ISAHU, the mouthful of letters that make up the diverse group of health insurance professionals at the Indiana State Association of Health Underwriters, is one of my personal favorite turnaround stories of 2014.
Here’s what the original site looked like:
Here’s what the new site looks like:
ISAHU is part of a much larger network of national and local AHU chapters, ranging from the National Association at the top and, in Indiana, eight regional chapters. The Indianapolis Association has been a client of ours for long enough the website is starting to become a little dated, technologically.
But that’s all going to be remedied because we’re proud to also be putting together websites for all of Indiana’s AHU chapters, several of which have little to no web presence right now.
We’re handling more than just the website, though, with email distribution, event management, search engine marketing, writing, and social media promotion.
The thinking behind the layout
ISAHU functions as its own statewide service, but the primary benefit for insurance professionals happens at the local chapters where they hold meetings and share resources. Up until now, ISAHU has functioned with a much more limited website that let them handle the basics to have a presence online. Because they’re all volunteers working with full time jobs of their own, the website content and perceived usefulness has been lacking.
All the magic happens at the local level, so we viewed ISAHU almost like an aggregator, or at least a showcase of what the local chapters were doing. But because the local chapters haven’t been active online much lately either, we took out our own little insurance policy against future stale content by bundling everything up into regions of the state.
With any organization that functions in geographic areas, people are more inclined to care about placement of highways than county lines. So we organized everything under Northern, Central, and Southern regions of Indiana. This lets chapters in each region compile their stories together, and since they’d likely impact people in entire regions anyway, it makes for an easier experience on the readers.
Transitioning the newsletters
Since the website was lacking, and the demographics of the audience and industry skewer older and less tech-savvy, most of the Association’s events, news, and alerts happened through email. We’re not changing that, because it makes sense and we’re not fans of social media for the sake of being trendy. Members and potential members are all using email and often sit behind secure financial-center IT departments that prevent access to social media anyway.
But the newsletter as it is now is a workhorse, picking up the slack and keeping updates coming. It often features page after page of articles and news assembled by one person and facilitated by another from authors across Indiana. All into one PDF that gets emailed.
Those stories and collected pieces of news are vital to members and are generally well regarded, seen as informational, and worth reading. But a digital schism exists.
Because the membership is seemingly evenly divisible by “savvy” and “not” with technology, many newsletter readers prefer to print the newsletter. Which is why it’s sent as a PDF. But we don’t know if it’s because they prefer the printed page, or if it’s because the PDF is hard to read on a screen. But we have a plan to figure that out and do what’s best for the readers.
Starting in January we’re going to publish an email each month with links to the website on all new stories and newsletter articles. New stories will also filter on to the website that may never make it into the newsletter. The goal is to flip the “newsletter first” mentality to be “website early and first”. We’re also planning to produce a PDF document that is more highly designed and easily printable. Members will receive an email that has all the content digitally, but also a link at the top that says, “View this as a PDF document”. We can track the readership and click rates and see what members prefer to do. As soon as we see an opportunity to drop the PDF, we will. If people seem to prefer the PDF, we’ll still with that and turn our attention to a more appropriate printable piece.
Growth plans for local chapters
We’re writing articles, managing updates, and will begin rolling out new websites for each of the remaining local chapters in early 2015. Once all the chapters are online it’s our hope that each can become a self-sustaining network where content is funneled up and shared across the state and nation.
A look at other AHU chapters around the country, especially at the state level, suggests we have every reasonable opportunity to become the best, most well-designed, most-read AHU chapter in the country. With the launch of the new ISAHU website at inahu.org, the ball’s rolling.