Content Marketing for nonprofits: What does that mean?

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Rachel Bevel

What exactly is content marketing and what does it have to do with doing good in the world? Take a moment to check your inbox, and you may be surprised by the quantity of “content” from new and forgotten subscriptions — retailers, media outlets, nonprofits, politicians and experts in every field are constantly vying for our attention online.

For nonprofits, the most frequent (and frankly, necessary) forms of content are email newsletters and blog posts, usually combined with social media. And for any small organization, demonstrating your subject-matter expertise through a simple content strategy is one of the most effective and affordable ways to build trusting relationships online.

To connect effectively with your audience, nonprofit storytellers should have a basic understanding of the principles of content marketing. This is an area where the social sector can benefit from the advice of nonprofit marketing experts in the business world.

What can small organizations do to rise above the chaos of content overload?

For Good Cause Creative clients, the answer to this question always begins with our #1 rule: Do only what you can do well and consistently. Pam Turos, owner and managing editor, says, “Start with one tiny measurable goal. Share quality content on whichever platform you feel most comfortable and only as frequently as you know you can realistically keep up. Then, once you’ve published there regularly for an extended time, you’re ready to move on to the next goal. Your success will build on itself, just like any other habit or skill.”

Below are a few other key concepts shared by experts outside the non-profit sphere who have made quality content creation their life’s work.

1. Know Your Audience
To create well-written material, you have to know who you are trying to reach. The internet is a diverse space, catering to the needs of diverse consumers. Mommy blogs, travel blogs, finance and fashion blogs — each has a specific target, a particular reader in search of their expertise or services. The same rings true for nonprofit donors and supporters.

Lorraine Schuchart, founder and CEO of Prosper for Purpose, has more than a decade of experience in purpose-driven media and public relations. Schuchart believes that “you are only as successful as your ability to solve a problem for your clients or customers. You have to understand what they need and provide value.”

Creating audience personas is one way to ensure that you are clear in your messaging. The exercise requires imagining the name, age, and job title and demographics of your ideal audience. You can also do this by talking to your existing supporters or pulling information from a donor database. Then, when you create content, it should always be written with that person in mind. Audience persona also impacts where you decide to post content and what information you decide to share.

2. Change Your Perspective
Are you reading this article on a laptop or smartphone? Are you at work? At the gym? Are you riding the bus on your morning commute or eating lunch at your desk? These are all questions that Lisa Sands, publisher for Edible Cleveland ponders very seriously. Sands explains, “I like to think about my own behaviors and preferences when I write for others. I think about when they will be reading it and if they are likely to be rushed or if they will be taking their time.”

For instance, if your target audience is typically in a hurry, condense the main points into a list, and write brief straightforward sentences. Use images and photos to enhance your storytelling so that your audience grasps your message quickly.

3. Plan and Cram
Mya Eady, an experienced blogger, echoes Turos’ advice that you work from a simple plan. She recommends that you find “your niche and make a list of problems you can solve. Your list will become blog posts that you can later use. Then create a schedule that you can realistically stick to, and when you’re in a good flow for writing, write as many posts as you can.” This is also known as time-blocking, a time-management hack often used by entrepreneurs and small business owners who wear multiple hats.

Finally, keep in mind that high-quality content is a service or resource meant to improve the lives of its readers. Committing to a simple strategy for meaningful content creation is another important way to advance your organization’s mission through awareness building, advocacy, information sharing, and education.

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