ARC Content Plan
Agricultural Relations Council Content Plan
This content plan is to help the Agricultural Relations Council (ARC) meet its mission of "Fostering Professional Development for Agriculture Public Relations Professionals". One of the goals of this plan is to help set a digital content direction for the ARC staff, board members, and membership. This is a living plan in that it will change over time.
The focus of this plan is on how to utilize the digital channels ARC manages to better connect with its constituents and the world at large.
Summary, for those who want the quick view!
Why a content plan? ARC needs a content plan to support its mission. It is recommended this plan be included as part of the regular board discussions. The content plan will provide the details on what content is being published, when, where, why, by whom, how, and how much.
Part of the discussion the board and staff need to continue is about the kinds of content needed, the number of digital channels required, and the resources needed to sustain them. New channels come along yearly and current ones will fade. This document will help support these discussions.
Lastly, digital metrics need to be incorporated into the ARC management and operations discussion. To manage means there must be a measure. These metrics will offer insight on the direction ARC is headed, helping all involved understand what is happening.
This plan is not a final document but a planning document. It is best used as a way to start the conversation around using content to help advance and support ARC in whatever way the ARC board and staff see necessary.
For those that want Details
A website is a publishing and educational channel that organizations like ARC use to communicate with members, interact with a broader public, and help support transactions as they arise. Through the services offered by Ning (http://www.ning.com/ ), the ARC website aimed to incorporate membership interaction through member blogs, member profiles, and in system sharing. The Ning platform based ARC site was geared to be a user generated content site.
Other tools and channels surfaced (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, etc) and each of these offered some compelling features or functions that the members in ARC found useful. These channels and tools were not formally planned but implemented ad hoc.
Over the course of several years, ARC's utilization of the various channels/tools slowed down. Of the five or six channels put in place three years ago, only three remain in use: the ARC website, email, and Facebook group. The other channels have not been utilized in several years (Twitter stopped Nov 2011 https://twitter.com/AgRelations, LinkedIn stopped sometime before Jun 2012 http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Ag-Relations-Council-1773798 ).
Today, now moving to Yesterday
The focus of the ARC digital channels today revolve mainly around information sharing and external focused ARC membership management. The Ning supported ARC website is geared as a base for some of the organization's information (newsletters, PDF / MS Word documents and forms, jobs board, and membership award solicitation). The website is also used to post some marketing and transaction information pieces as it relates to membership, conferences, and awards.
Email, sent out by the ARC staff, is used to distribute much of the information published on the web.
The Facebook private group is geared to be another distribution channel to members about a variety of items, ranging from informative (ex., latest issues in public relations) to member requests (send in award nominations, etc).
The frequency of posts on the ARC website is about 10 items in 12 months, mainly being driven by the quarterly newsletter deadlines. The frequency of posts on Facebook is about 100 items posted by 14 people in one year. Email frequency is about 4 member focused emails per year (not including renewals and reminders).
Tomorrow, now moving to Today!
The discussions on moving to a new web design were motivated by two key things: Making the process of membership renewal and conference sign up fully digital and the ARC website on Ning was getting long in the tooth in its design.
Additionally, the Ning publishing model was cumbersome to use and there were many dangling links, posts, and membership engagement items that made the website hard to navigate, use, and understand.
These motivators (process improvement for ARC staff and a new look for members) formed the basis of an outline for an ARC website refresh.
By moving to WordPress and a responsive design, ARC gained the ability to publish on a well known platform (WordPress) and improves its image overall with a better look. Public relations professionals know the value of looking good and ARC needs accommodate the PR professional's expectations on what a PR organization should be.
Also, in looking forward, plans for launching educational webinars for members has been updated for 2014 - 2015 during the ARC annual meeting in Madison. While the webinars are not tied explicitly to any website, it helps to have tools (again WordPress) that have the ability to provide access to the webinar media as needed. See section below on webinar outline.
Few things run themselves. To be successful, websites and community channels, as they relate to people, require regular care and feeding. People's expectations, beliefs, hopes, and dreams through digital tools must be meet with deliberate action and planning.
Care and feeding is not just about the technology (though there are occasional technology maintenance requirements). The care and feeding this section refers to is about how to support ARC and its mission of "Fostering Professional Development for Agriculture Public Relations Professionals".
This plan will help ARC insure the new website and related channels don't quickly start peeling paint and leaking water. This plan will bring a sense of context and structure to decision making whenever a new or existing communication/informational channel or member connection point is being considered for change.
Core to this plan is outlining enough information on the who, what, when, where, why, how, and how much for each of the digital channels.
The ARC website moved to WordPress in a responsive designed theme in Q1 2014. WordPress is a platform with content (aka content types) structured around two key elements: a page and a post.
What is a Page?
The page content type is used to organize static content that is geared to inform people about specifics of the organization, members, or contacts. Pages are best aligned with the website menu structure and navigation flow. WordPress pages should not be used for periodic content publication activities.
For example, a page should be used to publish the organizations contacts (staff, board, key people, etc). A page may also be used to share information about one off items like the Golden Arc Awards. However, a page should not be used to share an update by the board, or for one of the regular newsletters.
For clarification, a page is very much something that is static, edited on occasion to update the information, and is focused on guiding readers to additional information.
What is a Post?
The post content type supports recurring publication and information sharing. Posts have the ability to be organized with categories and tags (more below). Posts also offer the ability to be structured in the their delivery across multiple outlets (blog, RSS, etc).
Posts are not something you update periodically (except to fix errors).
For example, posts are great for membership updates, newsletters summaries, or sharing regular educational information with members. Posts also work great for listing jobs and highlighting event details as they come up.
When one reads a blog, they are reading items published as posts.
What are Categories?
With WordPress comes the ability organize information for various membership needs. As mentioned above, posts have the ability to be organized using categories or tags. Categories are a set of key terms to organize posts at a high level, usually around a central theme like jobs or newsletters. For background, see the post What are categories or tags? (http://agchat.org/2012/03/what-are-tags-and-categories.html ).
The number of categories used should be no more than 10 for the whole site.
For ARC, the following categories are recommended to get started.
- Jobs and career
- Training and development
- Member benefits
Using the above recommendations, it is possible to display or share links to
- Newsletter http://www.agrelationscouncil.org/category/newsletter/
- Job http://www.agrelationscouncil.org/category/Jobs/
This initial category list is to help ARC get started. After a few months the categories should be reviewed to see if they are working. It is easy to change/modify the categories in use after their initial introduction.
What are Tags?
While it is good to initially define categories upfront, it is harder to define tags up front because it is not clear what useful tags will be until posts start to get published. For background, see the post titled What are categories or tags? (http://agchat.org/2012/03/what-are-tags-and-categories.html ).
The number of tags used should be kept less than 100 for the whole site.
Try not to have a tag that is the same name as a category; while technically fine, it causes confusion when referencing them later.
To help seed the tags, here are some examples to use.
- social media
- digital media
- health & disease
- research science
- world issues
Using the above recommendations, it is possible to display or share links to
- Technology http://www.agrelationscouncil.org/tag/technology/
- Management http://www.agrelationscouncil.org/tag/management/
Also like categories, tags should be reviewed to see if they are working. It is easy to change/modify the tags in use after their initial introduction.
To learn more:
- The differences between a page versus a post, http://en.support.wordpress.com/post-vs-page/
- Tags versus Categories, http://agchat.org/2012/03/what-are-tags-and-categories.html
Currently there are four email updates sent out per year to ARC members using ARC's local email system (not an email service provider).
Email is best for communicating with members because most people continue to use it.
Email updates should help educate, inform, and ask for member thoughts. Also, utilize email to make the ask to like or re-share information on social media. Emails should always have specific calls to actions that can be measured. If possible, make the email itself sharable; all major email service providers like MailChimp or Constant Contact offer a dedicated link to the email campaign that can be used on other sharing services.
The ARC Facebook private group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/agrelationscouncil/ ) is a members only benefit. While the public can see the group description and who belongs, all the posts are only viewable by the members.
The ARC Facebook group is a good way to share supplemental material that normally would not be posted on the ARC website. The Facebook group is also a way to have informal discussion on topics, issues, or ideas. The Facebook group can be a way to ask for assistance to a trusted group.
The ARC staff have put in place steps to make sure all requests to join the group are from paying members. It would also be a good practice to insure new members are invited to join as part of their welcome package.
As mentioned above, the ARC LinkedIn group has not had any activity since before June 2012. The value LinkedIn provides, from an organization like ARC, are the group functions (http://help.linkedin.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/1164 ). LinkedIn allows anyone to organize a group and create a channel for discussion, promotions, and job info.
Before ARC to utilizes LinkedIn, it would be good to have a discussion on the value of the LinkedIn for members. Is there something LinkedIn offers to help ARC achieve its mission? What resources are needed to sustain the LinkedIn group and what ARC content will be shared?
Like LinkedIn, the ARC Twitter account (https://twitter.com/AgRelations ) has not been used in a while. Twitters value comes in three parts: Being on Twitter to listen for public relations signals, making connections with people, and marketing ARC.
The listening to signals part does not require an ARC account (though it can help). Twitter has become a leading indicator of crises about to occur and learning about real time events.
Twitter can be a channel to connect with individuals or organizations. Twitter also offers the ability to build up collections of people (lists) and participate in real time chats (ex., #AgChat or #BlogChat).
Also like LinkedIn, the ARC staff and board would need to have a conversation on the value of Twitter to its members and the organization, plus ask the questions about sustainment and required resources.
Other content delivery channels
There are other channels over which ARC can connect with members, promote events/activity, and share information on agricultural public relations. New ones will appear and current one will fade away. This plan is a way to help steer ARC, aiming to match organization goals and missions with the tools that can best meet the demands within the constraints of ARC resources.
Tactics on Channel use
The ARC website should always be considered the base in which all ARC content resides. Newsletters, events, or reminders should always have a spot on the website.
The biggest reason for this approach is that ARC owns and maintains the website. There is little risk that the website will someday disappear without warning.
The other available channels (Facebook, email, etc) would incorporate some parts of the original web post in the channel. For example, a web post about the upcoming ARC conference would be reused on Facebook (using the registration link) and some supplemental copy in the Facebook post to guide people on expected actions.
The little bits and pieces of ARC content from the web can be re-used as needed in other conversations. Sometime it is good enough to share the ARC web link and a title. Other times, like within an email or Facebook post, the content link plus the first paragraph of the post will be utilized, with a Read more link to bring people in.
To manage means there must be a measure. In the context of a digital content plan there are many opportunities to collect data. But there must be context and meaning before the data can be used to manage.
ARC metrics currently revolve around numbers of members, revenue, sponsor dollars, member awards, and conference attendance. Digital metrics are not currently utilized in the ARC organizational conversations.
As an organization whose members have digital measurement expectations from their customers, ARC should begin the process of defining some measures that will help the organization and its members. Below are some metrics to consider.
- Google Analytics can offer data on how the website is actually being used.
- Surveys on members should be a regular occurrence. This market research can be tailored to specific issues, like what information people expect ARC to provide.
- Online registration vs offline registration ratios.
- Conference online registration vs offline ratios.
- Email open, click, unsubscribe, and bounce rates. Email is a key indicator to see what is being read, when, and what actions were taken.
- Webinar downloads and attendance. As webinars come online there will be the ability to see digital downloads and involvement.
To be informative and timely, there are topics that needs to be covered on digital channels on a regular basis.
An editorial calendar helps the ARC staff, board, and membership know what to expect and when. It outlines, over a period of time, the who, what, when, where, why, how, and how much.
An example editorial calendar, from the Latinos in Agriculture conference series:
To help ARC, here is the ARC focused items in the queue for consideration (note these content ideas are draft until announced on ARC website):
This ARC editorial calendar will need to be refined with input from the ARC staff and board. The details on what content is being created and who is responsible is a key output of this tool.
During the 2014 ARC annual meeting an outline of the webinars was developed and added to the content plan (https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0ArrhFp04sn4EdGcxOFBaZWc1bUJEbHd2WkdtWUFya0E ).
In summary, here is the information on the tools and approach to supporting the webinars.
- 45 minutes, with 15 minutes for Q&A
- Registration required, free for ARC members, $30 for non-members
- First one free as member recruitment? ** Needs discussion. No definitive answer arrived at during meeting.
- Recorded and available for members.
- Restricted access
- Webinar tool Join.me. Join.me is $160 per year for their pro version which provides for recordning has ability to record the whole webinar and allow for up to 250 people to attend. While GoTo Webinar is the industry standard, the functionality provided by Join.me fits well with an organization with a small budget.
- Registration for webinar via Eventbrite. Eventbrite provides ticketing, reminders, and functionality that can be setup an event in minutes. Payment options are easy to configure. Using Eventbrite is well known by customers.
- Store video media file on Vimeo. Vimeo, for $200 per year, provides a platform to host and deliver media files. Media files can have restricted access (password), metrics can be collected, and media files can be embedded on ARC site as needed.
This content plan is not a final document but a planning document. It is best used as a way to start the conversation to help advance and support ARC in whatever way the ARC board and staff see necessary.