How AAA Northeast Vastly Increased its Engagement and Won a SIPAward

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Editor's note: This is the first of an ongoing series profiling the 2018 SIPAward winners.

For most of 2017, SIPA member AAA Northeast posted one blog story per day, with monthly updates of print content transferred to the site. For all of 2017, they had just over 1.7 million page views.

Then in December they launched—with fellow SIPA member Mequoda's help—the current Your AAA Network site, with more than 500 stories on travel, financial products and lifestyle topics, a new events calendar, a repository of free guides on various topics important to AAA Northeast members and a regular email update to a selection of digitally engaged members. They saw an immediate jump in engagement.

Mike Dempsey, editor, digital publications for AAA Northeast, told me yesterday that they have already logged more than 5 million page views this year. For December's launch, AAA Northeast won a 2018 first place SIPAward for Best Product Launch/Relaunch Success.

"The new site has a better navigation, more modern layout and is mobile responsive," the entry read. "And AAA Northeast immediately solidified itself as a digital content leader in the entire national federation of AAA clubs."

Here are more features of the new site:

'Your AAA Network' features excellent multimedia. This week's content includes a 10-minute audio interview titled Katie Linendoll Reveals Must-Have Travel Gadgets for 2018. Director of publications Andrew Rosen has a "significant background in radio," Dempsey said, and reached out to Linendoll to conduct the interview. Besides Rosen's breezy style, I like that the transcript is included—not expensive, Dempsey noted—plus photos of Katie and ads for gadgets she recommends. "One of my content producers talks about ways to give users and readers more ways to interact with the site."

The copy on the welcome page takes on a very customer-centric tone. "Here you can also sign up for email newsletters, gain access to exclusive free guides and check out the monthly events calendar for things to do in your area. Like the name says, Your AAA Magazine is YOURS. It's yours to use, interact with and to get in touch with the Northeast community. Enjoy!"

A calendar lists all kinds of events from tonight's Boston Pops concert with Leslie Odom, Jr., of Hamilton fame to a free home-buying seminar in Cranford, RI, tomorrow night, to 21 listings on Friday. "We're doing a multi-pronged effort, providing members with actual and quality information, in both print and digital," Dempsey said. By giving information on automotive, government affairs, insurance and travel, Dempsey said they are also educating members on the benefits they have.

Content is fresh and obviously homegrown. Your AAA Magazine is produced monthly and includes new and evergreen stories such as 48 Sweet Hours in Hershey, Rhode Island's ban on hand-held devices while driving, and ideas for preparing home-grown tomatoes. Besides their own content producers, Dempsey said they use freelancers, sending them ideas based on the keyword research they're doing.

They also put together sponsored content packages. And everything goes through their editorial process to maintain consistency. "Our [16-person print, design, content, digital] team is fantastic," Dempsey said. It feels like they have more staff than that.

Print retains a strong role but... I visited my local AAA store the other day and left happily with a bag of guides and goodies. The website lists 12 different digital travel guides that you can also order. Dempsey said that they are testing to see how their print customers respond to the more robust digital offerings "and how much more we can get the member base interested and interacting."

Click here to see the complete list of 2018 SIPAward winners and view the members-only 2018 SIPAward Winner Showcase featuring the entry materials.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…