It’s Hip to be Square: A Case for Predictable Content Planning

The best way to build and maintain an engaged audience is to keep them on their toes right? 

Don’t let your viewers relax for a second. Give them a promo jab, a marcom right hook, and just when they’re on the ropes — POW! —an educational uppercut.

Ding! Ding! Ding! The content belt is yours. The crowd goes wild…

OK, back to the real world. 

When it comes to the content subject matter and other creative choices like format and visual treatment, it does help to switch things up and subvert expectations.

But when it comes to the distribution of your content, you’re aiming for the comfort and reliability of a weekly Sunday dinner with the family.

Here’s where most associations go wrong. 

An association develops a video to fulfill a purpose. When different departments work in silos, they set release dates based on when a video would be best delivered to serve that purpose.

Say the events department has an annual conference, a half-day digital learning workshop and a golf tournament on their list of events to advertise using promo videos for the coming year.

Their first instinct might be to say, “Ok, we know that the ideal time for a member to receive a promo to the event would be two months out. Far enough away that they have time to plan, but close enough that they won’t sweep it under the rug and forget.”

Then they might say, “Ok, the workshop happens two months before the conference, and we don’t want to crowd the release of the conference promo, but people will need less lead time on an invitation to a half-day digital event. The golf tournament happens in the summer, so let’s release that promo in the spring before everyone has set their summer plans”.

Maybe they did some market research that determined their demographic is most receptive on Monday mornings, but one of the Mondays they planned fell on a long weekend. So they put together a release schedule that looked like this:

Workshop Promo: Tuesday, February 22

Workshop Date: Monday, March 21

Conference Promo: Monday, March 28

Conference Date: Thursday, May 26

Golf Tournament Promo: Monday, May 30 

Golf Tournament Date: Thursday, June 28

At first glance, this calendar seems just fine, right? None of the timelines overlap, so the members will only think about one event at a time with plenty of breathing room between promo drops.

Well, the problem is, for an association, one department’s release schedule is just a tiny segment of a much larger picture. 

Because the departments each worked on separate calendars, the association’s release schedule actually looked like this:

MEMBERSHIP DEPARTMENT: Call For Membership Renewal: Tuesday, February 22

EVENTS DEPARTMENT: Workshop Promo: Tuesday, February 22

ADVOCACY DEPARTMENT: PAC Promo: Wednesday, February 23

MEMBERSHIP DEPARTMENT: Educational Video: Monday, February 28

EVENTS DEPARTMENT: Workshop Date: Monday, March 21

EVENTS DEPARTMENT: Conference Promo: Monday, March 28

ADVOCACY DEPARTMENT: Capitol Hill Fly-in Promo: Wednesday, March 30

EVENTS DEPARTMENT: Conference Date: Thursday, May 26

MEMBERSHIP DEPARTMENT: Membership Testimonial Video: Monday, May 30

EVENTS DEPARTMENT: Golf Tournament Promo: Monday, May 30 

EVENTS DEPARTMENT: Golf Tournament Date: Thursday, June 28

 

What a mess. Let’s unpack what happened here.

As it turns out, Membership found the same market research as Events, so they also released on Mondays (except when there was a long weekend). In fact, they released their call for membership renewal on the same day that members received the workshop promo.

That’s two promos with two calls to action on one day, meaning that members would be pretty likely to forget about one, or even both.

The Advocacy Department releases on Wednesdays because the Advocacy VP works a flexible schedule – Tuesday to Saturday. Great! No conflicts with the Membership and Events releases, right? 

Even so, Advocacy released a promo for their PAC right after the call for membership renewal and the workshop promo. So the following week, when the Membership department tried to release their educational video, members, who had received three advertisements the week prior, immediately deleted the email without ever opening it. 

Gasp.

Each individual department built a beautifully organized calendar with well-spaced, predictable releases, but what the individual member got was a non-stop barrage of ads on a seemingly random schedule.

 

So how can you make sure this never happens?

Truly predictable content programming for associations means all departments collaborate on a single calendar – making sure communications of all mediums are released on a steady and reliable schedule. This way, you control the mixture of give and take (‘give’ refers to content that provides value for members, such as an educational video, and ‘take’ refers to content that asks something of your members, such as a promo).

The last thing dues-paying members want is to open up their inbox and have to sort through a bunch of emails from you. If they feel exhausted by communications, and especially if it’s hard to discern at a single glance what is an ad and what isn’t, they won’t just ignore the ads, they’ll just start deleting every email that comes from you. Eventually, they might even think, “Why am I paying dues to delete all these emails?” and cancel their membership.

In an ideal situation, members will anticipate when an email from your association is coming and even get excited about it. And when they get a predictable mix of ‘give’ and ‘take’ content (heavy on the give), they’re more likely to open your email and give your promo a fair shot. 

 

happy person in white t-shirt waving at a laptop

Imagine if members were this excited to receive an email from you!

 

Here are some quick tips on how to make a content calendar so predictable, you can set your watch to it!

  1. Ensure all departments use one calendar.
  2. Pick consistent release day(s).
  3. Maintain a balance between ‘give’ and ‘take’ content. 
  4. Consider the cadence of the calendar overall – give each event enough space to be a focal point.

 

At Association TV we have 3 Ps that make up our guide for content strategy.

  • Profitable
  • Purposeful
  • Predictable 

Watch a video to learn how these three Ps will revolutionize your own content strategy and skyrocket your revenue.

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