By Apryl Motley, CAE

The National Association of Realtors is proving that members’ personal experiences are one of an association’s best sources for content. Learn how to get members to share those stories with you at AM&P’s Annual Meeting, June 27-29, 2016 in Washington, DC.

There have been more than a few instances when association media and publishing professionals hoped a caped crusader would arrive just in time to save the day, and the capital S on the superhero’s torso would stand for story. Who doesn’t want to include a story of heroic proportions in their content lineup?

Everyday heroes like your organization’s members have some of the best stories to tell. For example: What do a short story writer, a supporter of the arts, and a centenarian have in common? They are all realtors, and the National Association of Realtors implemented a multi-media strategy to get their stories and others, so their members could become superheroes of storytelling.

Launched in 2014, Street Cred was designed to solicit stories that showcased realtors’ “authentic, first-hand connection to a city or neighborhood that’s formed over years of personal investment and passion.” NAR members were encouraged to submit stories online via a web form that exemplified how they made a difference in the communities they serve. These stories would highlight real estate professionals as ambassadors for their communities.

“We were doing user-generated content before this, but there really wasn’t a theme,” says Meg White, managing editor of REALTOR Magazine. “It was a kind of haphazard.” The idea for Street Cred grew out of a brainstorming session with the founder and product marketing manager of Doorsteps, a home buyer education program, about what makes real estate professionals different.

“They had some great suggestions that helped us to kick it off and identify some of the first stories,” White says. “We also went to people internally in the association for ideas about people and members they knew.

“We put together an article that explained the idea behind Street Cred and posted it on social media and developed a web form for it as well,” she continues. “Those two strategies really helped us.”

The web form was the jumping off point for the stories, which were then followed up on during phone interviews. “I came up with a list of questions for staff to use in interviews to draw members out and get to what’s really unique about what they’re doing,” White explains. “We recorded the interviews and then edited the transcripts to emphasize the qualities we’re looking for in their stories.”

Your members have stories to tell too; they just might not know how to get started or even be aware that your association is interested in their anecdotes. Here are three strategies that helped NAR launch and maintain a successful member storytelling initiative.

  • Create a web form. “It is a really good way to keep track and have a record of user generated content,” White says. “That was a huge part of what made Street Cred successful.”
  • Solicit stories internally. “We made internal content creators aware of our efforts and encouraged them to think about Street Cred for some of the pitches they were getting,” White says.
  • Think through your methodology for gathering stories. “Technology is important, but so is being very specific about what you’re asking,” White notes. “Specificity and having tools in place to carry the program forward in the long-term are key.”

Learn more about this initiative when White and her colleagues present their session Engage Readers Via Superpower Storytelling at AM&P’s Annual Meeting on Tuesday, June 28, 2:15 – 3:15 p.m.

Apryl Motley, CAE is a communications consultant and freelance writer. She is a frequent contributor to Association Media & Publishing’s Signature magazine and a member of its Content Creation Committee.