How to Create Nonprofit Blog Conversations That Engage. Let’s Talk! – R.C.A. Series Part II

Seagulls talkingR.C.A.? Yup.  When building a blog, you want to be Relatable, Conversational and Actionable. In Part I   of this series I encouraged you to think like an RCA Victrola. You want your content to get people singing your song.  And, heck, you can’t sing unless you know the words.  So, today let’s put the “C” in R.C.A.  Can we talk?


Your blog needs an engagement value proposition  that gets people talking!  What’s your blog really, after all?  It’s online word-of-mouth water cooler talk. It’s got to be interesting… intriguing… inspiring… educational… funny… something your reader perceives as worth reading, commenting on and sharing. To make this happen, you must understand one fundamental truth about blogging.


It’s a conversation; not a term paper.  That’s worth saying twice. Out loud. I’m S.E.R.I.O.U.S.  Unless your goal is to give folks a head-ache, put them to sleep, or assure they never darken your doorstep again, please take this to heart.

And speak to the heart; not the head.  Don’t try too hard. Above all, don’t try to sound smart.  It almost always comes off as phony. Don’t use a bunch of data. Don’t be all stiff and formal.  Use contractions, prepositional phrases, ‘ifs’, ‘ands’ and ‘buts’ at the beginning of sentences.  Cut out excess adjectives. Forget what your 7th-grade English teacher taught you. Take some advice from The Winnie the Pooh Guide to Blogging. Though he described himself as a “bear of little brain,” he knew complicated language and complex terms are confusing. You don’t have time to clarify your terms for folks.  Once you lose them, they’re gone. So get rid of redundant and pretentious words. Get rid of jargon. And don’t be boring.

Conversation flows easily from the tongue. Read your blog post out loud.  If you find yourself getting tripped up, rewrite.

Know who you’re talking to. Honest-to-goodness!  Can you really have a conversation if you’re just blathering mindlessly into the ether?  It’s easier to write for someone you know than a faceless mass. For this reason, I suggest creating marketing personas. As marketing guru Heidi Cohen tells us: Marketing personas are imaginary versions of your prospects, customers and the public that contain in-depth, lifelike character traits, including fun names, to help develop content and marketing.  Here are some great resources to help you develop personas for your constituents (you may have several different personas for different market segments):

How to Build Better Buyer Personas to Drive Killer Content

The Marketer’s Guide to Creating Buyer Personas [Free downloadable template from Hubspot]

And remember that your donor (or potential donor) is a person with a life. In Stop talking to donors like donors Erica Mills of Claxon Marketing reminds us that most folks wear a bunch of hats. Seldom do they self-identify primarily as “donor” They’re moms, dads, friends, daughters, brothers, aunts and uncles.  They’re nurses, project managers, students, teachers, lawyers and chefs.  They’re runners, yogis, musicians, sports fans and knitters.  They’re busy! So try to imagine which hat they may be wearing when they open your blog post.

“Your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one persona real person you know, or an imagined person, and write to that one.” —John Steinbeck

Now that you know who you’re talking to, talk! Let’s say your ‘persona’ is Joe.

Imagine you’re writing to Joe.

Imagine Joe says “I need your help. Can you answer a question for me?”

Remember, you need to think in dialogue form. In Social Media Is Not Your Saving Grace Brian Solis tells us that “if social media is about conversations, you can bet that much of it is based on people asking questions.”  People want answers.  They seek direction. And they’d much rather get their information from someone they trust (you!) than simply through a blind internet search.

Answer Joe.

Imagine Joe says “I don’t get it. Give me an example.”

People really appreciate being able to visualize what you’re telling them. Storytelling predates writing, and is the oldest form of communication there is. We’re wired to understand the world through stories. You have to give your information a context so your audience will remember it better. (Check out Made to Stick by the Heath Brothers).

Give Joe a paragraph that tells a story demonstrating your point.

Imagine Joes says “Aha! Got it. But what does that mean for me? What can I do?”

Write a paragraph that describes actions Joe can take.

Your conversation should lead, ultimately, to action.  That’s the whole point. And that’s what we’ll discuss in Part III. But for now, let me just remind you that one action you’re going to want to ask folks to take is to comment on your post. So be prepared to respond to blog comments to keep the conversation going. I recently asked someone I know if anyone comments on their blog posts.  They answered me with “I have no idea.”  You can bet that not a lot of relationships are being cemented by that blog!

You’ve got to engage.  Otherwise, it’s a lot of sound and fury. Signifying nothing.

Who are you writing for?  Do you use personas? Does something else work for you?

Flickr photo byMark Faviell

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About Claire

I’m Claire and I want to help you raise more money, reach more people and build long-lasting relationships with your supporters. Take a look in the archives.


  1. Great post – we just recently started drafting up our 3-4 key network members (personas) – and not only did it absolutely clarify for staff the “voice” and conversation we’re striving for – it was actually very fun and heartwarming. It reminded us that we really adore our network members (it’s a relationship and we authentically care about them a very great deal) – and that in the end it is ALL about them, NOT about us!

  2. This is so great to hear. Good for you! And thanks for inspiring the rest of us.
    claire Axelrad recently posted…How to Create Nonprofit Blog Conversations That Engage. Let’s Talk! – R.C.A. Series Part IIMy Profile

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