Through an arrangement with TechSoup, PND is pleased to offer a series of articles about the effective use of technology by nonprofits.
Content strategy. It's everywhere and it seems to be the answer to so much of what ails nonprofits. Yet both the term and the best way to implement one leave many scratching their heads. So what exactly is a content strategy and how can you develop one for your nonprofit?
What Is Content Strategy?
Content strategy is just another way of describing the process of planning, developing, and managing useful and usable written or other forms of consumable interactive content.
Why Is Content Strategy Important?
Do you need to create a website; redesign an old one; or decide the who, what, where, when, how, and why of your overall content creation plan? In all cases, having a clear and well-defined content strategy is important, and understanding what makes content useful and shareable is even more important. That's because content creation typically involves a significant amount of time and resources, both of which are scarce in the nonprofit world.
Here are five steps you can take to develop a practical and powerful content strategy for your nonprofit.
1. Align Your Content: Know How It Helps People Solve Problems. It's important that you understand and are able to articulate what you are trying to achieve with your content and then map it to your audiences' questions and problems. The end goal should always be to help consumers of your content navigate their customer journey. You want to meet their needs in a way that shows you understand and appreciate the challenges and pain points they face every day.
Knowing how to align your content to the needs of your audiences requires a deep understanding of how audience members navigate your website and use social media. You also need to understand their overall behavior and engagement with your email marketing campaigns. You can gather this type of data through a variety of tools such as Hubspot, Hootsuite, and content marketing tools like Contently.
2. Conduct a Content Audit. The word "audit" may remind you of the IRS, and while it certainly can feel as ominous as that kind of audit, it's not as bad as you might think. A thorough assessment of your content in all its variety, across all your platforms, is a great way to learn what is, and isn't, working. It also will help you figure out where you need to improve your content and how it's delivered.
For instance, perhaps your email marketing is driving the kind of response you hoped it would and you're reaching your fundraising goals. However, your website isn't performing as well in terms of driving donations. An audit can help you optimize your content and show where you need to engage your audiences more. It can also help you identify which content needs to be updated or retired, and where new content needs to be created.
3. Create Your Content Production Plan. Every content strategy must also include a content production plan (also known as an editorial calendar). Whatever you call it, it should include a process to determine which type of content should be produced (e.g., a blog post versus a webinar versus a video). You also need to decide who the owner of the content will be, the subject-matter experts you'd like to tap as resources, how the content should be pushed out to your audiences, and deadlines. You can download a free content production plan template here.
4. Define Your Key Performance Measures. Once you've developed content topics and a production calendar, it's important to determine what you hope each content asset will accomplish; that way, you can track and measure your success. If you're writing a blog post, make sure you are able to articulate what the post is supposed to achieve. For example, maybe you want it to "help boost donations by 10 percent" or "boost signups for our newsletter by 20 percent."
5. Identify Your Content Distribution Channels. The last step in creating an effective content strategy is knowing exactly which channels to use to optimize the time spent on and overall engagement with your content. Use your channel metrics to identify both short- and long-term strategies. Both should include more than one channel (what the marketing world calls an omni-channel strategy). A strategy also should incorporate online channels (including social media) as well as offline channels such as conferences and direct mail.
Additional Content Resources
Jenna Martin is director of content marketing at TechSoup.