Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Managed correctly, content marketing can enable nonprofits to take their brand storytelling to new, measurable heights.

I recently had the pleasure of exhibiting at the American Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Florida Caucus’ annual event called Planet Philanthropy.

One of the hot topics there was Content Marketing (CM). At Consonant Custom Media we know a thing or two about CM, and we help nonprofit organizations maximize their storytelling every day.

While at the conference, I was pleased to find that the current issue of AFP’s own magazine, Advancing Philanthropy, included a great story by Elaine Fogel about how nonprofits can use CM to engage their donors more effectively. Many nonprofits think they always have to be asking for donations. Sure, they do, but it’s “how” they do it, and even more importantly, the “why” that matters.

The wonderful thing about CM – as in Branding – is that if you ask 12 different people what it is, you’ll get just as many different definitions. For the record, I define CM as a conversation. By offering valuable content – the kind that is conversational, human and doesn’t constantly try to sell you – nonprofits can set themselves apart as thought leaders and experts, planting the seeds of future donor relationships, getting the conversation started and keeping it going.

In her story, Elaine offers 5 tips for using content marketing effectively, and I’m going to give you my two-cents’ worth on each…

1. Develop a CM strategy:
Great, that’s very important. You need a blueprint.

2. Ensure metrics are based on desired outcomes:
That’s smart. Decide what you will measure – and how. That way, everyone will know whether the CM strategy is paying off, and how to make adjustments going forward.

3. Use well-written, high-quality content:
On the surface, this one was music to my ears. After all, at CCM we’re all about creating high quality content. However, Elaine suggests that in-house staff can be trained to write high quality content. Perhaps they can be, as it applies to SEO, but let’s face it – most people are just not good writers. And in-house training, however well-intentioned, is rarely successful because the time to train the already overworked staff simply cannot be found.  

4. Coordinate your content:
It makes perfect sense that CM themes, topics, etc. should follow your organization’s events and fundraising and marketing campaigns. That’s why you develop an editorial calendar that takes all of this into consideration and allows time for relevant content to be developed around your key events and activities.

5. Assign a CM gatekeeper/overseer:
Here’s where you need to be careful. To ensure content is accurate, free of grammatical errors (see Tip #3) and avoid duplication, there should be a gatekeeper/overseer. But that’s what we call an Editor. As brands become more like publishers (see my previous post about how Banana Republic is doing this) the Editor’s job is crucial. Without the efforts of this essential player, your CM team could be in for major embarrassment, or worse.

For some, or all, of these important CM strategies, consider working with an outsource team. That will give you access to very highly experienced talent – writing, editing, design, project management, etc. – without having to overburden your in-house team or hire additional staff.