Association Media: Resource Constrained and Outsource Reliant
[Sponsored] A Folio:/YGS Group survey tracks the priorities and pain points for the media divisions in larger membership organizations.
Association media teams are feeling at least somewhat resource strained across their entire portfolio of responsibilities, but web and digital media is where they feel the pressure most acutely, according to a new survey of more than 100 association executives, conducted jointly by Folio: and The YGS Group.
Twenty-two percent of respondents described themselves as “highly resource strained” in the digital realm, which includes social media, and another 55 percent indicated they were “somewhat” strained in this area, according to the survey. No other area of the association media enterprise was as strained, according to respondents, although marketing communications/public relations came close.
“Social media can be a huge challenge for any organization,” says Jack Davidson, vice president of marketing services at The YGS Group. “It’s still relatively new, and there’s a lot to know and understand. Each social site has its own communication etiquette and intricacies, so it requires that you adhere to those differences, while still ensuring that your organization’s brand and message is properly communicated.”
The survey, conducted in April and May of 2016, was fielded to develop a clear and empirical picture of the state of association media operations and the pain points for the media professionals who work in these groups. There were 134 total responses. The scope of the survey was broad—covering the size of respondents’ organizations, their role in the organization, the types of media produced, tech investments, how they use tech tools and how often, strategic planning, and upcoming priorities.
In terms of the respondent profile, 23.1 percent were corporate or senior management. Thirty-three percent were editorial, 11.9 percent were marketing and communications professionals, and 10.5 percent were from sales and advertising. Designers, events professionals, audience development specialists, production specialists and others also completed the survey.
Nearly 80 percent of respondents produce magazines. An equal number, (79.8 percent), produce enewsletters. Seventy-three percent produce digital editions of their magazines, and 84.3 percent of respondents have websites. Interestingly, more than a fifth—21.6 percent—produce printed newsletters, and 16 percent produce print newspapers. The average circulation for print magazines among the respondents was nearly 300,000, and the average digital-edition circulation was almost double that, 568,647.
Our respondents overwhelmingly said that their biggest technology investment for 2015 was the web. More than one-third indicated this investment area, with the next highest area being print production, at 24.6 percent of respondents. There was a major drop-off in investment priorities after that, with the next area—database development—at only 8.2 percent.
This is interesting, because as noted, this is also the area where association media professionals feel most resource constrained.
If web, digital and social are the areas where respondents are feeling most strained, followed by marketing communications, then several other areas are not far behind. Across the board, from content creation and design to events and ad sales, the data show that two-thirds of respondents—give or take—are feeling strained.
To relieve these strains, association media teams often look to outsourcing. The survey data shows that in brand strategy, web development and management, content creation and especially advertising and sponsor and exhibitor sales, association media teams look to agencies, freelancers or some combination of external and internal help. Ad sales ranked highest on the list of outsourcing, with nearly 15 percent of respondents using either an agency or freelancers to manage their sales, while 64 percent of respondents said they rely exclusively on in-house help for exhibit sales.
Asked to rank their resource-allocation priorities, content development and publications got by far the most attention, cited as the top priority for 26.1 percent and 23.1 percent of respondents, respectively.
In the technology realm, the respondents seemed to show ambivalence. Asked how they’d tackle resource challenges in the coming years, 71 percent said they’re rely on technology, while only 55 percent said they’d add internal resources and 40.9 percent said they’d look to outsource more. But asked to say which tools they relied on most, the overwhelming response (90.3 percent) was analytics-and-tracking platforms. And asked to say how frequently they assess analytics across a variety of operational areas—web, social media, ad campaigns, and more—most respondents said they review data monthly or quarterly, not daily or even weekly. And asked whether analytics are used to adjust strategies, the most frequent response was “sometimes.”
“The data surrounding the frequency of assessing analytics is right in line with what our own association customers share with us when we discuss ways to improve their membership campaigns, event marketing, and website traffic,” Davidson says. “It’s difficult to improve when you don’t have the metrics to compare.”