7 Tips for Creating Digital Content
ASAE Communication News, October 2010
By: Adele R. Cehrs
Developing interesting content each day for e-newsletters, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other Web 2.0 platforms is becoming increasingly difficult—and probably driving your staff a bit batty. But there are several inventive ways you may be overlooking to create and repurpose content while adding spice to your social media strategy as well.
Here are seven strategies to make members open, read, and take action as a result of your communications. Using these principles, we increased newsletter click-through rates by 32 percent for Washington, DC-area associations.
1. Remember that the subject line is your headline.
Digital content is like a book or a newspaper article headline—if there is something interesting to grab your attention, you are more likely to read on. So be sure to use your subject line as a teaser to pull readers in.
For example, we regularly write pitches to the media, and an email headline that garnered a significant response rate was “Jon Gosselin Has a Date … In Court.” The PR push was for a local organization that wanted to draw on its legal expertise and the case’s potential regional impact by commenting on a court case between the Discovery Channel and Jon Gosselin of the television show Jon and Kate + 8.
Twenty media outlets picked up the story. Would the media have opened the email if the subject line wasn’t compelling? Not a chance.
This teaser model can also be highly effective for your e-newsletter to members and prospects. Some possible association-related subject lines could:
Focus on problems that exist throughout an industry, as in “Top 5 Mistakes Realtors Make When Closing the Deal Revealed.” This approach promises a way to solve a member “pain,” which is one of the immutable laws of effective sales.
Say something provocative that will make readers open the email but that you quickly refute in the body of the newsletter. For instance, if a subject line or headline said, “Most Wealthy People Are 50 Years Old+,” the first line of your newsletter could read: “Nope. According to a study by AdAge, the core age group for wealthy individuals is actually 35 to 49 years old.”
Debunk interesting misconceptions in your field. One example: “4 Classic Myths about Bankruptcy Dispelled.”
Just avoid using words in your subject like “sale,” “free,” “special offer,” or “buy now.” Many spam filters and settings will block these messages from your reader’s inboxes.
2. Poll readers on what matters.
Ask questions about industry-related issues that are on the minds of your members. For instance, if you edit an interior design association’s newsletter, you could ask members, “Are you seeing more of an uptick in residential or commercial projects?” The answers to such questions are not only compelling but can be used in PR messages, marketing materials, and social media platforms.
Boost members’ involvement by asking them to submit question suggestions. Each time your newsletter goes out, promise to feature the results from the previous poll in your next issue.
And to take this idea one step further, devote an entire section in your newsletter to that topic and include varied member perspectives and debate.
3. Don’t forget that members like to see and be seen.
These days most people have access to cell phones with built-in cameras.
Encourage members to submit images from board meetings, trade shows, galas, fundraising events, and networking functions for inclusion in the newsletter. Sharing photos can also help your newsletter content “go viral” because members will forward the images to colleagues and friends.
Another option is to set up an organizational photo-sharing site. Widely publicize the site’s online address on your promos and on banners and materials at your organization’s events. Just be sure a member of your staff reviews photos for appropriateness before publicly posting the images.
4. Use cross-promotional tricks.
Did a post generate several Facebook likes and comments? Did a tweet incite retweets and debate? If so, use your newsletter to further expand on these topics. In addition to making your newsletter more interesting, this will give members a glimpse into how actively members are connecting and discussing the latest industry happenings online.
5. Partner with trade media.
Reach out to industry-specific media contacts to encourage reporters to share best practices and industry trends in stories in your newsletter.
If your association offers a subscription to a trade magazine as a member benefit, showcase an article from the magazine digitally in the newsletter. To build engagement and understanding, enable leadership to weigh in on the magazine topic and its significance to members. And think about partnering with the publication to create an online forum for member discussions and interaction.
Many of these same ideas apply if your association publishes its own magazine. For example, provide an excerpt from your association’s publication that will entice readers to anticipate upcoming articles. You may even think about having readers decide on article topics. This will give readers a personal interest in seeing which topics are selected and covered. Have a member of your executive staff send a personal email if those readers’ suggestions are selected.
6. Offer a text-only option.
Have you ever received an email on your phone that you could not access? With so many different platforms and smartphones used for email today, the only way to make sure all recipients can actually obtain the content is to make a point of including a text-only option.
7. Be consistent.
Messages that come too often might overwhelm your list of recipients and cause them to ignore your emails. Sending higher-quality content less often generates better results. Just be sure to time your e-newsletters and e-blasts consistently so readers can expect them.
We strongly recommend sending correspondence every four to five weeks. This recommendation might be startling if your association sends out weekly correspondence to eager members; if so, remember the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
But does your association generate more unsubscribes than raving evangelists? In that case, consider using email less frequently and social media tools on a daily basis to keep important conversations going on with key stakeholders.
Adele R. Cehrs is president of the Alexandria, Virginia-based Epic PR Group, which specializes in developing digital content and PR strategies for associations and nonprofits. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org