Associations Are Publishers: Three Ways to Rethink Your Organization’s Role

Topics: Content Strategy

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I’ve long held the assumption that our clients are publishers. Associations, societies, institutes, user groups and others hold as their mission, at the core, the duty to aggregate and disseminate knowledge — That’s the definition of a publisher.

Dan Loomis, our Director of Fulfillment Services talked about rethinking your printing and publishing strategy for 2010 and beyond. But before you think about your publishing strategy, let’s think first about your organizational strategy as a publisher.

In switching your mindset from being an association to being a publisher, try substituting the words “members” and “audience” for “readers” as you think about your organization. Your goal is to increase your readership, and your readers can be current or future members and attendees or the world.

Thus, as the role of a publisher undergoes unprecedented change as we face new media solutions, your organizations must adapt to the changing ways your readers learn and the growth of a sharing culture.

Three Ways to Remain a Relevant, Competitive Publisher

1. Use the resources around you
As you struggle to remain relevant, remember that you are not alone. A lot of money and resources are being put into solving the future business models and ways to share content.

Some of my favorites:

2. Develop a content strategy

Innovative strategy planning is becoming more and more valuable to any type of organization’s success. The best aggregation strategies are worthless unless you have an effective and affordable strategy to distribute your content. Content strategies don’t need to add costs – thinking through the process should focus on planning and leveraging content for multiple audiences.

The critical pillars to think through your sustainable content strategy:

  • Environment: “Being green” gets the most attention to content delivery, but are you making these decisions with your full content strategy in place? Focus on value and lean on your vendors to bring innovative, environmentally sound solutions that help you protect the value your readers place in content.
  • Social: How do you connect with more readers in ways that are meaningful and add value to the learning experience? Understand that your readers place different values on not just the type of publication, but also the way publication is delivered. The trick is to strive for inclusive solutions that offer more options to more readers.
  • Economic: Effective content strategies directly impact growth and economic viability. Non-profit success can be measured in reaching more readers for the same dollar investment. For-profit organizations need to maximize the shareholder value. BOTH are connected and driven by reaching more people.

3. Consciously co-create change

Be agile, willing to change and innovative. Experiment, try new things and protect your current readers. Survey your readers to understand how they value your content and the way content is delivered. When you consciously create change with your readers, you’re likely to come up with a blend of delivery methods and content that will please. We often see organizations rush to be perceived as progressive by abandoning traditional products in favor of the newest technologies. Are you leaving your members behind? Creating barriers to learning? Starving your members of access to content in the forms they value?

When It’s Time…

When you change your mind set to start thinking like a publisher, your content strategy planning should lead you to publishing content into inclusive, multiple channels – free and not-so-free — that increase your readership and help keep you a relevant association, society, institute or non-profit organization in the changing world.


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June 17th, 2010David Morey says:

Associations that act like insurgents have new and significant advantages and opportunities. Fundamentally, today, the critical battle for all organizations is for control of their own destiny—and that battle begins with defining what success means:

When we begin any relationship or project, we work with the client to develop a clear definition of success: What will be the metrics of success? With success, how will your most important constituents think, feel and act differently? You must recognize that their perceptions create your market reality. And you must also recognize that every detail is important in communications. A brand is the sum of thousands of tiny details; every aspect of operations and communications … every interaction with every constituent group—and they all count.

In almost any contest of any kind, speed wins. This is why discipline is so important; because it creates speed and focus on the right things. We learned from successful political campaigns that one core strategy must drive all others. One set of proven themes and messages (the “3X5 Card” in political campaigns) drives all communications to all audiences.

Put simply: Strategy is boss of every action and interaction. This is the discipline it takes to win.


Twitter: playoffense


June 20th, 2010David McKnight says:


I like the “3 X 5 Card” image. My focus so far as been to look at content as an asset that you can reuse to reach more people. And you are absolutely right – strategy well executed is also about speed and just as important, maybe more – fast to react and change.

Thanks for sharing David.

David McKnight

Twitter: Djmcknight

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