If you’re a nonprofit, you want more donors. Natch.
If you work in nonprofit, you feel overworked and underpaid. Natch.
So you think you don’t have time for new-fangled stuff like “content marketing.”
Not so fast.
What if I told you content marketing is a synonym for “relationship building?”
I hope that’s something you have time for!
If not, you won’t retain any of your donors. And you won’t build a sustainable funding base to assure your nonprofit’s survival.
So let’s talk about content marketing in this new light. In fact, I prefer to call it ‘social content marketing’. And if you want to stay in business in our increasingly networked world, you have to do it.
Why? The digital revolution has simply made electronic media (email, the internet, and social media) our ‘go-to’ place to socialize and connect with our fellow humans. If you’re not online, you’re going to miss out on a huge potential audience.
But just being online won’t cut it. If you think you’ve got it covered just because you’ve got a blog and Twitter and Facebook accounts, think again.
Coverage demands more than just implementation and delivery. It requires strategic thinking.
What kind of content are you feeding people?
The sad truth is that folks are so overwhelmed with content today that they simply don’t read most of it.
I know you’re pressed for time and resources. You certainly don’t want to waste them. So I’m not here to pile more on your plate. Instead, I’m here to make sure you’re not serving up hard-to-digest stuff. You want to assure you’re offering up the tasty morsels folks will really want to devour.
So let’s talk about some simple things you can do to make your content worth both your time and your reader’s time. How do you make your content tasty enough that folks will bite?
10 Quick Tips to Create and Deliver Worthwhile Content:
- Give folks something they really want or need; solve their problems.
This is probably the most important tip of all. Take it to heart. Big time.
Recently I wrote about Why Nonprofit Content Marketing Should Help; Not Sell. I quoted marketing strategist Jay Baer, author of Youtility. Here’s one of his mantras:
“Smart marketing is about help, not hype. If you’re wondering how to make your company seem more exciting, you’re asking the wrong question. You’re not competing for attention only against other similar products. You’re competing against your customers’ friends and family and viral videos and cute puppies. To win attention these days you must ask a different question: “How can we help?”
Stop thinking of the fundraising process so much as “selling” something (something you’re worried your prospect may not really want to buy) and make the shift towards thinking of it as “helping” folks feel happy and find meaning and real joy.
This means stepping into your donors’ minds and hearts. What concerns them? What do they yearn for? What do they care about?
I’ll tell you what they don’t care about.They don’t care about:
- Your new board president.
- Your new staff member.
- Your latest award.
- Your recent grant.
Before creating content, ask yourself “What’s in this for them?”
I like to think about giving folks either delightful little gifts (fun stuff) or solutions to their problems (useful stuff).
A delightful gift might be a reading list; recipe; recommended activities; a fun quiz or game; an amusing video or an inspiring quote.
A solution to their problem might be something that makes their life easier. Maybe they have infants and want tips to keep them safe, and you’re a human services organization. Maybe they want to be a better recycler, and you’re an environmental organization. Maybe they want ideas of what to do on the weekend, and you’re a local arts organization.
No matter how mundane someone’s problems may be, if you can help to solve them they’ll appreciate you. Why do you think Amazon gives you recommendations of other books you might like when you purchase one from them? It makes your search for a good read easy. Who has time to do their own research? Problem solved!.
- Include one clear call to action.
If you really want your content to matter, it has to persuade people to act. If you can get people involved with you, you’re building that relationship that will keep them involved with you. So never send out a piece of content that simply lands with a thud.
Think about what you want folks to think, feel and do. Maybe it’s simply to share your content with their networks. Or click a link to sign a petition. Or attend an event. Or join your mailing list. Or possibly even make a donation right then and there!
- Make it readable.
People skim. Keep it brief. Avoid jargon. If it’s a blog post or e-news article, keep it to one column with a clean design. Vary your sentence structure; change it up with one-word sentences and feel free to break some rules.
- Incorporate feedback opportunities so you can better understand your audience.
This is related to Tip #1. If you don’t continually ask your readers what interests them, it’s difficult to offer them stuff they want or need. It’s pretty obvious, but few nonprofits really listen to their constituents. If you do, they’ll notice.
- Make it easy to share.
What makes content market even more worthwhile is getting your content disseminated beyond your current constituency. It’s relatively easy to incorporate elements that make your content shareable. Among these are share buttons, pinnable images and visuals. Seriously, this makes a huge difference. I can’t tell you how often I’ve wanted to share something sent to me from a nonprofit, but couldn’t find an easy way to do so without a bunch of copying/pasting.
- Repurpose content.
You can use the same content, differently, over multiple channels. A blog post, for example, can be fodder for a dozen different tweets. A grant proposal can be rewritten as an e-news article. You don’t need to keep coming up with new ideas. Just get the great ideas you’ve already got out there. They’ll seem fresh and new to your readers (remember, they don’t come close to opening up everything you send to them).
- Get organized with a content calendar.
Part content strategic plan and part publishing schedule, it’s the foundation of strategic content marketing. Truly a content calendar is an essential relationship-building tool that keeps you focused and timely. You commit to content having a consistent presence, so your audiences can commit to looking for you, reading you and sharing you with their friends. Plus it gives purpose and structure to your creativity.
- Create a story bank to collect great material on an ongoing basis.
Storytelling is the most powerful messaging tool available to you. Human beings are wired for stories, so it’s the type of content folks are more likely to read and share. Too many nonprofits try to persuade people with facts. Guess what? This doesn’t work well. Feelings first, facts later.
If you can’t engage your audiences through storytelling, whatever you’re trying to accomplish will wither and die. So even if your message doesn’t start out as a story, find one to tell. Then wrap your message in a story your audience will find stimulating and relevant.
- Create a visuals bank.
No doubt you’ve heard “a picture is worth a thousand words.” When it comes to shareability, it’s really true! Research shows that people process visual imagery 60,000x faster than text. They also share more. Buffer reports that on Twitter alone, tweets with images are retweeted 150% more than those without visuals!
Experts agree you’ll see significant increases in traffic, social media engagement, and visitor-to-lead conversion rates if you simply add photos and/or video to your content. Just embed them in your content.
And consider making greater use of social networks based purely on images. Today we have Snapchat, Instagram, and Pinterest — not to mention YouTube! So do yourself a huge favor and fill up your “bank” with compelling photos, videos, illustrations and infographics. You need to create a visual voice for your nonprofit. Just make sure the visuals you select are consistent with your brand and with the tastes of your audiences.
- Make a marketing plan.
Yes, you’ve got an editorial calendar. But that’s for calendaring content and delivery channels. Your plan is something broader. It’s where you determine your overall goals and objectives, your target markets and the strategies for reaching them. Content marketing and social media are among these strategies, but they’re not the only ones. There’s advertising, free media and events, for example. Your marketing plan helps to put social content marketing within a context that will take your organization where it needs to go.
ONE MORE TIP:
In the digital age you must meet customer expectations in three areas:
- Quality of content;
- How it is delivered, and
- How responsive you are.
Folks expect to get good, useful stuff from you. In an easy to read, easy-to-digest format, whether it arrives via desktop or mobile. Otherwise, it becomes a burden. It’s not helpful.
Folks don’t want to work to find you. If you deliver content through multiple channels, you’re more likely to enable folks to find you serendipitously. Don’t choose these channels randomly, however. Do some research (e.g., a simple survey) to discover where your audiences hang out.
Folks expect immediate responsiveness. That’s the way you build a relationship in the digital age. You’re no longer master/servant marketing at people. You’re peer/peer marketing with people.
Being quick and nimble means that everyone in your organization must be on the same page. Everyone needs to know and agree on your organization’s core values and your customer’s core passions. There can’t be just one person or one department responsible for creating and launching content and monitoring social media. It’s just too slow.
- If I’m a volunteer, I want to interact with my volunteer coordinator.
- If I’m a donor, I want to interact with development staff.
- If I’m a media outlet, I want to interact with marketing staff.
- If I’m a subscriber, I want to interact with the box office.
- If I’m a parent, I want to interact with the faculty.
And so forth. One media manager is a great idea (after all, all good processes must be managed to be effective because, as Peter Drucker said, “What gets managed gets measured”); but that manager must train and delegate to a cross-departmental team.
Does this all make sense? Please leave any comments in the space below.
And… put together some useful content, deliver it, so it’s easily accessible, and watch your engagement go through the roof!