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Content That Counts: Annual Content Plans for Associations

‍Make the most of your association’s time by creating an annual content plan for its marketing efforts. A skillful and strategic content plan will help your association market and deliver valuable content and keep up with your member’s needs.

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Your association has a lot of valuable information to share with its members. But without a content plan, that information can oftentimes get lost in translation.

According to LinkedIn Technology Marketing, 72% of B2B marketers have a content strategy. However, only 30% of marketers have a documented strategy, meaning the remaining 42% have an undocumented strategy. On top of that, those with a documented strategy report their strategy more effective more times over those with an undocumented strategy. 29% of documented strategy users report their strategy as very effective, when only 9% of undocumented strategy users report the same.

It seems that keeping an organized and documented content plan is a best practice for any association and its marketing team. But how do you come up with a content plan that works?

Well, has your association ever thought about creating an annual content plan? Much like a content strategy, an annual content plan outlines and provides direction for your association’s content marketing efforts. It’s a great way to ensure your marketing messages reach your members without overwhelming them in the process.

If your association is looking for a long-term content plan that will increase member engagement, you need to know about the benefits of an annual content plan. We’ll go over why an annual content plan works, what the best practices are, and a few unique ways your association can create an annual content plan that works.

The importance of an annual content plan.

From previous statistics, we know that having a content strategy is a great way for associations to increase their marketing success. However, if you need more convincing, there are plenty of other reasons why a content strategy works. When it comes to getting your association recognized on search engines, content marketing is king. According to a study by Kapost, content marketing has lower up-front costs as well as more impactful long-term benefits as opposed to paid search. So, why is an annual content plan different from the typical content strategy? For starters, it’s a long-term solution.

Rather than a short-term content strategy, an annual plan lays out an entire year of content marketing and scheduling. It’s more consistent than a short, one month content strategy. However, a longer strategy means taking more time to plan. For many associations, time is of the essence, so is that extra time worth the effort? A long-term plan is more sustainable. It’s an ongoing plan that follows a consistent pattern of promotion. In fact, in the long run a long-term plan can save your association time. Think about it, a short-term monthly content strategy involves planning and strategizing every month. However, a long-term annual content plan only requires planning at the beginning of the year. The rest of your association’s time is spent watching the plan and surveying its results for next year.

Now that we know a little bit more about why long-term content planning is favorable, let’s go over some ways to get the most out of your association’s annual content plan.

Conduct a content audit.

Before creating any type of content plan, it’s important to know what type of content works for your association. Conducting a content audit is a great way to strategize before diving into a content plan. What is a content audit? Well, according to Single Grain, a content audit takes all of the content your association has produced so far and assesses its value. Think about all the content your association has ever produced. How has it impacted your members? Has it helped your association stand out, or hindered it?

Cision states that 52% of marketers do not know if their content has any digital or real life impact. That means over half of those marketers surveyed do not know what kind of effect their content efforts have on their audience. With a content audit, you’ll know exactly what content is leaving an impression and helping your association get recognized on search engine sites. It’s a qualitative assessment and assessment based on pre-selected KPIs (or key performance indicators).How does a content audit help determine what to focus your content plan on? A content audit typically looks at Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and content marketing efforts as a whole. If your association or its marketing team tracks SEO, a content audit will tell you what keywords are working to reach your audience and what ones you should focus less on.

It will also help you compare your current page rankings to see how your association’s website gets its organic search traffic. Tracking your ranking will help your association create a plan around your organic searches. Once you’ve conducted a content audit, be sure to keep up with it during your annual content plan. Record how new content ranks and how members respond to it for future content strategies. A content audit will set your association up for a new content plan based around a variety of effective content types.

Diversify your content .

Creating a new content plan always leaves opportunity for your association to experiment with new forms of content.

For example, has your association tried video content? According to Invisia, 51% of marketers claim video is the form of content with the best ROI. On top of that, marketers who create video content grow revenue 49% faster than marketers without a video strategy. Another form of content your association should consider is interactive content. Interactive content combines various forms of content and develops them in a way that brings audiences in on the experience. Surveys, quizzes, interactive video, and infographics are all forms of interactive content your association can benefit from. Make sure your annual content plan has room for a variety of content forms. While sticking to content that works for your association is great, you should also allow room for experimenting with new forms of content.

When it comes to content diversity, you also want to make sure your content is spread out evenly. While a week full of only blog content would be great for a special event or series, you don’t want to do this all the time. Varying your forms of content keeps things interesting and helps members stay engaged with your content. For example, if you post blog content on Mondays, try throwing in a video or survey the next day. Get members excited for new and different content. A content calendar will help your association spread out its content and keep diversity in the forefront. Speaking of a content calendar…

Build a content calendar.

A content calendar and an annual content plan go hand in hand. Keeping a calendar is another way to keep your content organized in your content plan. Especially with an annual content plan, you want to keep all of your efforts in check. One association actually provides a content calendar to its members. The American Marketing Association (AMA) is an association whose membership is made up of marketing professionals and academics worldwide. It makes sense why AMA offers a Content Marketing Editorial Calendar to its members. Marketers looking for a way to organize content can access this calendar as one of AMA’s benefits.

The calendar then helps marketers organize monthly content themes, schedule a date for content releases, and even select what distribution channel you’d like to use. Your association can use a similar model in its annual content plan. Create a year-long calendar and use it to brainstorm content themes and series for specific months. Then, schedule release dates and promotion strategies for each content release.

Make the most of your association’s time by creating an annual content plan for its marketing efforts. A skillful and strategic content plan will help your association market and deliver valuable content and keep up with your member’s needs.