Why we believe in the District of Creativity

In the association world, member needs and preferences are forever evolving. It’s time to flex some creative muscle—and that’s what brought Imagination to Washington, D.C.

BY James Meyers
Founder, President and CEO, Imagination

As the beating heart of the association world, Washington, D.C., is alive with creative possibilities.

Who understands the needs of audiences better than the organizations dedicated to serving them? Who better to share best practices, create communities, tell compelling member stories and fight for professions, industries or common causes?

These rich possibilities attracted Imagination to open an office in Washington, D.C. As a result, we’ve more than doubled our client base in the association space and have seen a fivefold increase in our D.C. client base. We’ve also established a D.C.-based team with a combined 130-plus years of content marketing experience.

Why? Because we believe in the potential to help associations and other organizations flex their creative muscles as they move toward modern content marketing strategy.

The shift members demand

Making the shift away from a traditional publishing model to an omnichannel strategy is an increasingly urgent member imperative. Yet many association marketers admit they’ve been slow to act on it.

In an Associations Now interview, Beth Bush, chief membership officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, spoke of content marketing as a common source of confusion: “There’s a lot of misunderstandings and misperceptions about what it can and should do and how to use it.”

It is, of course, all about attracting, informing, engaging and activating audiences through content—articles, blog posts, videos, podcasts, infographics, you name it—in an increasing number of channels and formats.

Competition for attention is fierce, and it’s easy for associations to get lost in a relentless stream of information. The goal isn’t just attention, either; it’s also getting users to share and interact. The status quo just isn’t good enough anymore as associations search for the sweet spot in appealing to diverse groups of current and future members. When resources are limited, content strategy must be especially nimble.

We see a certain tug of war inside associations as they adjust. Their legacy print publications are just that: part of their legacies. But often they’ve sat unexamined and unchanged for years, without an assessment of how the high-impact nature of print can best serve reader needs.

Likewise, associations need to show their relevance to people who seek information in fast, easy and immediate formats. Mobile-first isn’t just a buzzword. It’s a reality that reflects how many people consume content these days.

It’s crucial to approach digital content with the same creative care one would approach a high-end magazine, even if the results and intent differ.

"It’s crucial to approach digital content with the same creative care one would approach a high-end magazine, even if the results and intent differ."

James Meyers
Founder, CEO and President, Imagination

What are the right touchpoints?

Associations seek ways to serve disparate preferences while also serving the end game of demonstrating value to members. As content marketers, we thrive on helping them strike the right balance.

Take our work with the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), for example. NFIB re-evaluated its legacy print magazine, My Business, several years ago. It had been a member touchpoint for years, but as Kate Chandler, NFIB’s digital content director, points out, “It wasn’t the right touchpoint for our purposes.”

Instead, the group needed a new strategy to reinforce all the ways it was serving members’ interests—a comprehensive combination of advocacy wins, policy information, and practical tools and tips invaluable to small business owners.

As a result, NFIB’s strategy makes the most of various channels. The magazine gave way to an annual print (and digital) “Playbook,” a visually rich hybrid of a magazine and annual report that underlies the entire organizational mission. Digital content—a healthy blend of practical resources and state and federal advocacy and policy news—offers daily touchpoints and ongoing opportunities for distribution.

The program continues to evolve, and it all started with a strategic reassessment. It’s a worthwhile exercise for any member-based group—one that can open up a new world of creativity.

published: July 11, 2016