To all my friends in the U.S., Happy Independence Day and I hope you get to enjoy a long, lovely refreshing week-end. To everyone else, why not pretend it’s a holiday and do something just for you?!. Because it’s summer, I’m giving you a light reading load this week. If you get a chance, let me know if any of these articles resonate with you. Have a good one!
Stop Making Me — and Your Readers — Work
If reading your appeal seems like hard work to me, than why should I bother? I work all day! If reading your appeal seems like a struggle for comprehension, then what’s the point? I struggle to understand stuff all day.
My brain needs a rest.
Even more, my brain would enjoy a treat. Something that lights up my pleasure centers and makes me feel good.
Does your appeal do that for your would-be donors? Or does it require them to put in great effort to get through it?
Reading may be a breeze for you. But it’s not for everybody. Lots and lots of folks suffer from a range of “reading processing disorders” that make it difficult for them to plow through a bunch of dense text.Continue Reading
Everyone loves a good story. Everyone.
Which is why storytelling should be at the heart of your nonprofit’s strategic communications. I know ‘storytelling’ is a meme du jour. But that’s no reason to ignore it. Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t! There’s a reason these phrases become buzzworthy. In this case, because you want to serve up content that’s relevant, attractive and accessible to your constituencies. Storytelling fits the bill better than anything else.
In fact, of all the content you can create, storytelling is your ultimate weapon and the most powerful means of communicating your message.
Let’s look at this a different way. Continue Reading
Because I’ll bet you it’s not embracing two key elements essential to raising awareness and getting folks to engage with you in 2014 and beyond.
What’s that? (1) Content marketing. (2) Social media. For real.
Let me explain.Continue Reading
Last week, in part 1 of this post, I encouraged you to begin blogging if you’re not doing so already. And, if you are, to do so more effectively. Make your blog the hub of your content marketing. It will simplify your life in so many ways, and become the anchor for your marketing communications and organizational branding.
Today, let’s continue with seven more “do’s and don’ts” to round out our baker’s dozen of nonprofit blogging tips:
Don’t 7: You don’t give credit where it is due.
It’s fine to derive inspiration from another source, but don’t claim the prose as your own.
Do 7: When you cite other sources, attribute them.
If you quote someone, put quotation marks around their prose and state their name. If you want to be extra nice, include a hyperlink to their website or suggest to folks that they follow this person on one or more social media sites. I derived inspiration for this post from two articles on Hubspot by Nathan Yerian and Ginny Sosky. You can see them here and here.
Don’t 8: You don’t take time to edit your post.
This is one of my pet peeves, and it’s a real rookie mistake. Why put all that time into creating a great useful post that will draw readers to you, when you then repel them by including a bunch of typos and run-on sentences? It’s sloppy and stupid.
Do 8: Come back to your post the next day and edit it.
Remove redundancies. Eliminate jargon. Take out excess adverbs and adjectives. Run spell check. Break up big chunks of text. Use sub-heads, bold-face, color and images to draw the reader’s eye to your main points and make it easier to scan. Do it the next day, when you’re fresh and can look at your post from a different perspective.
Don’t 9: You let great get in the way of good.
This used to be a big problem for me. I’m a perfectionist by nature. It was hard for me to hit the “publish” button. Please learn from my mistakes and don’t obsess! If you’ve followed all of the “Do’s” outlined above, your post will be ready for prime time.
Do 9: Hit the “publish” button once you’ve done your due diligence.
Make yourself a checklist and post it next to your computer. Go through it after you’ve finished writing. Once you’re done, publish your post!
Don’t 10: You publish erratically.
Consistency is key if you want to build a following for your blog.
Do 10: Develop a content editorial calendar and stick to your publishing schedule.
It’s been said that those who fail to plan, plan to fail. A content editorial calendar keeps you organized and on track. You commit to your blog having a consistent presence, so your audience can commit to looking for you and reading you. You don’t become one of those TV shows we all stopped watching because their schedule became so erratic we couldn’t remember when/where to find them. By planning ahead, you drive perseverance.
Don’t 11: You fail to include an image.
It’s often said that a picture is worth 1,000 words. When it comes to blog articles this is true in spades! Our culture is increasingly visual to the point where articles with images get 94% more views! Marketers who are embracing visual content are seeing huge returns in terms of more readers, leads, customers and revenue.
Do 11: Include at least one image in your blog post.
This should be a no-brainer based on the research cited above (and all over the internet). Your blog posts have a purpose. You want them to engage folks. Visual content is a huge driver of engagement. You can afford it, because there are plenty of online sites offering free image downloads today. Just search for them and pick one. And check out Jeff Bullas’ The Ultimate Guide to Using Images in Social Media. He’ll give you all sorts of tips and tricks for using images to their greatest effect. Enough said.
Don’t 12: You fail to include a call to action as a next step.
Once you’ve published your post you want folks who read it to do something. What is that? How will your readers know what you want them to do? Too often blog posts end with a whimper. The reader gets all the way to the end, only to be left with that lead balloon feeling of “so what?
Do 12: Include a clear call to action.
This will increase your conversion rate (i.e., turning first-time readers into subscribers; turning ongoing readers into donors) and improve the return on investment for the time you put into crafting and publishing your post. Simple calls to action include:
- Subscribe to our blog.
- Comment on this post.
- Share this post.
- Please donate.
For more on creating effective calls to action, read this free guide from Hubspot.
Don’t 13: You fail to build relationships.
When you ignore people who do as you’ve asked, it’s just plain rude. It discourages them. It can even anger them. Conversely, when you interact with folks it can encourage others to interact as well. Creating a dialogue is one of the primary benefits of a blog, enabling you to get to know your constituents in ways that were previously cost-prohibitive. Don’t waste your opportunities.
Do 13: Respond to folks who take the time to interact with you through your blog.
If they comment on your post, reply back to them. If they share your post on social media or via email, thank them. If one of your active constituents has their own blog, go to their site and make a comment or share their post. If you see they have a large following, ask them nicely if they would consider sharing your post with their network. And so forth.
If you found this post useful, you may be interested in my brand new Nonprofit Blogging Playbook.
Get as many Guides as you want or need (if you buy all four, I offer a “Bundle Bargain” discount). A great blog is one of the best investments you can make in acquiring and retaining more donors. Learn how with this 4-volume set that will teach you (1) blog fundamentals; (2) content folks will want to read; (3) how to use your content to engage folks, and (4) how to promote your blog so it builds momentum and drives more potential supporters to your website. Plus, I stand by all my Clairification products. If you’re not happy, there’s a no questions asked full refund policy. The only way to lose is by doing nothing. Don’t be a loser!
Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
If you’ve been reading Clairification you know by now that I’m a huge blog booster for nonprofits. If you don’t have a blog yet, you should get one. Pronto! Yup, I think they’re that important.
And don’t tell me you don’t have the bandwidth. You absolutely do. You just have to rethink your modus operandi. You know you have to communicate with folks, right? Well, do it by blogging rather than what you’re doing now.
I’ll wager your blog will outperform every other communication strategy you have in terms of driving folks to your site, informing them about your cause and getting them actively engaged in what you do.
But…don’t just slap crap up there. If that’s what you do (or have done) it won’t work. You’ll have wasted your precious time.
Luckily, it’s pretty easy to avoid wasting your resources if you know what to look out for. So let’s take a look at some key blogging mistakes (don’ts) and tips (do’s) on how to avoid them. I’ve got a baker’s dozen for you for good luck; today we’ll begin with the first six:
Don’t 1: You think of topics with no thought to the value to your reader.
Perhaps the most common problem bloggers must address is valuable content. A study by Sirius Decisions shows that around two-thirds of B2B content doesn’t get used. What a colossal waste of these businesses resources!
If you want content that will “go viral” it’s got to have practical value to your constituents. They must find it meaningful and they must be able to act upon it immediately, without too much effort. When people care they share. If folks don’t see the need to open or share your content, you’ve wasted your time writing your post.
Do 1: Think from the perspective of your reader: Will this post be useful to them?
You’ve got to be honest here. The fact that your organization won an award is not useful to your donor. The fact that they can win an award by engaging with you (e.g., playing a game, entering a contest, responding with a comment, etc.) is. The fact that you added new caseworkers to your staff is not useful. A list of “Top 10 Tips to Keep Seniors Safe” is.
Don’t’ 2: You think of topics randomly, rather than according to a plan.
Just as there are many fish in the sea, there are many good ideas for blog posts. But if they don’t serve your current strategic goals, they’re not a good idea for you at this particular point in time.
Do 2: Think of topics that serve your strategic goals.
Never forget to answer the “why” question. Always begin by jotting down the key take-aways you want your reader to leave with. Why are you blogging? The most likely reason is to increase awareness of your cause (and the urgent need for what you do) and grow your base of support. Does a blog post that narrates the biography of your Founder do this? Nope. What does? Generally posts that align with reader concerns are those that are most read. Ask your receptionist what questions s/he is most frequently asked. Answering these questions in your blog has the side benefit of not having to answer them over and over again. Piggyback on news stories that are likely top-of-mind for readers and also relate to your work. This has the side benefit of establishing you as an authority on a topic of relevance to many of your readers.
Don’t’ 3: You write like a professor, lawyer, engineer or robot.
People won’t read stuff online that’s above a 6th or 7th grade reading level. They won’t understand jargon. And they want to have a little fun; not read a term paper.
Do 3: Write like you talk.
Make your content conversational if you want it to engage folks. Read it out loud before you publish it. Feel free to break the rules of grammar you learned in middle school, and begin sentences with prepositions. Use contractions. Play with one word sentences. Loosen up and be real.
Don’t 4: You think people care about your perspective on yourself.
You may think folks will swoon when you tell them you’re the “biggest,” “first,” or most “world class” organization doing what you do. Get rid of superlatives that make you sound full of yourself.
Do 4: Show your best attributes; don’t tell them.
Make it about the reader and the benefits they care about. Put your personality into your writing. If you’re cutting edge and hip, show folks; don’t tell them (maybe tell a joke or make a cultural reference). Use donor-centric language rather than organization-centric language. Lose the words “we,” “our” and “I” in place of “you.”
Don’t 5: You write in generalities rather than specifics.
It’s tempting when you begin blogging to write about the broad topics your organization addresses like:
- Assuring justice for the disenfranchised.
- Sending underprivileged youth to college.
- Saving our green spaces.
People can’t relate when problems are too big. They want to see a specific problem to which they understand you are offering a specific solution.
Do 5: Create posts on specific subjects with specifics worked into the titles.
Review “Do 1.” Once you’ve identified a topic of value to your readers, create a specific working title to focus your writing. For example:
- How to prevent seniors from illegal evictions.
- A complete guide to saving for college.
- Top 5 environmental benefits of green spaces.
A working title doesn’t have to be your final title. It just makes writing your post easier because it prevents you from taking detours that distract the reader from what you hope will be their main take-away. You can make your title catchier later on.
Don’t 5: You write stream of consciousness.
Sure, a few brilliant writers can do this effectively. Most of us, however, just create verbal diarrhea. It’s a mess. And, as you probably already know, today’s readers mostly scan rather than read. If you’ve given them a mess, they have no framework for scanning.
Do 5: Start with an outline.
Putting in the time up front to assure you’re making the points you want to make (but not too many) will save you oodles of time later on trying to edit and pare down your article. Plus, your headers and sub-headers will become your reader’s scanning triggers. Similarly, use bold-face and underlining to draw your readers’ eyes to your most important points.
You can download free blog post templates from Hubspot here.
Don’t 6: You make unsubstantiated claims.
It’s super annoying when someone makes a claim like “1 in 4 children in our community are hungry”, without letting you know where they found that research.
Do 6: Go through your post and link to articles or research that support your claims.
This has the added benefit of saving you time and space. The folks who want to know more specifics can easily do so; those who don’t will not have to wade through all the data.
Keep your eyes peeled for seven more “do’s and don’ts” to round out our baker’s dozen next week. Meanwhile…
If you found this post useful, you may be interested in my brand new Nonprofit Blogging Playbook.
The Playbook includes 4 separate Guides; get as many as you want or need (if you buy all four, I offer a “Bundle Bargain” discount). A great blog is one of the best investments you can make in acquiring and retaining more donors. Learn how with this 4-volume set that will teach you (1) blog fundamentals; (2) content folks will want to read; (3) how to use your content to engage folks, and (4) how to promote your blog so it builds momentum and drives more potential supporters to your website. Plus, I stand by all my Clairification products. If you’re not happy, there’s a no questions asked full refund policy. The only way to lose is by doing nothing. Don’t be a loser!
Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
You’ve no doubt heard folks bandying about the latest buzzword: “content marketing.” There’s a reason it’s buzz-worthy. Without content, you’ve got nothing. You’re just a box with nothing inside. Kids like to play with boxes; most folks — when they grow up — are looking for something of value inside the box. At the same time…Continue Reading