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Strategic communications survey and analysis shape the future of NAPA communications
SARAH SAIN, CAE, Vice President of Content Services, Naylor Association Solutions
At the beginning of 2023, NAPA set out to hear directly from members and stakeholders on how the association’s communications program could best meet its audience’s needs in the future.
NAPA partnered with Naylor Association Solutions to conduct a Strategic Communications Survey and Analysis, the main objective of which was to evaluate NAPA’s communications portfolio from several different angles and identify areas for opportunity. NAPA and Naylor have been communications partners
since 2000. After more than two decades of working together, both organizations agreed on the importance of understanding how NAPA’s audience felt about its communications portfolio mix, content strategy, and opportunities for innovation.

Results from the comprehensive survey provided valuable feedback from association members, industry stakeholders, and NAPA staff on overall satisfaction, platform and product mix, delivery format and frequency, content needs and preferences, and advertising and sponsorship value. Naylor provided NAPA with a detailed report that has helped the association make data-informed, strategic decisions
about the future of its communications. The report provided a deeper understanding of the
association’s goals and objectives weighed against the needs and desires of producers,
businesses, SAPA executives, academics, and agency and DOT representatives – an array of
stakeholders who play vital roles in the success of the asphalt pavement industry.
The Strategic Communications Survey was conducted from mid-January to early February
2023, and the 481 individuals who took the survey represented the depth and breadth
of the asphalt pavement industry. NAPA and Naylor collaborated on a comprehensive
online survey consisting of 58 questions that sought insights into the success of NAPA’s
overall communications strategy, perceived value of specific products and content, ROI of
advertising and sponsorship offerings, and potential gaps to be filled with new or evolving
platforms and approaches in the future.

Survey respondents said loud and clear that NAPA’s communications portfolio is highly
regarded for the value it provides association members and the asphalt pavement industry
and stands out for its quality in comparison to the other publications and content sources in
the market.

Survey respondents said the strength of the association’s portfolio is centered on three channels: the AsphaltPavement.org website, Asphalt Pavement magazine, and ActionNews e-newsletter. However, in newer platforms, like the Pave It Black podcast launched in 2020, NAPA has shown that it’s not afraid to invest in digital communications and technologies when the need exists and the time is right. In a communications landscape where ‘information overload’ is frequently cited as a top concern for association members, NAPA has found a fairly balanced product and frequency mix. Readers stated they do find themselves hindered by the barrier of time – there’s just not enough of it – so they appreciate NAPA’s focus on quality.

Strong content is a key to the success of NAPA’s communications. Its magazine content is well written and researched, while newsletter content is timely and actionable. The topics that are of the most interest across all platforms to readers and consumers of the association’s communications – such as safety, technology, advocacy, research, and sustainability – are often featured through industry news and updates; case studies, storytelling, and interviews; and training and how-to articles.

At the time of the survey, NAPA’s communications portfolio included several publications and channels branded under the association’s name, the Asphalt Pavement brand, and as standalone titled products. Because Asphalt Pavement was such a strongly valued publication within the industry, the NAPA/Naylor team unearthed an opportunity to rebrand existing supplemental publications and digital channels under one trusted media brand to extend the association’s audience and reach.
Speaking of audience, survey respondents expressed the concern that there’s not always a clear vision of which communications pieces are exclusively for members and which are available to the broader asphalt pavement industry. This gap led to content worthy of a much larger audience being seen by only a portion of those who would find it valuable to their businesses and careers. Opening up the distribution of NAPA’s communications and providing needed clarity around specific member benefits will help the association be more intentional about growing their audience share in the next few years.
Additionally, NAPA’s audience is primed for an expansion of digital communications platforms, including a content microsite and personalized newsletters. This gap speaks as much to readers’ comfort level with digital as to the strength of NAPA’s content – they want more of it on platforms they already use every day.

Advertisers across NAPA’s communications cite that they do so because being connected
with and supporting the association builds their
brands and reputations in the industry. Advertising and sponsorships in NAPA
communications are strong despite the recent pandemic and economic upheaval of the
early 2020s. However, the companies actively engaged with the association and interested
in financially supporting it throughout the year expressed a desire for a wider range of
advertising offerings and price points to meet advertising budgets. Analysis of respondents’
feedback also revealed an opportunity to expand on the sponsored content offerings that already
exist for specific communication platforms to give companies more of a chance to be seen as
the thought leaders and innovators they are in the industry.

Finally, while discussions around sunsetting low-value or low-performing communications channels are never easy for an association – there are always members who will feel a strong connection to legacy platforms and publications – NAPA will continuously work with stakeholders to determine when to retire or reimagine a communications piece. Difficult decisions based on compelling data that are communicated clearly make transitioning or sunsetting those products a little easier for all.

Without a doubt, NAPA has a diverse communications portfolio that is collectively well regarded by members and serves their needs, as well as those of the larger asphalt pavement industry. Your input via the Strategic Communications Survey and other opportunities to provide input directly to NAPA staff makes it even stronger.
NAPA has embraced your feedback, aligned it with all available data, and reviewed the modern media landscape to find opportunities to optimize the delivery of many of its current products, including its magazine and newsletter, and embrace emerging technologies to continue to share industry-leading content; the details of those changes are outlined in this publication. Member, stakeholder, and staff needs, insights, and feedback are at the center of all the changes and updates to the NAPA communications portfolio you’ll see this year and into the future.

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