article. Nothing to see here.

The second teases you into the story from two possible angles. It also suggests that there is transparency for the path to becoming chair of your organization and names two leadership qualities valued by the organization.

Being proactive about content creation requires an editorial standard. Here are specific criteria I use in choosing business stories to tell:

  1. Locally owned (national brands don’t make local organizations unique)
  2. Love your community (aren’t waiting for a better gig)
  3. Owner-operated (you can walk in and meet the owner)
  4. Love your community
  5. Off the beaten path (hard to find, pleasing to discover)
  6. Love your community
  7. Consumer-focused perspective (so you can draw the interest from the general public as well as your business members)
  8. Love your community

People have stopped clicking on the news you send them about your own organization in favor of stories about them. Thread your news into these stories as a call to action to get more clicks and shares for your remarkable content.

Better yet, become a curator of great shareable content of interest to your members to take the pressure off your staff.

Kyle Sexton is an award-winning marketing strategist and international speaker on the topics of membership development, marketing and innovation. His innovations have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, and his book, ReMembership – New Thinking for Tomorrow’s Membership Organization is fueling transformations in organizations throughout North America. His latest book, Follow You Anywhere – 22 Little Lessons for Team Leaders, became an Amazon best-seller on the third day of its release.

Get more tools to help your association thrive
in the Association Success Kit.


SEE ALSO: How to Write an Association Mission Statement

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