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Rhapsody Review - MemberWise Digital Excellence 2017

As a media production agency, Rhapsody has multiple customers who are membership based, which is why we are also a recognised supplier of MemberWise, the network which supports membership and association professionals.

It’s vital that we keep up to date with the current themes and topics affecting the industry. Having attended previous MemberWise events, we were confident that the recent Digital Excellence 2017 conference would be really well attended and boast a rich learning experience.

The membership sector appears to be somewhat less harmed from the widespread decline in print that is evident elsewhere in publishing. This is largely down to the added engagement a membership organisation has with its audience. Despite this, membership organisations are clearly committed to implementing digital communications wherever they can to best prepare themselves for the future.

A packed programme over five rooms meant choosing your conference schedule was a challenge and  with so many sessions it was inevitable some would clash, but this was certainly a good problem to have!

All about ‘Engagement’

Andy Steggles (President, Higher Logic) and Richard Gott (Chair, MemberWise Network) kicked off the day with a presentation entitled ’10 ways to get closer to your members online,’ from findings based on the MemberWise, Digital Excellence 2017 ‘Research Summary Report’.

As expected, the main theme running throughout Digital Excellence 2017 was ‘engagement’. This was supported by the opening presentation which contained the following insights:

  •    Improve member engagement online –  to be the top goal
  •    Only half are achieving this aim
  •    Having multiple systems/processes = a key issue
  •    Lack of personalisation in communications
  •    Inability to measure engagement
  •    4 in 10 of those surveyed are looking for new ‘kit’
  •    No CMS has truly captured the market
  •    30% now employ a dedicated person to look after online social
  •    Only 6-10% of members actually engage via online social

The conference speakers placed heavy emphasis on the solid use of data as the cornerstone to achieving better engagement, as well as improving and ensuring there is significant value in your online offering.

This can be achieved with better UX and more content including prioritising images and video above the written word.

In keeping with the day’s ‘Halloween’ theme the opening presentation closed with a ‘Banishing the Demons’ slide. This was best practice advice based on digital strategy and future proofing.

Member-Centric content...

Martin Fishman (Head of Member & Partnership Engagement) from the Chartered Banker Institute (CBI), the oldest banking institute in the world, highlighted some of the innovations that have helped them grow membership by 266% to over 30,000 members since 2010;

  •    Transforming processes
  •    Launch of the 'My Institute’ App
  •    Job board
  •    Podcasts
  •    Webcasts
  •    Online exam bookings
  •    Mentoring scheme.

In addition, CBI have placed an emphasis on member centric content. This particularly resonated as a clever way to create additional content with deeper engagement as its goal.

Contingency counts...

Nick David (Head of Digital) at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, gave an insight into their  digital transformation project including relaunching the website and updating their systems and processes.  Key to this was solving some common problems;

  • Lock in to a legacy CMS
  • Multiple disparate systems
  • Limited content production workflows
  • Internally focussed navigation
  • A need for better understanding of usage.

Nick cited the importance of each department playing a role and having a say in the development of the new website.

Key insights into managing a project like this included;

  • Fund a discovery project first - remember that whoever you work with in the discovery phase does not have to be the chosen partner to deliver the final product!
  • Allow for adequate project resources and keep some contingency budget for anything unforeseen
  • Double the planned time for external integrations!
  • Double the amount of members communications you plan to do
  • Digital transformation never ends!

Join the Caravan...

Hannah Ridler (Brand Manager) of the recently rebranded Caravan & Motorhome Club (formerly The Caravan Club), spoke of the challenges of turning brand recognition into understanding and relevance. This is particularly important when trying to change people's perception the brand and explaining the journey to where you are now.

The CAMC produced a film to promote their rebrand, which is a great example of content marketing.

Millennials and more..

Just before lunch in the main auditorium, Jon Smith (Head of Digital at YHA - Youth Hostels Association) talked about simplifying membership acquisition with the advice to think about your business as a start up in order to stay relevant. This is great advice for anyone on the road to digital transformation and growth.

Read more about How to print for profit and use digital for growth.

At Rhapsody, we understand that not only is mobile the number one platform for consuming digital content, but 90% of all mobile time is spent in apps! So it was reassuring to hear Jon talk about the importance of membership associations ensuring their content is mobile ready.

The goals of the YHA are similar to that of the CAMC (mentioned above). The audience  were shown an image of 3 sets of bunk beds squeezed into a cramped room -  this was the stereotypical view of the old YHA but it’s not an accurate picture of who they are in 2017. The audience saw several examples of modern YHA properties and it quickly became clear why they now consider Airbnb and as their nearest competitors. Digital investment has helped that journey.

Trust Instagram...

After lunch it was the turn of Ben Harwood who heads up social media at The National Trust (NT) with the imaginatively titled presentation 'How to Make Friends and Engage-ienate People’.

At its core was the importance of telling stories with content, their primary platform of choice being Instagram.

NT have clearly executed this well but what was most evident is the thought behind the campaign. To achieve tangible results a thorough strategy is required with clear themes and calls to action at its heart.

Results show that the National Trust are achieving their goal of deeper engagement with their members.

Storytelling is incredibly important in the modern era of content marketing. Instagram has clearly helped NT tell better stories and there was plenty for other organisations to learn from this presentation.

At Rhapsody we’re trying to help membership organisations experiment with the mobile publishing opportunity, Prospect Union are already doing this with their membership magazine launch, you can read about it here. Prospect Union case study.

With so much opportunity and transformation in the membership sector, Rhapsody is excited to be helping customers on their journey. It’s clearly going to be a highly productive year and we are looking forward to Digital Excellence 2018 already! 

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