The member magazine and email newsletter have been the staple communications channels for membership organisations for years. But is it time to look at what more can be done?

According to reader surveys, the magazine is still often seen as a key member benefit. It is also often the ‘flagship’ creation of the organisation which showcases its expertise and purpose.

If you have a compelling magazine and strong email newsletter culture you are in a good place. But digital channels mean that you can now build that into an even stronger position.

Brave new world

Let’s consider a new world in which every article you write, or wish to send out in your organisation’s name, goes to multiple places. The 1500-word version may be the main feature in next month’s magazine. The 500 word version goes on the membership site blog and is also marketed to followers through Twitter. It is also sent to non-members as a Facebook Instant Article and perhaps also to professional Linkedin groups, Apple News and via Google’s mobile pages.

For members, you can make tracking this very easy by centralising all the communications into an app. Every time they open the app, they see all new articles generated that day; from news snippets to full-length features. They can read comments and add their own. And when the full-length feature appears in the monthly magazine they can access it, together with the member-privileged additional material – pictures, graphics, video, or user-generated comments and content.

By now, your email newsletters will probably have been consigned to the bin of history, together with their 10% open rates. The print magazine will have reduced its print-run, but still be a key part of your tactical content delivery instead of the only way of delivering long-form content.

Student, overseas and new members will have started to see your branded news, articles and comment pieces emerging in the normal channels they visit daily, like Facebook. Your branded content will start to appear in searches and across social media. Bots will bring it to people who will never be members but have a passing interest in your field, raising the public awareness of your organisation.

Professional development

You can, of course, make your membership app more than a casual reading experience and also deliver through it the training and professional development guides that your members need. It can contain all of the compliance documents and checklists which they need to work from.

As the app works across all mobile devices from phones to tablets and stores content offline, they are never without it. In the office they can  access the same material through a web browser version.

Why not add e-commerce and let them buy and download books or new training courses? And, so as not to be exclusive, have a healthy amount of material that is also in there for free to encourage non-members to start interacting. They might only be one micro-purchase away from getting some of your content and on their journey to becoming full members.

Websites are for grannies

By now, you should have come close to making your website redundant as well. If you look at the age demographic of email usage, you see that for users under the age of 20 it pretty much declines into insignificance. Its now a tool for old people. Going to a website to find out what an organisation does and then hanging out there is also an old-person’s concept. If you are under 20 and it doesn’t come into your world, forget it.

Comms activity

Are the 25 year-olds in their first jobs going to hunt you out and go to that big metropolis that you call your website and walk its narrow streets and get lost down its dark alleys to work out if they should become members? I doubt it. It made sense to you to put it all of your world on one table, but it makes more sense if its envoys can reach out and find them.

And don’t tell me that old fallacy that “our members are really conservative and are actually quite old.” Usually, the hidden truth behind this is that its the people who work in the membership office that are afraid of change. Change is challenging and takes you out of your comfort zone of established procedures.

I would argue that if you make your members’ lives made easier they will adopt.

The first steps

It’s a long journey but there are some obvious first steps. Talk to us about a content app. Discover how you can channel all of the content you currently create into that app. Lets explore the different permission levels that can be applied to that content so that it can start by mixing free content with member-only content.

Then, once we are pushing it to the app, it’s a simple step to push it to the social and media channels as well.

Let’s not ignore all of the data that we get back from than content to identify both how your existing members are engaging with it (at least five times longer via an app than via a website or newsletter), who are the most and least engaged members, and who is most engaged who is not yet a member.

Then lets introduce your CPD and learning materials and introduce e-commerce and reporting to that. Layer-by-layer we can build up your channels and spread your tentacles.

What have you got to lose, apart from your fear?

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