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.
Here’s a scenario: Jane, a senior writer for a small social enterprise, recently hired a talented junior writer, Chris. Jane was really impressed by Chris’ skills and background, and she came out of the recruitment process with great expectations for what Chris could do for her organization. A few months later however, Jane finds that the strength of Chris’ writing as it relates to the organization’s industry is significantly wanting. What should she do?
Writing for the Content Marketing Institute blog, Joe Griffin offers three strategies that managers can use to help their writers become industry experts quickly and effectively:
1. Help them know what they don’t know
“Before writers can effectively craft that first sentence, they need to know their boundaries. They need to know their audience. And most importantly, they need to know what big conversations are happening in the particular field,” says Griffin.
Ensure that new writers develop a good understanding of your industry and relevant themes and topics they will be writing about, before their writing assignments begin. Griffin suggests that someone on the team prepares a primer of industry information or a list of answers to key industry questions for the writer at the onset of a project.
Other good ideas, particularly for nonprofits, could include getting your writer to participate in industry workshops, events or field missions, where they can engage more closely with specialists, project managers and communities. These activities have certainly helped me rapidly improve my understanding of the themes and approaches that I have written about during my nonprofit career.
2. Supply a list of competitors to watch and study
“Quite a few content writers make the mistake of trying to establish themselves as thought leaders before taking a page out of the real thought leaders’ playbooks,” says Griffin.
Invest more time in researching who the top thought leaders are in your industry. This can include getting someone in your team to make a list of the top 10 most-viewed writers in your field on Medium or LinkedIn, or a spreadsheet of the most prominent voices on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and other digital platforms. You could also utilize keyword research to find the most dominant bloggers or organizations in your industry, and have content writers listen to the top industry-relevant podcasts on iTunes.
Griffin adds: “At the end of the day, being a content marketer is a game of attention and value. For content writers to help a brand stand out among the competition, they have to deliver more value than anyone else in that space. The only way they will be able to deliver more is when they know who is currently setting the bar and how.”
3. Teach them to measure and adjust based on performance
“Every content writer should, on some level, be an analyst,” says Griffin.
Writers need to measure their performance and success over the long term, in order to improve, adapt and ensure that their work is providing value.
In addition to nurturing the art of writing, managers must also promote the value of setting targets and monitoring and evaluating performance through data gathering and analytics.
Griffin adds: “Data can tell a writer if people are reading or not, if people are engaging or not. Data can help writers know whether their work resonates with the target audience.”
Reflecting on the strategies
Griffin emphasizes that in utilizing these three strategies, managers and mentors should focus less on teaching and more on guiding their writers’ learning process so that they continue to educate themselves. “A great content writer is not so much taught but empowered,” he adds.
Griffin also points out that these strategies are not just for nurturing junior content writers. Smart and successful content writers that consider themselves industry experts “continue to cycle through these steps, always looking for what they don’t know, always keeping an eye on the competition, and always measuring their performance over the long term.”
Featured image: home thods, Flickr Creative Commons