Content Marketing for Associations
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Content Marketing for Associations


Content Marketing for Associations

Updated Apr 12, 2024

Professional associations are home to some of the best and brightest industry experts. Content marketing for associations unlocks that expertise, positions your organization as an indispensable thought leader and helps recruit the next generation of members.

Associations can leverage their natural advantages through content. They’re an integral part of the industry ecosystem and have built-in brand awareness. But there’s always more to do in positioning yourself as a thought leader and indispensable resource.

Learn how to create a content marketing strategy that puts your expertise to work.

Develop Your Association Content Marketing Strategy

Every good content marketing strategy starts by defining the audience, creating a plan that aligns with business objectives and setting up a content calendar.

Identify Your Target Audience

Association audiences are highly specialized. They’re typically made up of people in the same profession and include many people with specialized credentials. Having such a targeted audience allows you to drill down deeply into relevant issues in your industry.

Your content should also create entry points into the industry for younger people or career-switchers, as those audiences are potential prospects for nurturing. Such back-to-basics content communicate your branding, values and unique perspective on the state of the industry.

Such recruitment is urgent for many industries, such as manufacturing, that have aging workforces and need an influx of younger talent. Content aimed at these audiences can change how your industry is perceived, attract new talent and improve diversity.

Many associations have a broader audience beyond direct membership, as they also create content to educate and influence lawmakers and the public. The American Nurses Association, for example, sees legal and political advocacy as key to advancing the profession and providing better patient care — and its content reflects that priority.

Create a Content Marketing Plan

Content marketing can serve a multitude of purposes, and the first step of developing a plan is deciding what audiences you’re trying to reach.

Look at your association’s overall goals: Are you trying to grow membership? Are you trying to reach specific regions or demographics? Are you trying to attract buyers for your educational content?

Given the business goals you want to achieve, consider the content that can make it happen. To appeal to certain regions or demographics, for example, you might consider a white paper or series of blog posts demonstrating why the industry matters or how it’s evolving in those areas. Videos are a great way to highlight how the association has affected individuals or communities, which can inspire potential members to look more deeply into what your association has to offer.

Content can also be primarily informational, such as answering questions from community members. That content can have a secondary purpose of building your association’s credibility and authority in the sector. Other content may focus on solving industry pain points. Educational content, for example, can help the general public understand more about your profession (or your association’s viewpoint) and why it matters.

Each piece of content should have a purpose and a distinct call to action (CTA). For many associations, the primary CTA is to join or renew membership, or to participate in an association offering (certifications, events, etc.). Focused content campaigns can start with smaller CTAs (downloading a guide or joining a webinar, for example) to help guide prospects on that journey.

Develop a Content Calendar

Don’t go into content production without a clear idea of what you’re producing and when you plan to publish it. Use your content plan to build out a calendar for at least the upcoming quarter. Take timely issues and news stories into account, and leave wiggle room for breaking news or content pivots.

Remember that your content calendar isn’t limited to text — you can also incorporate videos, podcasts and graphics into your calendar. And when you have a big idea, like an ebook or a white paper, create messaging that extends into other forms of media, such as a podcast episode or video series. Regularly revisit existing content, too,  and look for opportunities to update and republish it.

4 Best Practices for Making the Most of Association Content

When produced and distributed with intention, your association content can be a pointed and powerful marketing tool. Following these four best practices can help you take your content to the next level.

Decide on Public vs. Exclusive Content

Associations have to provide unique value to members, and a lot of that comes from proprietary content and research. But you need to develop content to attract and gain the trust of non-members, too.

That tension can be hard to balance, but finding the right mix is key to your content strategy. Consider ways to tease full content while still providing actionable insights on your blog or other public channels. If you have a new research report, for example, you can promote it through blog posts or videos that link to a free report summary while keeping the full report gated for members.

Build Earned Media Into Your Strategy

Professional associations are often seen as a trusted, authoritative source of information about the industry they represent, and that trust can support a more effective content distribution strategy.

Earned media refers to unpaid mentions, shared content, interviews or reviews. These can paint your association in a good light and cement your credibility in the industry. Earned media is organic, but you can also spark earned media through an integrated PR/content marketing campaign.

Be alert to the industry leaders and influencers and the type of content they post. Use that information to inform your association’s content strategy. By answering questions that top industry influencers are posing, for example, you can contribute thought leadership to build out your own authority.

For earned media, the implied call-to-action is for industry influencers to share your insights with their audiences. .

Cultivate the Right Content Channels

Your association website, in-house magazine, and other owned properties are top distribution channels. Blog and article content hosted on your website can be optimized for search engine placement, for example, which drives more relevant traffic to your website. Once prospects arrive, they’ll be able to see the great content you’re offering for free and explore what else is available, including membership.

Email marketing can reach members and prospects directly and can be a great way to deliver publicly available thought leadership pieces while teasing content that’s exclusive to members. Social media channels like LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook allow you to post content directing users back to your website.

Engage Members and Prospects

Just posting content isn’t enough — it’s important to maintain an engaged presence on the social channels where your association is active. When people interact with your content, respond promptly.

These interactions provide a valuable touch point with existing and prospective members, as well as an opportunity to educate professionals through your thought leadership. As you build trust with this community, you improve your chances of attracting and retaining members.

10 Examples of Great Content Marketing for Associations

Content marketing for associations is as unique as each association itself.  Check out these examples of association content marketing for inspiration. .

The ABA Center for Innovation’s Redesigning Legal Speaker Series

The American Bar Association’s Center for Innovation aims to shape the discussion around how legal services are delivered and regulated.

The Redesigning Legal speaker series brings together top changemakers to educate the legal community and the public regarding the innovations happening in real time. With this interactive digital content, the ABA Center for Innovation expands its reputation as a thought leader..

The American Medical Association’s Making the Rounds Podcast

As one of the largest professional associations in the U.S., the American Medical Association has a wide audience that includes practicing medical professionals and U.S. lawmakers. With its Making the Rounds podcast, the AMA targets one audience in particular: pre-med students, medical students and medical residents.

Hosted by active students, the podcast covers topics that up-and-coming medical professionals will encounter in their daily work, such as concerns about data privacy and measuring quality of care. By appealing to students and residents, the podcast serves as a lead magnet for future members and reminds them of the AMA’s role in their professional development and continuing education.

ASAE’s Associations Now Magazine

Associations exist because they have a shared cause of advocacy or because they bring together professionals around shared interests. The American Society of Association Executives (meta, they realize) publishes its Associations Now magazine to help association leaders bring those goals to life.

Associations Now covers a range of topics, including new technologies, holding better conferences and bolstering membership. The content is targeted at association executives but is also topical enough to be found via search engines and provide value to the public.

IABC’s Catalyst Multimedia Publication

In a world of constant change and turmoil, businesses need good communication to cut through the noise. That’s the mission behind Catalyst, the official publication of the International Association of Business Communicators.

The multimedia publication covers industry hot topics and offers career advice for business communication professionals. Catalyst also highlights industry experts and practitioners through a podcast and its Gold Quill awards program.

IHRIM’s SmartBrief Newsletter

HR information management and HR technology play key roles in the future of work, as we saw during the pandemic. That’s why the International Association for Human Resource Information Management partners with SmartBrief to deliver valuable, curated content directly to subscribers’ inboxes.

The newsletter curates the most valuable news, trends and insights for HRIS professionals from around the internet. The newsletter is free and open to anyone to subscribe, which gets IHRIM in front of new audiences that can be targeted for membership campaigns. This example illustrates how curated content can position an association as a trusted thought leader.

The National Association of Manufacturers’ Educational Campaigns

Manufacturing is pushing back against outdated stereotypes of the industry being unsafe, dull or repetitive, all while seeking to win over the next generation of manufacturing professionals. The National Association of Manufacturers has a variety of content-focused approaches that educate people about the industry’s potential.

The Makers Series highlights real-life leaders in the field who are bringing innovation, new technologies and diversity to manufacturing. The Creators Wanted campaign seeks to reach students, parents and teachers through in-person tours, videos and other digital resources that showcase the possibilities of a career in manufacturing.

NACTT’s BFine Website

The prospect of bankruptcy casts a shadow over millions of Americans every day. Education is a powerful tool for managing personal finances and preventing worst-case outcomes. The National Association of Chapter 13 Trustees launched a comprehensive website to fill that education gap.

As the country’s leading authority on consumer bankruptcy, NACTT offers a credible platform and engaging content to help everyday readers improve their financial situations while inviting participation from members. Most of the Bankruptcy and Finance Information Network Exchange (BFINE) website’s content is contributed by members, serving the dual purpose of educating the public and engaging members.

National Association of Realtors’ Realtor Magazine

Real estate is an evolving profession, and the National Association of Realtors’ Realtor Magazine helps inform real estate professionals about changes in industry best practices, housing trends and the larger housing market.

The magazine also provides advice for career development and sales and marketing, among other areas. By highlighting useful information that Realtors and other real estate agents can apply in their daily work, Realtor Magazine positions NAR as the industry’s leading authority.

The Project Management Institute’s Projectified Podcast

Workplace norms are evolving, and project management continues to gain importance. The Project Management Institute recognized the need for future-oriented content for project management professionals and delivered with its Projectified Podcast.

Through a series of conversations with seasoned professionals, rising stars and other experts, Projectified provides insights and expertise that project managers can apply in their own work. The podcast is housed under PMI’s training offerings, connecting the listening experience to the in-house professional development offerings.

SIOP Conversation Series

The increased use of hiring assessments and interest in artificial intelligence tools for people management have cemented the need for industrial-organizational psychology in the workplace. The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology is tapping into that renewed interest through its Conversation Series.

While the content provides actionable insights to practitioners and researchers in I/O psychology, the webinar/podcast series also addresses the public. The Conversation Series effectively raises awareness of the role I/O psychology can (and often does) play in companies around the world.

Thought Leaders Are Market Leaders.

Content marketing for associations offers an opportunity to share your expertise both with peers in the industry and those curious about your profession — producing a reputation for not only asking the right questions but also providing thought-provoking answers.

Ready to see how content marketing can drive growth for your association? Schedule a brief consultation and learn how our framework can help you:

  • Develop your reputation for thought leadership.
  • Fuel your account-based marketing with differentiated content.
  • Strengthen your employer branding by telling the stories of the people who power your company.