Positioning Your Association Publication for Success

Association publications share one major advantage in the eyes of businesses looking to advertise: they appeal to a niche audience. Associations like AARP, the National Association of Home Builders, the American Nurses Association, the National Restaurant Association have members with industry, specialized workplace needs, and more in common. They use their publications to speak to those commonalities. It helps them stay relevant in the eyes of their stakeholders while providing those members with consistent value. 

Your publication has a specific buying power; in fact, 78% of association members find association magazines or print publications to be extremely valuable, meaning it’s a worthwhile investment (if you do it right, of course). And because your members have specific needs within their industry, brands can benefit from a connection to your association.

The critical piece is demonstrating to brands the benefits of advertising through your publication. You can’t expect them to make that connection on their own – you have to make it for them! The onus is on you to explain to advertisers how you can help. That is what we did for BedTimes Magazine, a publication for the members of the International Sleep Products Association. Check it out here.

The first step is to put together a unique selling proposition outlining why a brand in their industry would want to advertise in your publication. When an advertiser can align with an association publication that serves the same customer, two things happen: 

  1. The publication gives the advertiser the ability to expand its reach among people interested in what they have to offer. 
  2. The advertiser can rest assured that the publication is speaking the same language as its audience. 

The next step is to maximize the opportunities your publication has to reach your advertiser’s target audience. One of the best ways to do that is to digitize your publication. 

Impact of digital media on associations 

Traditional print publications can be effective, but increasing your publication’s digital presence is the future of growing your outreach and staying at the forefront of your membership. There are many benefits to shifting your focus to digital media, including: 

You expand your audience

It’s all about shareability and ownability. You own the content, so you can share it and drive traffic to your site, therefore increasing the sheer number of people you can get your publication in front of and creating/growing an audience for your advertiser to reach.

You can use social media to post content from your publication. I know, seems like a no-brainer, but I know many marketers who are struggling for social content. This helps you implement a content factory! Let’s say you produce an infographic with some telling statistics of interest to those within your industry. When you share it, it spreads your information wider but also entices readers to explore your whole publication (this is really key!). 

It gives you yet another opportunity to position yourself as a thought leader

Digital media creates another dynamic in which you can promote your expertise and grow your audience. By simply being online and publishing our content, you are actively positioning your association, your writers, and your publication as an authority within your industry. You want to be the go-to for your members and non-members!

Adoption of digital media is forward-thinking

Associations are typically viewed as slow to make changes or adapt to new ways of approaching how they promote or distribute their publications. By using digital media, you can create the perception (even if it’s not entirely true) that your association is forward-thinking and progressive. You may ask why this is important? Well, according to a digital member study by Community Brands, about 25% of association members say they feel “extremely connected” to the organization. But when you segment out members who gave their organization an “excellent” technology rating, a whopping 63% say they feel “extremely connected”!

Going digital also allows you to meet your audience where they are. As more people consume media using their phones, laptops, or tablets, associations need to change their way of thinking to optimize their reach. 

Why move your association publication digital? 

Integrating your publication with your association’s digital platforms helps you improve and enhance the way your audience interacts with your publication. A few reasons you should go digital include: 

Instant feedback on what is most valued

With traditional publications, you have no way of knowing what the users think of the content included unless they actively tell you. With digital media, there are so many ways to measure metrics. Clicks, shares, plays on videos or social media likes can all play a role in evaluating how successful a piece of content was. Digital channels such as your website or social media give you the tools to measure these items. These are extremely helpful when you’re making a case to advertisers for why they should do business with you. 

You can find new, innovative ways to connect with your audience

Digital media gives you the ability to engage with your audience in ways that traditional publication methods just can’t duplicate. One example would be the ability to conduct online polls. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all give the capability to do this. If there’s a hot-button issue you’re discussing in one of your publications, you can gather immediate feedback from your followers by sending out a poll asking for their input. (Let them help you determine your next editorial calendar!)

It’s easier to personalize and customize content

Print magazines are a very rigid content format. It’s a “take it or leave it” approach – you offer up a collection of articles in the magazine, and then your intended audience either reads it or doesn’t. But what if you could customize the content each member receives? This is much more achievable with digital platforms. Depending on what type of content you’re developing, you can personalize the content for each member. You can do this by asking them to customize their preferences through a login feature, categorizing or tagging your content, or curating content.

The bottom line? Going digital with your publication won’t just make you more attractive to advertisers – it will also make you more attractive to existing and new members of your association. Everyone wins.