Brande Nicole Martin



It is challenging for people to change the way in which they have worked for many years and to recognize that digital content experts are subject matter experts in their discipline.

Director, Digital Publishing, American Medical Association

Chicago, Illinois

The American Medical Association


How did you get started in content strategy?

Years ago, I came across a book called “Content Strategy for the Web” by Kristina Halvorson. After I read through this book, I thought “voilà”: I had been practicing elements of content strategy for most of my career.

In my early career, I worked in journalism and in editorial positions, focusing on writing and editing for medical journals and general interest newspapers. The rise of digital came about and gave me a new world to explore. I dabbled in Javascript, JAVA, PHP computer programming and other scripting languages and started along my path toward the blend of content and technology to create and design websites.

Working at the American Dental Association as a web manager of editorial services, I had the opportunity to partner with multiple stakeholders across the organization who were producing content for the website. They focused on two target audiences, dental patients and dental and allied professionals, so this is where I learned how to begin customizing content for different goals and customer journeys and to assess data to inform content direction.

Then, I spent 7 years in news and editorial management at Medscape, part of WebMD, and later worked at the College of American Pathologists. I was fully immersed in content strategy and content marketing when the digital industry had begun to view these as disciplines in which we leveraged in leading our digital direction.

Currently, I am at the American Medical Association and as we continue to evolve our website as part of our digital transformation, I have increased my involvement in search engine optimization strategies and applications to support our content strategy and marketing efforts.  

All of my experience thus far has culminated into being involved with all areas of content strategy: content creation, modeling and management systems, audience/persona development, and governance and workflow.

You deal with a B2B audience of physicians, residents and medical students. What sort of challenges are unique to that audience and how do you deal with them?

Creating content for these audiences is only unique in that you are producing information for a highly educated and specialized audience compared with the general public.

The same principles apply in developing a content strategy for physicians, residents, and medical students. We have to provide a customer experience on our website and digital properties that gives our audience content and information that meets their user needs and aligns to our goals and mission of our organization. We must use metrics to monitor engagement and drive content decision-making.

The challenges relate more to keeping pace to produce quality content and determine the best ways to present and distribute content. Should the content created be a web page, infographic, video, or combination? Do you use the website, email or social channel to get content to the users? We want to create content that attracts our audience and engages them to return to find products and services that give them solutions to manage their careers.

The AMA has undergone 2 major website redesigns in the past 4 years. Could you tell us a little bit about that, specifically 3 areas? What was the impetus for these initiatives? 

When I joined the organization in 2015, the goals were to do a complete overhaul of the website as part of the overarching initiative to shift the organization into a digital-first mindset. Our senior leadership had the vision to begin a digital transformation of our website, other digital platforms and systems and products.

I was responsible for leading a team to perform content audits, rework content based on audience needs, set up an editorial workflow/governance, integrate basic on-page SEO tactics and to partner with our design and IT teams to set up new templates and migrate to a new content management system, respectively.   

By remaining agile and leveraging our metrics, we redesigned the website again in 2018, changing the site to become a media-based platform. We want to stay current with the digital marketplace, and our senior leadership has paved the way for us to do that through our overall digital strategy.  

We want to reach our target audiences more effectively through digital experiences and center on delivering a customer experience that puts AMA at the forefront as the primary go-to source for physicians, residents and medical students throughout their medical careers.

Did you encounter stakeholder resistance to the redesigns and content strategy, and if so, how did you address it?

Yes, my team and I received a lot of stakeholder resistance across the 15+ business units that produce content for the website when we initiated the redesign. It is challenging for people to change the way in which they have worked for many years and to recognize that digital content experts are subject matter experts in their discipline. The ways that I have addressed it include: (1) respecting the stakeholder’s frustration and uncertainty about the changes, (2) listening and understanding their point of view, (3) explaining why the changes are occurring and how it can benefit and enhance their work, (4) relying on organizational goals and objectives as the foundation for the changes, (5) upholding the organizational standards and digital best practices, and (6) building a relationship with the stakeholder, keeping them informed, showing them examples, and being transparent throughout the process.

Having a blend of compassion, respect, directness and resilience helps in working through change management endeavors with resistant stakeholders.

What kind of results have you seen from it?

With the first redesign, the main result was establishing a more stable CMS for content editors to perform content publishing. This gave us a better foundation from which to iterate for our next phase in the transformation. Our content strategy evolved as well for the 2018 site, and we are seeing an uptick in traffic coming to the site with the media-forward approach along with our focus on improving our SEO strategies to make content more discoverable.

The AMA migrated to a new content management system (CMS). Can you tell us a little about how that newfound speed and flexibility allows AMA to react to market changes and better engage its audience?

In close partnership with our IT team, we selected Drupal as our new content management system, and it has allowed the digital content and editorial teams more flexibility to produce content and build web pages quickly. As the market fluctuates, we can transition more rapidly with designing new templates and adding any plug-ins, allowing us to ultimately meet our customer’s needs.