A BLOG FOR A EUROPEAN ASSOCIATION: useful or useless?
In general, European Associations communicate with the traditional tools: website, brochures, reports and sometimes even social media… Our clients very often ask about the usefulness of the blog as a communication channel. What can it bring to the Association? Is it time consuming? How many contributors does it require? Is it worth the effort?
Blog: an expected appointment with a close friend
Whether personal or professional, the blog creates a close relationship with your readers. The tone is more personal and spontaneous than the one of a brochure or anewsletter. Frequently and regularly, it gives news, creating a sort of appointment desire in your readers’mind, either daily (the Holy Grail), weekly (not bad) or even monthly (good but … improvable). Above all, it represents the starting point of a genuine dialogue with your readers – Members of the Association in this case. You will be able to collect not only their opinions, but also their knowledge and this will bounce the discussion. This represents your secret tool to identify and understand Members’ issues, needs and wants. The content is tailored and shaped to them. It triggers empathetic and dynamic ideas.
Simple to set up, it humanises Associations
A blog is easy to set up and easy to feed, as it only requires minimal competences in IT or graphic design. You just need to be willing to write and have some basic publishing skills. In practice, you select a free online blog platform – we’ll prepare a comparison very soon – you customize its look in line with the brand image of your Association – logo, colours, etc. – and you write! Add links, visuals or even video, and publish. Obviously, the quality of your content will drive your blog success. The goal is to educate your Members, creating a high added-value content, around topics that are concerning them, as for example recent market activities or industry trends. As you can see, you really need to have a clear picture of your audiences’ needs in order to provide relevant and useful answers. The human aspect is crucial. Readers are looking for complicity with the proposed ideas and solutions. They want to recognize their interests and needs in your content, or at least get some valuable answers and tips. Furthermore, the blog is also useful to broaden the debate on issues related to your Association sector of activity. For instance, in the case of a steel association, a blog could trigger the discussion on: “how does the steel industry copes with environmental issues?”
Include the blog in your communication strategy
Publication is not everything! You must ensure that your target audiences are aware of your articles existence! That is the main reason why you need to integrate the blog within your communication strategy, using inbound tactics. Inform your customers, members, partners and prospects via your newsletter and all the other communication channels that your Association is using: leading a tweet to your article, post on Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. You can even include a “Call-to-Action” at the end of your emails, such as “How does your company contribute to waste management?”
A visibility and inspiration booster for your Association
With regularly updated content, the blog has a ranking on search engines that is surely higher than a static corporate website. It increases your Association visibility, allowing your Members to find you easily and any other people such as journalists, students and researchers, who are looking for relevant information. Hence, you will get in touch with those people or organisations who are reflecting on similar topics and you can benefit from this networking and sharing, increasing creativity and saving time.
We would like to share the experience of PostEurop, the Association representing the interests of European Postal Operators. They have fully integrated the blog in their communication strategy since September 2011. Here a word from Cynthia Wee, PostEurop Communications Manager. We make the invisible visible.
"Our blog has become a major tool in PostEurop’s overall communication. It allows us to bridge the gap between our activities and our Members. It is best to keep them informed around what we organise for them. We use the blog as a diary; we feed it very often – up to several times a week – to visually «recount» our activities. We concretely show the scope of our actions to our Members, making the invisible visible. We would not be able to share such information with the same power, via our brochures or our website. Therefore, the overall PostEurop communication strategy benefits from that. Each communication medium relies on the others: our monthly newsletter “Snapshots” includes the latest blog posts. The blog automatically integrates our tweets. Our blog is also flexible enough to address our various readers. Of course, the integration of the blog as a part of our communication required an internal learning and adjustment period, to understand the contribution process. Nowadays, it has become an integrated communication channel in the daily activities of the PostEurop Association Headquarters. Last, the blog allows us to gather some inspiration for other articles. What we still need to improve is the active participation of our Members, motivating them to provide their feedback on the posts."
Do you have a blog for your Association? Still not sure about it? Share your experience.
by Séverine Duprat