The only thing worse than a blank page is the same blank page two hours later. If you’ve ever been assigned a blog post or put in charge of social media accounts at work, then you know what I’m talking about. And if this is your full-time job than you have my utmost respect.

So what are you supposed to do when part (and often only a small part) of your job description is to fill that that blank page (or screen) every day? EVERY. DAY. Let’s face it, some days, there’s just nothing new to report.

Can I get an amen?

For most of us, we can hide behind last week’s blog post and a couple of Instagram shots of the company cook-out while we search for inspiration, or next month’s calendar of events to promote. But if you have a waiting audience of five or six thousand members, then no news is definitely not good news. For associations tasked with delivering relevant, helpful content every day, it’s an exhausting and often thankless job, and most of them just aren’t built for that level of production.

This is the nightmare of marketing and communications managers of associations everywhere. The pressure to say something meaningful and the competition for member’s eyes and ears (let alone hearts and minds) is stiff. In her January Harvard Business Review article, “To Stay Relevant, Professional Associations Must Rebrand” (which we may or may not agree with, but that’s a post for another day), Denise Lee Yohn writes “The proliferation of online content has led to vast and often free access to the types of information, insights, and training that professionals used to be able to access only through association membership and industry conferences.”

According to Association Laboratory’s Looking Forward Survey 2016, five of the top ten challenges keeping association executives up at night involve information and the struggle to create, control, and customize content for their members. So how do you harness that vast array of content? Look around — help is everywhere.

Content Curation allows you to bring value to your members by using your time, talents, and today’s best content curation tools to supplement your original content with that of others. Which, in turn, saves your members valuable time by helping them find their way through the maze of words and pictures that are vying for their limited attention. It’s nice how it works like that! Providing an antidote to the age-old paradox, “If everything is important, then nothing is important”, content curation allows you to filter and share well-vetted, helpful content from trusted sources, while adding the association’s unique perspective. It’s a perfectly acceptable and helpful way to bring value to your members. It’s also a great way to forge new professional networks with thought-leaders in your field, perhaps earning the favor of having your own content shared with their audiences.

Helping your members find the trees in a forest of content shows them that you’re open to the perspectives and practices of other leaders, not just your own. It shows them that you’re always thinking about what is important to them, regardless of the source. It builds trust.

Here are a few Content Curation tools you may want to consider:

Scoop.it and Curata are firmly at the top of most lists, but each is subscription based and comes with an investment that it might take a board meeting to get approval on if you’re a large association. You may want to start with something as simple as Pocket. It’s super user-friendly (think Pinterest for content), and allows you to save shareable content into an easily organizable and accessible place you can pull from whenever you need it.

If you’re not ready to fully commit to apps and software, start with something like Google Alerts to stay on top of news and information specific to your member’s interest. Setting up a few Google Alerts beats the heck out of surfing the net for timely news. Or try a news aggregator like Alltop to discover content from specific sources and hand-picked categories. It’s one I like, and so does author and content guru, Ann Handley. Here’s a peek at her MyAlltop collection to give you some ideas for setting up your own.

Now, before you run off to do the happy dance, keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for producing original content. Content curation only works when it’s balanced with original content. What’s the right ratio? I’m afraid you’ll have to test it with your own audience to see where you land. Just keep in mind that while there are a number of qualified voices providing sound advice and insight, no one else knows the ins and outs of your organization like you do. Thought leadership is easy to find, and even easier to add your own perspective to (which you should always do when sharing someone else’s content). Use your original content currency to share vital information members need in order to be actively and personally engaged. Training materials, event itineraries, that’s information they can’t find on Medium and it’s a good use of your team’s time to produce.

If you’re feeling guilty about not slaving over the keyboard night and day to produce all original content, don’t be. Content Curation is still work, just not as much. Which frees your team up to do the other nineteen things on today’s TO DO list.

Dawn Sparks headshot

Written by Dawn Sparks

“My icon should have probably been a giant question mark. With maybe an exclamation point right after it.”