5 Ways to Tell Your Association’s Story Like a Best-Selling Author

Every association has a story to tell. It’s how they tell that story (and just how well they tell it) that has the ability to engage and attract members.

Having spent the early years of my career in publishing, I helped authors of all genres and experiences craft tales that absorbed readers by the thousands. Now that I’m working with associations, I’m learning that the goals of storytellers and content creators really aren’t so different. Next time you’re looking for content inspiration to engage your members, turn to these six winning habits of best-selling authors.

writing-a-book.jpg1. Write What You Know

Use your everyday environment and your day-to-day situations to provide a base for the content you offer. Drawing on your knowledge and background can supply you with days, months, and years of stories. You are an expert in what you do—how you solve problems and overcome challenges could provide critical solutions to others. Start brainstorming some general content topics that you can easily tackle right away. Here are a few questions to get you going:

  • What problems have you faced in the past three months and how have you solved them?
  • What tools do you use that you recommend to people in your field on a consistent basis?
  • What topics do you find yourself returning to when talking with others in your industry?

2. Observe the World

Creative people are experts at paying attention to the world around them and working that into their art. They notice the little things most of us overlook or take for granted and use it to pull in readers and keep them turning pages. Writers hold a mirror up to their readers to give them a look at the familiar and a glimpse of what they may not have noticed about themselves.

You can do the same thing to entice your members. The New Jersey Society of Public Accountants (NJCPA) shares member stories that are relatable, informative, and enjoyable. Through them, viewers learn why individuals chose to become CPAs and how it’s impacted their lives. In this way, the community is strengthened and prospective members see the value other members are getting first-hand.

3. Listen to Your “Characters”

An author I knew used to claim to only write at night because that was the only time it was quiet enough for him to “hear” what his characters were telling him. No matter what time of day you speak to your members, it’s important that you hear what they have to say. Don’t assume that you know what they want.

The easiest way to learn about the content they’re looking for is to ask them. Find out what issues are keeping them up at night. What tricks of the trade are they using that they want to share with you and the world? What challenges do they have that you could help them overcome?

The American Dental Association (ADA), for example, speaks directly to the concerns of someone deciding to choose a career in dentistry. By breaking down these specific concerns and providing information to address them, the ADA serves as a crucial resource to members and future members alike.

4. Show, Don’t Tell

Yes, this sounds like a note written in the margin of your freshman creative writing essay. And your English teacher was right—you appeal to emotion and move people to action when you show the story instead of merely reporting the facts.

You can do this with great writing, photos, or video. Whichever works best for you, pairing details with a personal approach will resonate much more with your audience than a bullet list.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)’s National Pet Week website shows the importance of taking pets of all shapes and sizes to the vet in a video that’s guaranteed to elicit a smile. AVMA easily could have listed the variety of animals veterinarians treat and why you should seek care for them, but this video goes beyond the stark details and shows the emotional bond people have with their pets.

5. Put Yourself Out There

Both writers and content creators know that nothing gets printed, distributed, or downloaded without first taking the risk of putting yourself out there. Decide what you want to create, observe, listen, and then take the leap. Creating great content is a process, so continue to tweak as you go along.

Do you have content that’s resonated with your members you’d like to share? We’d love to see it in the comments below.


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