#1: Establish and build consensus around content goals
The first step for non-profits to create value-generating content is framing and articulating succinct, public-facing answers to the critical questions that make up a non-profit organization: <Who, What, When, Where, Why, How>.
For people to care, the non-profit has to matter. The written "elevator pitch," if you will, needs to incite and/or inspire. Not only that, but consensus from the top down, — i.e. every person connected to the organization using the same language to incite and inspire — creates ever-important consistency, legitimacy, and authenticity.
Once written down, and after getting buy-in from the senior leadership / board of directors connected to the organization, use this specific language publicly, on your website, in emails, as well as continue to reiterate how in-field, on-the-ground, and rank & file team should describe the company.
Write down 1-3 sentence answers to the following before publishing content:
- What is the purpose of your organization? (your value)
- What is the reason your organization came into being? (your mission)?
- How will your organization change the future? (your vision)
- What is your organization's secret sauce? (what's unique about your people/team)
- Why would a journalist want to write about your non-profit? (your scoop)
- What is 1 inspiring story that exemplifies "what you do" and would encourage people/investors/partners/etc. to collaborate with you? (one end user / customer outcome that best demonstrates pragmatic human value + sincere emotional benefit)
- What would the best result if a widely-read journalist published your content (e.g. raise money, raise awareness, tell stories, etc.)?
- What's your approach to earning web traffic (for free) from Google Search?
- Is your near-term priority to reach more, or more impactful, donors?
One way to source answers to these questions is of course, ask your team. For maximum efficiency, assign a task force to create 2-5 MVP-level (i.e. "minimum viable product" level) answers to each of the nine questions (take that, Chat GBT). Employees can then select the option they feel best puts the company into writing.
- From there, take the specific multiple choice option that returned the highest percentage for each question, and then refine that answer down to the most succinct, 8th-grade reading level version you can (The New York Times famously writes for an 8th grade reading level). ¡Voila!, done.
For a small / burgeoning content operation, it’s important to start with goals and consensus around the goals. That creates consistency, which is important for creating top-of-mind awareness about your non-profit.
In addition, make an extra effort to refine or hone in on the proper scope — it's not feasible nor effective to move forward with every content strategy at once. Focus wins.
#2: Determine how you can "fish where the fish are"
Depending on your goal, you may want to first focus on only a few of these arenas:
The best way to determine what fish you're going after is to write a rich target audience description. Write at least 8 sentences (more writing, I know — but that's the 🔑 ) about a specific person who represents a large group of people with common interests, characteristics, and traits.
Take bird watchers, for example. Are they on Reddit? Facebook Groups? WhatsApp chats? Know your audience, and your channel of choice will become more clearly known.
#3: Determine frequency
In general, it is beneficial to post to your own website as much as possible. Reason being that Google values high quality, recently-updated content more than (pretty much) anything else. When making your frequency calculations, i.e. how often you want to publish new content, you want to make sure you leave time for iteration, updating, and modernizing of what appears alongside that content on your site.
Remember, more frequency is not the key when it comes to something like newsletters. Determine your ideal frequency based on your prioritized platform(s), people allocation, and audience appetite.
Better yet, remember that repackaging content helps with frequency. Include content in your newsletter that you published to your site, and use the newsletter as a (if you will) burst of flavor that drives people onsite to help themselves to the full meal.
#4: Create an editorial calendar
Make a plan for the topic you’ll publish on, when, and where. For example, your CEO can publish a personal post on Monday, and your site can publish a producer update on its blog on Tuesday, with a team member posting photos from a field project on Wednesday.
In general, it takes twenty-one repetitions for habits to form. That's 3 weeks of focus to get a project like content publishing off the ground and solidified in the team's collective brain.
As one of my colleagues used to stay, "I'd rather have a steady stream of high quality shit than an inconsistent supply of filet mignon." Focus on developing a consistent cadence of solid, i.e. an inconsistent stream of incredibly high-quality won't get you anywhere.
#5: Make a plan for QA ("Quality Assurance")
Determine who should review content before it is published. Think twice before making a very busy person on the team the approver. Establish a protocol, and follow it every time. If a bottleneck forms, reassess the system's throughput.
Some media companies benefit from an ombudsmen-type editor — a third-party reviewer who knows nothing about how the sausage is made, and simply establishes the viability of the content as relevant for new visitors.
#6: Experiment and track
Carve out time in your calendar to deepen your presence on a given platform. Then, after a set period, assess the efficacy of the effort. Determine if you want to reduce, maintain, or increase your publishing given the results.
Remember the power of the "crawl-before-you-walk-before-you-run-before-you-fly-before-you-teleport" mentality. Something as powerful as A/B testing, again, benefits from a commitment to consistency over ingenuity.
For instance, being able to run three elementary A/B tests (e.g. primary image —a|b test—> bounce rate) in three weeks demonstrates significantly more value than having brilliant ideas for A/B testing to be completed the future (e.g. customizing new visitor language vs. returning visitor language —a|b test—> average time on site).
#7: Optimize on-site content
Once you have a significant amount of content published to your website, consider auditing it for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) best practices.
- What do you notice about the content that's ranking well in terms of average search position — does it have a certain length, use of keywords, integration of multimedia?
- Consider your most popular pages: could they be adjusted to better meet your content goals? Do you make it easy for people to donate, for producers to sign up, or for observers to learn more?
The power of publishing content for a non-profit is raising awareness for their cause for free (i.e. via Google Organic Search driving inbound traffic).
Please let us know if you are a nonprofit looking to improve environmental sustainability, or SEO. Planet Earth is one of our priorities at Organic — we want to help.