November 13, 2018 by Ronn
AAA has roadside help, travel agency services, insurance and other amenities for its members. But they felt it important that their members engage more with them, and thus a content strategy was born. So they partnered with longtime SIPA member Mequoda to develop that strategy, convincing their CEO that, yes, a daily email with strong, relatable content, is the right road to take (traffic and all).
More than 8 million 2018 page views and 1.3 million users later, they feel pretty comfortable about that strategy. And after Day 1 of SIIA's 5th annual and counting Business Information & Media Summit (BIMS) in even warmer-than-usual Fort Lauderdale, publishing and media folks are equally comfortable with this solutions-oriented conference.
AAA Northeast represents a newer type of SIPA member—most niche publishers started with great content and branched out from there—but they depend, like others, on analytics and testing.
"Always have your writers and editors learning, taking courses," said Michael Dempsey, project manager for AAA Northeast. "Writing around viable and entertaining keywords and getting eyeballs on the content is key."
All of our writers are "open to learning" about analytics and keywords, said Andrew Rosen, AAA Northeast's VP of brand and content marketing. "If they're not interested in that, they're not right for you." He added that analytics can fuel healthy gamification between writers, seeing who can get better numbers. They have also enjoyed success empowering their writers and editors. One woman enjoyed podcasts and started a successful column on that; another, who was managing editor of the calendar, had a culinary school background and started writing about food.
"Flexibility is key for us," Dempsey said. .
Flexibility was also a key in keynote speaker James Pogue's talk earlier in the afternoon. His focus was inter-generational communication, and how much better we all could be at it if we leave our assumptions at the door. "If we want to create the kind of organizations that are engaging, that are connected and facilitate deep relationships, we have to think about our own actions as leaders—and as followers.
Micro-aggressions, he called them. ("They are small but they are aggressions.") Pogue began by asking the audience for adjectives for different generations, and the usual descriptions could be heard: Millennials are entitled, independent and superficial. Baby boomers are workaholics, siloed and old school. Gen Xers are skeptical and forgotten.
"Take those comments and put them in a generational bucket," he said. "How did we get to a place where it was okay to use these terms?" Replace [the generation] with "women, Hispanics, black, Asian, midwesterners, [pause] Canadians... How does this [type of thinking] engage our teams. And how does it inform the content we're developing?"
We are complicated creatures, he added. Generational connections need to be a part that deepens the relationship, allows us to see the different pieces of one another—"to encourage and peel back who we are [and create] the best ways to reach our members and our audience."
Dan Grech, president of BizHack Academy in nearby Miami, now devotes his professional life to how to best reach audiences. "We're all in business to give customers what they need when they need it," he said in a session about the customer journey yesterday.
"Put yourself in your customer's shoes," he urged. "And start imagining that you are going through their journey." That's the beginning piece; the brainstorming comes after. To illustrate that point, he posted five questions that you should put on a whiteboard when starting a marketing initiative:
- How do customers recognize they have a need?
- Where do customers get their information?
- How do they evaluate alternatives to satisfy their need?
- How do they actually make the purchase?
- How do they act after the purchase has been completed?
Audience members filled the board with answers in an exercise that you could tell Grech has perfected in his teachings. "It's about empathy," he said. "Too often we fail to seek to understand [the customer journey]. Ask questions that are meaningful and powerful. The biggest human need is to be validated and understood. It shows that you really care about them."
BIMS continues today and tomorrow. You can follow some of the highlights on #BIMS18.
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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…