By The CCM Team
A strong content marketing strategy can take your nonprofit organization to new levels of community engagement. What does that look like? It means more members of your communities discovering you, developing a greater understanding of your mission, and taking more of the actions you need them to take. The result is better, more cohesive branding, sustainable improvement in fundraising and more.
We know that “content marketing” is a vague and far-reaching term that encompasses all of the content you push out into the world in hopes of getting some results back: Feature stories, social media posts, blog posts, email campaigns, videos, case studies and white papers, op-eds and more. These tactics, along with authentic original storytelling, are crucial to the success of the modern nonprofit. In fact, research from the Content Marketing Institute found that almost all nonprofits use content marketing in some way. However, only about a quarter of those organizations said they had a documented content strategy. In other words, they have list of various tactics and to-do’s, but no map to guide them along a complicated journey.
A strong, documented strategy would allow them to maintain a much more cohesive and sustainable program.
Positioning and themes
Your content positioning, or the big idea you want to own for your audiences, can be a brief, one or two-sentence statement that articulates the point of your communications. For example, content positioning for a nonprofit in the charitable food sector, a food bank for instance, might be something like: “We understand the unique challenges of individuals and families faced with food insecurity and forced to choose between quality nutrition and other daily needs.”
Once you have your content positioning, you should identify the themes that will help you convey it. Outline the problem, cause, cure and consequence associated with your mission:
- The problem your organization exists to solve
- The cause, or the reason that problem exists
- The cure: What will solve the problem (typically this includes the work your organization is doing)
- The consequence: What will happen if the problem is not solved. The consequence can be framed as either positive or negative, depending on your organization’s ideal tone.
So, for our Food Bank, the outline might look like this:
Problem: Growing “food insecurity” among working class families.
Cause: Unemployment or underemployment, lack of availability of fresh, healthy food (food deserts) and other socio-economic factors.
Cure: Increase access to healthy food through food donations and improved distribution. Conduct and expand educational programs.
Consequence: More food insecurity, more families and individuals going without proper nutrition, chronic health problems such as obesity and diabetes
Your content themes will likely involve education about your organization’s specific problem and cause, information about your cure, or specific programs, and original, authentic stories highlighting the positive consequence of your work. So, your content themes may include:
- Analysis of data about food insecurity
- Published profiles of food bank beneficiaries and the impact the food bank has had on their lives
- Stories about trends in hunger – the “new faces” of hunger, and how outdated misperceptions about hunger in America are holding society back from solving a basic, pervasive problem.
- Key messages that describe what America would look like if hunger is allowed to persist
And finally, remember that beyond your organization’s content positioning and the overall themes you cover, you also have to define your “voice.” What are the feelings you want to evoke when contacts consume your organization’s content? Energized? Empowered? Empathetic? Angry? Hopeful? In your content marketing strategy, these nuances should be clearly identified, with specific examples.
Your voice and tone will need to be carried through every single one of your content channels by everyone who writes for them. It’s possible you may already have established this, as part of a style manual or in branding guidelines, but in most cases it does not exist.
Target stakeholder information
When developing your overall organizational strategy and/or your marketing strategy, you should have developed target stakeholder profiles or descriptions of your audiences for your organizationto use, just as you would specify “target audiences” in a marketing plan for a for-profit enterprise. These profiles are most often personified descriptions of the “average” person in a specific stakeholder group — informed by research — and they help you and your team understand that group’s demographics, psychographics and communication preferences.
For your content marketing strategy specifically, you should document:
- Each stakeholder’s “primary driver,” or the biggest reason why they’d get involved with your organization
- The communication channels that are most effective for reaching this stakeholder. This is based on demographics, media preferences and other considerations
- The messages or themes that will resonate with them most on each platform and at each stage in their relationship with your organization
Be sure to document all of the nuances and preferences for each of your target communities in your content marketing strategy. This will make the “roadmap” an even more useful tool.
Goals and channels
Next, decide where the best places to share those messages are based on stakeholder preferences and marketing goals. High-level content marketing goals include raising awareness, increasing engagement and encouraging action across audiences. In this chart, we’ve outlined some of the most common channels to achieve each of these goals:
Awareness: Research reports, white papers and eBooks, editorial content – op-eds, guest columns, etc., advertising
Engagement: Social media, newsletters, videos, blog posts, events, community impact reports
Action: Case for support, participant stories/case studies, direct asks
As you select your communication channels for each of your audiences, messages and themes, don’t forget to consider specific campaign goals and how the information shared on each of those channels can complement the others. Always consider how a new story about a donor or beneficiary, or a research report / white paper can be shared on social media or in email campaigns or mailings.
And determine which type of content is best for each channel and situation – original, contributed or curated. Contributed pieces can be very effective. Coming from a trusted advisor, donor or friend, they provide valuable third-party endorsement. So your plan should include an “ask” for these pieces (subject to your editing, of course).
Ultimately, the effectiveness and overall impact of your content marketing strategy should be continually measured. Include a Key Performance Indicators (KPI) dashboard in your content marketing strategy that is consistently updated and accessible by everyone on your team. It should include key metrics like social media followership and engagement, whitepaper or e-book downloads, website visits, email campaign reporting and anything else that’s worth tracking.
Make it a living document
Don’t be afraid to make changes to your content marketing strategy over time based on what gets results and what doesn’t. What you own in the minds of your audiences today may not be what you want or need to own tomorrow to achieve your mission.
Combine this strategic thinking and planning process with authentic, compelling, original storytelling and you have the recipe for sustainable success.
How can we help your nonprofit? Contact us to discuss your biggest content marketing/storytelling challenges.