For all types of organizations, repurposing content – that is, repackaging and continuing to gain value from previously developed and published content – makes good business sense. You can’t create original content at all times, and your audience needs to hear your key messages regularly for them to be really engaged with your work. In addition, repurposing is especially useful for nonprofits, given limited resources. Creating original content can be very time consuming, not to mention expensive. Read more
Live video, interactive content and social media are great, but when it comes to building a loyal following, look no further than the humble newsletter. Writing for the Content Marketing Institute, Mark Walker sums up the strengths of the newsletter nicely:
“For senders, newsletters are a powerful way to stay top of mind with readers, providing a direct route to getting their attention. The best newsletters — the ones readers value the most — get an almost automatic open because readers want to see what goodness is inside that day.”
With that said, how can you create a newsletter that gets opened every time you send it? Walker offers these eight strategies:
1. Go super curated
There’s an overabundance of information out there, which means that the truly high-quality content might get lost in the crowd if it is not marketed well enough. Curate unique content from around the web to really stand out.
2. Let your personality shine
As Walker notes, “newsletters feel inherently more personal”. Stay true to that personal feel by letting your personality shine through with a unique tone, anecdotes, personal stories and observations, and humour.
3. Offer value
What benefit do people get from your newsletter that they can’t find elsewhere? How does your newsletter positively impact on people’s lives? Offer value.
4. Make it personalized
Personalize your content based on your readers’ behaviours and preferences. This will likely require research and comprehensive audience analysis, but it’s worth it.
5. Keep it fresh but focused
Ensure that your newsletter consistently provides quality content on a specific field, so that your newsletter is considered a reliable source and authority on that field. But this doesn’t mean you can’t include new, fresh and unique examples and perspectives in each edition, while still staying true to your focus.
6. Go niche
“Newsletters, perhaps more than any other format, allow you to go really niche,” says Walker. “[You] don’t need huge audiences for your newsletter to be valuable, you just need the right people — those who care and who are engaged.” Enough said.
7. Be exclusive
Getting people to pay for your newsletter — even if you’re a nonprofit — could be an effective approach. As Walker notes, “most people tend to be more committed to things they’ve made an investment in, particularly a financial one”.
Nonprofits can ask readers to pay a small subscription fee that will go towards a social change programme that the organization supports. Reports, testimonials and human interest stories can be shared periodically in the newsletter itself, to update subscribers on what their funds have helped achieve.
However, any organization taking this route — nonprofit or otherwise — must ensure that their newsletter offers strong value for money.
8. Keep it pure
Newsletters offer a “chance to have a pure, honest conversation with your readers, and if they appreciate it, they’ll reward you by opening up your newsletter each time it’s sent,” says Walker. He adds: “You don’t have to write with SEO in mind or in a click-bait way to rise above the noise on social media.”
Truer words were never spoken. Newsletters can be a great platform for passionate writers to flex their writing and creative muscles, while promoting their organization as truly authentic.
Featured image: Dennis Skley, Flickr Creative Commons
Here’s a quick scenario: a nonprofit communications department realizes that its organization’s website lacks engaging stories, a key element to any effective communications strategy. “We need more stories!” declares the communications manager.
Following this declaration, the senior communications officer quickly tasks Bob the intern with writing an engaging piece. Bob, new to the nonprofit writing game, is somewhat perplexed: “Where do I start?”, he asks himself.
Bob should start by asking one important question: “What do I want this story to achieve?”
Before writing any nonprofit story, or any story for that matter, it’s essential to clarify the objective of the story. Is it to mobilize funds? To raise awareness about your organization’s mission or strategy? To get people engaged on social media? To get people to volunteer, vote or attend your event?
Whatever the reason, the story will be made all the more effective if the purpose is clarified from the start, including how it ties in to your overall communications and content strategies.
If the purpose of the story isn’t clear, and if it does not fit into the grander scheme of things (i.e. your strategies), you shouldn’t be writing it. Writing aimlessly prevents you from writing well and undermines what the story can achieve.
Writing for his Empower Nonprofits blog, Jeremy Koch explains how this can negatively impact on your audience:
“Put simply, if you don’t know what you want your audience to do after listening to your story then they’re not going to know what to do either.”
Read Koch’s article to explore three ways in which the intention of your story impacts how you tell your story, and why this matters.
Are you currently developing, reviewing or delivering a nonprofit communications strategy? If you’re thinking about the type of strategy you need, check out these tips. If you’re looking to take your communications strategy to the next level of effectiveness, consider the 10 tips below. They’re all sourced from a Gaurdian article on the importance of communication in aid work and how to get it right.
1. People engage best with people, not abstract issues
Use case studies, testimonials and human interest stories to illustrate your issue in a real, accessible and relevant way.
2. Communicate the difference people can make
Rather than only focusing on the negative aspects of the problem, show that it is possible to address the problem and communicate what each audience member can do to help address it.
3. Find a private sector partner
Find an influential company that can act as your champion, so it can push your cause among peers.
4. Strategic communications can change policy
Aim for policy change by advocating for your cause in the media and amongst politicians. Policy change is one of the most tangible ways to achieve your social development goals. For example, the UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report team engaged with Pakistani press and politicians to advocate for education in the country. This contributed to the Government finding more funds for education and passing the free education bill.
5. Monitor everything
Speaking of monitoring, continually monitoring your progress and impact can help you generate a clear picture of what’s working and what’s not. You will then be able to make informed and effective adjustments to your strategy and use the positive monitoring data for stakeholder engagement and advocacy.
6. Know your audience
By clearly identifying your audience and understanding their behaviours, you can tailor your strategy and messages to best suit their needs.
7. Shift from compassion to solidarity campaigning
Move from convincing your audience to feel sorry for those you are helping, to working together with those in need to improve our shared world. Move your audience from focusing on pity to championing empowerment; from “it’s sad, but I have my own problems” to “we’re all in this together.”
8. Select the relevant data
Data is essential for transparency and evidence-based advocacy. With that said, ensure that you use the right data that is consistent with your strategy and messages, to ensure maximum impact.
9. Do more with less by being inventive
If you’re a small NGO lacking in resources, you’ll want to remember this tip. Work with freelancers and pro bono communications specialists, and organize competitions among students to generate content. Leverage free social media platforms and strategic partnerships that are cost-effective.
10. Listen to people on the ground
Talk with the people you are working with and serving in your project sites. Listen to them to understand what the real problems/needs are. Then together with them, incorporate this feedback into your communications strategy. This will ensure that your strategy can be as effective and relevant as possible for your these top-priority stakeholders.
Many of us run blogs, write articles or manage social media for our organizations. In any of these scenarios, we may have been faced with – or may one day face – a situation where a reader responds with a negative comment on the content, or the organization or person responsible for the content. Comments can range from disgruntled, to scathing, to downright slanderous. How do you address negative comments? Here are seven tips, based on an article by Brian Appleton, published in the Content Marketing Institute blog.
1. Play it cool
Appleton reminds us that responding in the heat of the moment usually makes things worse. He adds: “Take the time to consider your reply and don’t jump to conclusions. First, consider the context of the complaint and then formulate a response.”
2. Understand your responsibility
Your responsibility first and foremost is to your target audience and stakeholders. They deserve the most attention and effort devoted to addressing a negative comment. “If the commenter isn’t part of your target market, don’t go overboard to appease him or her,” says Appleton. Address the issue in the most appropriate way given the context, and use the opportunity to showcase your brand in a positive light.
3. Resist the urge to go generic
What’s worse than ignoring a negative but valid comment? Responding with a generic statement. If your response is clearly copy-and-paste and is not customized to address the concern, you will further infuriate the commenter, and may even infuriate and frustrate other readers who up until then had a favourable view of your organization or work. You may lose supporters.
4. Identify hopeless interactions
In some cases, you may encounter commenters that you know you will not be able to reason with. These people include trolls – described by Appleton as “people who enjoy stirring up trouble by trying to provoke irrational or emotional responses” – or disgruntled stakeholders (for example, ex-employees or partners) who have a personal vendetta.
When dealing with slanderous comments, comments that your audience would deem offensive, or comments that could put your stakeholders in harm’s way, it is acceptable to hide or delete such feedback. In less damaging cases, you may choose to either: (a) directly respond to the comment in a professional manner that counters the claims with specific examples (such as links to articles, publications or data supporting your position); or (b) avoid unnecessary back-and-forth with the commenter by not directly responding to the comment but addressing it nonetheless in a separate post or statement. In this post or statement, you should also counter any negative claim made with evidence to support your position.
5. Block or ban (in rare circumstances)
In addition to hiding or deleting highly damaging feedback, it is also acceptable to block or ban specific commenters as a last resort. But before doing so, try to see if a peaceful resolution that preserves your brand’s integrity and addresses legitimate concerns is possible.
6. Respond kindly, not in kind
In all cases, remain professional. Do not resort to ‘fight fire with fire’ approach, mockery, or other inappropriate responses. You may gain some fans, but in the long run, this may damage some of your key stakeholder relationships, given that such responses will likely not be consistent with your brand – the brand the your stakeholders know and trust.
Instead, make a real effort to truly understand the issue at hand, and the actual/underlying intent of the comment. “Once you think you understand how the message was intended, you can craft an appropriate response,” says Appleton. And remember: ensure that your response is professional and consistent with your brand.
7. Transform the conversation
“Turn a negative into a positive by changing the narrative and owning the experience,” says Appleton. For non-profits, this could mean using your response to acknowledge your failure and, more importantly, explain what you are doing to learn from and address the failure. In other cases, an author can own their mistake and unapologetically laugh about it with their audience. In all cases, always be transparent, accountable and true to your brand. By doing so, you will build trust and be more positively perceived by your audience.
Bonus tip: Prevention is the best medicine
“It’s always best to anticipate problems and address potential concerns before your content goes live,” adds Appleton. I couldn’t agree more. You can save yourself a lot of stress by putting in the work beforehand to anticipate and address issues and concerns. Some ideas include:
- Addressing potential issues that may be raised by readers in the content itself
- Banning offensive words in your social media channels, via the platform’s settings (such as on Facebook) or by sharing guidelines and codes of conduct
- Upholding your brand’s integrity, transparency and accountability in all facets of your work
- Working with all partners to ensure that your brand consistently delivers positive and impactful results
Using the above tips can help you address real concerns and issues in a way that satisfies your stakeholders, turn doubters and detractors into believers and followers, and enhances your overall brand perception. Good luck, and let me know if I’m missing any critical points in the comments section below. In a future post, I’ll explore other aspects of crisis communications, such as addressing negative press.