Many companies today churn out generic, mass-produced blog posts from content mills as a way to direct traffic to their website using SEO techniques.
Their goal is to rank higher on Google searches, and they often don’t actually expect anyone to read the content involved, based on the premise that most people nowadays don’t read articles, and just skim through the title and first paragraphs.
This technique can work in some brick-and-mortar companies that are selling widgets or web services: If you’re selling shower curtain rings or sales software, no one particularly cares if you write well or produce interesting or original content and no one likely reads the articles anyway, so they serve their purpose as long as they create traffic and more google searches for your company and in turn more sales.
As you know, a mission-driven organization that exists and fights in the public arena and wants to achieve social goals is a very different animal, and has different objectives.
Content written for a non-profit organization should not only generate web traffic but can also serve as the main vehicle to:
It is not just about attracting attention-though this is definitely important- it’s also about gaining supporters and recruits to your mission, and developing your prestige so you can enact change.
Generating website traffic at the expense of the organization’s credibility and prestige is, of course, counterproductive.
The most important element of a non-profit content strategy is building a unique perspective and voice that people recognize and trust, to build relationships and confidence with readership.
It is important to do more than just rehash recent news or generic talking points- there are plenty of sources of content that already do that!
Quality content means writing that meets a high standard, that is informed and entertaining, but most of all that conveys a sense of your voice and vision as an organization.
This requires a good deal of research and prep work, especially at first. Creating quality content is a multi-step process, whether it takes the form of a blog, press release, or campaign. Take the example of a blog post:
This step is essential both to choose a topic and to start writing. This can in some cases be the most important and time-intensive part of the whole process. The difference between a well and poorly researched blog is immediately palpable, and thorough research helps you see what other people have to say about your selected topic and come up with a unique angle.
It also helps avert marketing catastrophe and gaffes, which is especially important in the political or social spheres but applies across the board.
Many factors play into selecting a great topic for a blog post, including current trends, keywords and topics that generate web traffic, and issues that are central to the organization’s focus.
Possibly the most important part of the process, especially early on in a blog, is establishing the voice, tone and message. This should be done before the blog is even started to determine the general tone going forward, and requires before each post, at least initially, to decide on a viewpoint. Finding the right tone is a process, and might shift over time or take a few posts to refine fully.
A brief should be put together that defines the final product in as much detail as possible to make sure it is in line with the organization’s mission. This includes things like tone, format etc.
Then there is the messy process of outlining and writing the post itself, which might also involve further research. If the steps above have been completed, drafting should be pretty straightforward.
A few rounds of edits are often required to ensure a polished, compelling final product that is perfectly in line with the organization’s vision.
Following all the steps in this process makes a palpable difference in the final product, and is essential to create writing that people engage and connect with. Remember that every piece of writing you generate is an opportunity to create relationships based on authenticity with your readership, and to communicate your organization’s voice to new readers!
It is no secret that we live in times of extreme social, political, and technological upheaval, of vertiginously rapid change.
The way people buy, do business, socialize, and spend their time is being continually disrupted and re-disrupted. Nothing can be taken for granted in this seismically shifting landscape. Whole industries and technologies rise and fall in months, and opportunities and problems emerge that we couldn’t even imagine yesterday.
It is easy to feel unmoored in these chaotic times, like all the old playbooks are no longer valid and anything could happen.
However this also means massive opportunities can present themselves at any moment, and there is unprecedented potential for growth.
So how do we survive the upheavals and identify the opportunities? What processes can we actually count on in our Brave New World?
In 1820, somewhere in the Pacific, a massive sperm whale rammed into the Essex, a Nantucket whaler on its first voyage. Thousands of miles away from South American shores, the Essex crew drifted through the open ocean on twenty-foot whaleboats. Their supplies and water soon ran out, and, half-crazed by hunger and dehydration, they had no choice but to roast and eat the remains of those who had already succumbed to starvation.
Eventually, they were driven to the gruesome measure of drawing lots to see who among them would be killed for his flesh. The captain of the ship was forced to eat his own nephew before a rescue ship finally arrived.
Twenty years later, a vessel sailing from Australia to China was wrecked over the Great Barrier Reef. Its crew drifted in boats and starved just like the men of the Essex.
This time, however, when the first sailor died, they used his body as bait to catch fish and sharks instead of eating it. They were able to subsist on shark meat, which lasted them much longer than the grisly alternative, and kept them from having to cannibalize and murder their own friends and shipmates. It seems that the crew of the Essex never thought of this possibility.
What does this strange and horrific 19th-century tale that inspired a young Herman Melville to write Moby Dick have to do with innovation and technology, you ask?
In times of crisis and upheaval, creative thinking matters. Often, it’s the only chance you have. Radical disruption could ram into your industry at any time like a 40-ton whale, leaving you adrift in new waters. Quite probably it already has.
There are no blueprints or ready-made plans to follow in this new territory. To paraphrase the great Mike Tyson, ‘everyone has a plan 'til they get hit in the face.’
To survive and thrive in an era of constant change, upheaval, and even crisis, you need to make bold creative leaps.
The walls and constraints around you that feel solid might very well give way if you push against them. What looks like certain destruction might actually be your greatest opportunity.
Nothing is quite what it seems in times like these, but one thing is certain: the future belongs to the bold and creative.