Posts Tagged ‘The Nonprofit Marketing Guide’

What’s a reasonable amount of content to produce?

This was originally published on Kivi Leroux Miller’s Nonprofit Communications Blog on her site, Nonprofit Marketing Guide.com.

I just took another look at the preliminary results from our 2013 Nonprofit Communications Trends survey and “lack of time to produce quality content” is the biggest challenge nonprofit communicators are facing, with almost 52% of the 300+ who have taken the survey picking that answer out of a list of a dozen choices.

This begs the question, “What is a reasonable amount of quality content to expect from a nonprofit communicator?”

What’s reasonable for you will be way too much for some and way too little for others. Figuring out what’s reasonable depends on several factors.

How ambitious your goals are. How many different kinds of target audiences are you trying to reach? Program participants or supporters or both? And with how many different messages and calls to action? How quickly and to what extent are you trying to increase turnout or raise money? Limiting the target audiences and the things you want them to do (your calls to action) is the first thing I recommend to overworked communications staff because these two factors have such a huge ripple effect on everything else.

The role of content marketing in achieving those goals. Just how important is the content you produce to achieving those goals? For example, if you are trying to establish your organization as an expert on a topic, be seen as the go-to source of news in your field, or build a grassroots network of citizen advocates, then you are going to need to create a lot more content than a nonprofit that provides direct social services to clients who show up at the door primarily via a strong referral network and word of mouth.

The level of resources available to implement the plan. If you don’t have the staff capacity, including time and talent, along with adequate financial resources to get the work done, then your goals are unreasonable. Plain and simple. Too many nonprofits create pie in the sky plans that they don’t back up with resources. That often creates negative situations where (1) everyone knows the plan is a farce, and so there is little accountability for anything or (2) people are essentially branded as failures even when they do their very best work. It’s certainly fine for a plan to have”stretch” goals, but only if everyone understands the difference between stretching and breaking.

The difficulty of the topic and the storytelling. Some nonprofits do really complicated, technical work that takes awhile to understand and translate into plain English. Others do highly personal work that requires a very careful, deliberate touch. In certain fields and in certain situations, it simply takes longer to tell the story. This is especially true if your communications staff members are not really fluent on the program side of things.

I know, I still haven’t answered the question: What’s a reasonable amount of content?

Here’s one example of what feels like a reasonable list of work for one generic communications person, not including all the other stuff that comes along with a full-time job, like attending meetings or conference calls that are only tangentially related to work, all the various reporting you have to do, dealing with incoming calls and email, office drama, fire drills(real and imagined), your turn to clean the lunch room, etc.

This assumes a good deal of repurposing of content between channels.

    A monthly e-newsletter

    Print communications, 4–6 times a year (maybe a short newsletter, or event marketing, or an appeal letter)

    Blog or website update, weekly

    Social media updates, at least once a day

    An annual report

    A few special projects over the course of the year (e.g. producing a special report or guidebook).

    See also:

    Content Marketing for Nonprofits: A Communications Map for Engaging Your Community, Becoming a Favorite Cause and Raising More Money

    The Nonprofit Marketing Guide

     

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    Engaging hearts and minds

    Yesterday I experienced the equivalent of a “runner’s high,” except that my legs weren’t moving and my arms weren’t pumping. In fact, I sat very still and engaged my…ears. This wasn’t a calorie burning adventure; instead, it was an adventure of the mind.

    I sat between two very inspirational nonprofit organizations during a session led by Perla Ni, CEO of Great Nonprofits, about the importance of great storytelling. Perla said, “The nonprofit sector is very fortunate when it comes to storytelling. You don’t need million dollar commercial budgets to create stories that make burgers or cars feel exciting. You are nonprofit organizations and you have many noble and compelling stories about the people and the causes you serve.”

    Perla asked each of us to tell our own story to one another during a table exercise. While my mind spins and my pulse quickens when I can help a nonprofit leader with a helpful book or best practice on my website, my story was merely the warm-up act for the organizations that were at my table. On my left were Micklina and Mike with Community of Sudanese & American Women/Men, an organization dedicated to helping survivors of the Sudanese genocide, and on my right were Emily and Lisa with CASA Child Advocates, a nonprofit that gives a voice to children in court when neglect and abuse is involved.

    Though each one of us has a compelling story to tell, there are specific strategies you can act on that will help it spread and grow. Here are some take-away thoughts from speaker, Perla Ni:

    How to get started with integrating good storytelling in your organization from Demonstrating Your Impact: Engaging Hearts and Minds:

    A good story will include a protagonist, a problem and overcoming the problem (sometimes, not overcoming the challenge).

    Consider the personal stories you have about your organization’s impact from the perspective of an individual client, staff member, volunteer or member in the community.

    Who tells the story is important: 90 percent trust product recommendations from friends, 70 percent trust recommendations from online consumer recommendations, (Nielson, 2009) and only 6 percent believe in advertisement claims (Forrester, 2009).

    Think about how you can back up this story with data you have that relates to the program or setting where your story takes place. If you don’t have the data, engage a local university student who is interested in a research project.

    If you have multiple programs about which you can share stories, choose two or three that highlight your strongest program. Those stories will eventually shed light on the other programs.

    Develop those two or three stories and circulate them at the board and staff levels so they are shared consistently. Don’t be afraid of telling and re-telling on many platforms such as annual reports, brochures, email campaigns, and social media in particular because of networks’ potential, such as Facebook and Twitter, to spread your story more quickly and efficiently. Include photos and video whenever possible.

    Listeners will need to hear a story, on average, eight times before they sink in. In cases where direct quotes are involved, do not correct grammar. The idea is to maintain the authenticity of the storyteller’s voice.

    Though funders may limit proposals (i.e. foundations) to specific Q &A or data, use the site visit as an opportunity to share stories.

    In the case of public policy, bring the storyteller to the legislative session if possible. If you don’t have a good storytelling prospect within your organization, enlist a peer organization for help.

    See also:

    Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications Blog for posts about storytelling

    More information about Kivi’s book, The Nonprofit Marketing Guide, which includes a chapter on storytelling

    Download an executive summary of Kivi’s book to learn more about what’s inside The Nonprofit Marketing Guide

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    Add storytelling to your job description

    Kivi Leroux Miller, author of The Nonprofit Marketing Guide, tells us to add storytelling our job descriptions. Why? Based on research cited in her new book, Leroux Miller claims that storytelling is a terrific way to get your audience to respond to your call to action.

    Six qualities make up a good story, according to the author:

    1. Keep it short (try for 500 words or for video, two minutes)
    2. Be straightforward (avoid tangents because they will detract from your story)
    3. Be personal (your stories should be about specific people and limit the number of people in your story)
    4. Be authentic (people connect with stories that ring true—don’t write about perfect people!)
    5. Include conflict or imperfections (these elements bring stories to life)
    6. End with a message (make sure your message is clear)

    You can find fresh story ideas by interviewing your receptionist, clients, and supporters; updating a newsletter or blog archive; checking the headlines and seeing what’s relevant to your cause; looking at your desk calendar or Chase’s Calendar of Events to see which national holidays pertain to your nonprofit; writing detailed articles about the key phrases people use to search for your site; reviewing trade news aggregators; getting interview ideas from event programs; or reviewing Twitter, SlideShare or social bookmarking sites like Delicious, Digg and StumbleUpon.

    Leroux Miller makes such a strong case for storytelling in her book that we decided to ask her about it in our author interview:

    CausePlanet: Your section on storytelling is very tactical and helpful for readers. In that section you discuss the wide variety of applications for storytelling. Is there ever the case of “too much of a good thing,” or should nonprofit leaders look for every opportunity to tell a story?

    KLM: Storytelling is so undervalued and underused by nonprofits that I wouldn’t worry about overdoing it. Instead, I’d work on writing stories of different lengths from just a few sentences to several paragraphs, so you have something that works in many different venues. Leroux Miller goes on to say in her book that “stories are a nonprofit’s goldmine and if you are not using storytelling as an essential element in your nonprofit marketing and communications, you are robbing yourself of one of the most effective tools available to you.”

    Learn more about Leroux Miller’s book, The Nonprofit Marketing Guide, or Page to Practice book summary.

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    Leroux Miller and marketing: Social media and surprises

    There has never been a shortage of one-person marketing departments or small budgets in the nonprofit sector. Technology and social media have presented marketers with a groundswell of inexpensive, if not free, opportunities to promote, publicize and organize on behalf of their nonprofit organizations.

    While the juxtaposition of these two forces would seem to solve marketing budget problems, these forces actually have created feelings of angst and loss of control for traditional marketers. The fact that all generations (yes, that means seniors too) are represented online is a call to action for everyone still waffling about integrating marketing and social media.

    It’s an exciting time for nonprofit marketing professionals and your marketing plans are waiting for you to dust them off and put The Nonprofit Marketing Guide to good use. This month we’re delighted to feature Kivi Leroux Miller’s book and have excerpted our author interview:

    CausePlanet: The Nonprofit Marketing Guide is fresh and insightful. What inspired you to write this book?

    Leroux Miller: I’ve worked as a communications department of one for going on twenty years, as a nonprofit staff member, board member, volunteer and consultant. I had to learn how to do that on my own for the most part, because while there are books on marketing or fundraising, they are written for large, well-funded organizations or are too academic. As I was struggling to figure out how to do nonprofit communications without a lot of staff or resources, I vowed to someday write the book for people in the same situation. So that’s what I did!

    CausePlanet: One of your passages cites a GettingAttention.org survey that found only 37% of nonprofits measure the effectiveness of their efforts. This was surprising in light of how important it is for nonprofits to make their budget dollars count. What surprises you most about nonprofit marketing today?

    Leroux Miller: That’s a tough question! I guess I’d say that what surprises me most is how undervalued marketing still is. As I discuss in the book, marketing is really integral to everything from delivering the right programs to the right people, to raising the money to pay your staff well. It’s not just about having a newsletter or a Facebook page. I wish more nonprofits really understood the impact of good marketing on implementing their missions–and how much harder they make it on themselves when they don’t value marketing.

    Learn more about Leroux Miller’s book, The Nonprofit Marketing Guide, or Page to Practice book summary.

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    Finding time is the new hitch

    One of my colleagues came to a social media workshop where I presented highlights from a book we featured in 2007 called Citizen Marketers. Her question afterward struck a chord with me because it reminded me of how I felt when I started experimenting on Twitter. She asked me “How am I going to find time for social networking when I’ve got an overwhelming schedule already?”

    I think this is how a lot of us felt early on until we started to hear from authors like Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell of Citizen Marketers or more recently, from Beth Kanter and Allison Fine of The Networked Nonprofit.

    We began to connect the dots and realize that because social media presented a world of opportunity if we were willing to make time and strategically incorporate our online networking into the way we already do business. And, that social networking could boost our outcomes in many areas like fundraising, public relations, constituency communication, and advocacy.

    And even those of us who try to keep the time we spend online at bay, more myths are debunked about social media, including just how many of us are online. More recently, my sister got involved in a community emissions campaign to increase carpooling and asked “Can I really use social media to reach all ages?”

    In Kivi Leroux Miller’s new book, The Nonprofit Marketing Guide she says “The biggest increase in Internet use between 2005 and 2008 was within the seventy- to seventy-five-year-old age group and the gap between their usage and other generations is closing quickly.” So it’s time to embrace all that social media can accomplish for nonprofits—even if it requires finding the time. In the spirit of those who are still hedging, I’ve included an excerpt of this month’s Page to Practice™ where Beth Kanter and Allison Fine talk about taking the first step in social media and how they got started as early adopters.

    CausePlanet: What advice do you have for readers who are under-resourced and over-extended but want to take the first step toward social media?

    Kanter and Fine: They have already started. Everyone has a website, is using email and cell phones. Many are reading blog posts and have set up an account on Facebook. One important first step, and an easy one, is to start to systematically listen to what others are saying about your issue and your organization. Listening includes reading blogs, following influencers on Facebook and Twitter and reading what they say and the articles that they link to. Then an organization can decide what it wants to say online and for what purpose. It does not have to be terribly time-consuming to get started, but it helps tremendously to be purposeful.

    CausePlanet: Rather than try to use all social media avenues, you make the point of choosing which work best for you personally. Which tools appealed to each of you when you began working heavily in social media and why?

    Fine: We were both early adopters, so at that time, five years ago or so, blogs were the way into social media. I still blog, but my favorite channel of the moment is Twitter because it’s so easy to get in and out. My key influences (like Beth!) save me huge amounts of time by pointing out interesting articles and blog posts, and 140 characters forces everyone to just get to the point!

    Kanter: When I first got started, I took on one tool at a time and lived in it until it was second nature. I tend to gravitate toward visual tools because I’m a visual thinker. One of my favorites is Flickr, especially because I do a lot of presentations and I find the creative commons licenses photos really valuable.

    Learn more about The Networked Nonprofit or our Page to Practice book summary.

    See also:

    Measuring the Networked Nonprofit

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