The Q1 reading round-up: interesting articles about charity/content marketing

Graphic of an open laptop with reading glasses and a cup of coffee next to it

Here’s a round-up of interesting articles I’ve read this quarter about charity/content marketing, each with a brief summary and top takeaway in case you haven’t got time to read the full article.

I’m not associated with (nor responsible for the content of) the websites featured, but I thought the articles were worth sharing and I hope you find them useful!

This quarter’s recommended reading (most recent first)

10 things we learnt from the Charity Digital Tech Conference 2019
Charity Digital News (22nd March 2019)
Unfortunately I couldn’t attend this conference, but this article covers some of the highlights and includes full videos of the sessions.

My top takeaway: Video #3 includes some brilliant advice about website content:

  • Content will always beat design. If you have a million quid to spend on a website, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to be better than a thousand-pound website. As long as you’ve got a really clear idea of what you’re trying to say, who’s using your site and what they’re trying to get out of it, there’s no reason that you couldn’t do it [create an effective website] yourself.”
  • Try and think from the perspective of someone who isn’t in your world; it’s so easy to fall into the trap of using terminology that makes sense to you but for people who aren’t in that space, it either doesn’t make sense and they switch off or they don’t fully understand it and so the weight of the point you’re trying to make is lost.
  • If someone’s going to a site in a crisis and you’ve got an article that’s meant to help them, it’s probably not a bad thing if they read the thing and then [leave and] act on the advice. There’s too much of a focus on arbitrary measures of success… it’s not just about how many pages they viewed. People have their own stuff going on, they’re not just empty vessels that you can fill with as much content as possible – they’re trying to get something [from your site].”

10 tips to encourage storytelling in your charity
Giving Tuesday (12th March 2019)
Storytelling is an important part of content marketing; this is a useful article about how to find and tell stories about the work your organisation does (and the impact this has).

My top takeaway:You don’t have to just stay in the comfort zone of case studies when you are telling stories. Inspire them [beneficiaries] to take part in user-generated content. For charities that start from a point of keeping their beneficiaries safe and anonymous, it can be tough finding ways to shout about the good work you do in supporting them. But there are ways around it; for instance, you can encourage beneficiaries to share works of art like poetry, spoken word, etc. It will show personality and variety.

3 articles about changing marketing strategies to broaden perceptions
I’ve spotted a few articles recently about charities that have changed their marketing strategies to try and broaden people’s perceptions of what they do, beyond just the main thing they’re known for:

Why not have a read and think about how you can ensure that your online content clearly and compellingly reflects all the different things that your organisation does?

10 journalism skills every content marketer needs
Search Engine Journal (20th February 2019)
As a content marketer with a background in journalism, I really enjoyed (and related to) this article about how to apply journalism tactics to content marketing. It includes several useful takeaways about how to ensure credibility, clarity and balance in your content, and explains why storytelling is important.

My top takeaway:Every journalist learns to rely on the “Five Ws and How” – Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. When you cover 5W1H, your research will have all the material needed to answer questions and solve problems – the two main elements to any content marketing campaign. For online content to be successful, each piece – whether a blog, service page, infographic or video – should try to answer all six questions. The most important is the who, what, why and how. If these four are not covered, the content’s message will fail to resonate with your readers.

The future of content marketing: every jab must be a knockout
Forbes (14th February 2019)
This article about how to create content that ranks well in search talks about how detailed guides are starting to eclipse blog posts and raises some interesting points about what to look for when doing keyword/competitor research to inform your content creation.

My top takeaway:The battle for top keyword rankings is about providing what’s referred to as E-A-T (expertise, authority and trustworthiness) and Y-M-Y-L (“your money or your life”) content. Essentially, it boils down to this: When a visitor lands on your page, does it — the page and website experience — provide detailed, credible and useful information that you’re willing to bet your life on? Is it 10 times more resourceful than anyone else’s content? Does it provide everything the visitor needs to know and answer questions the visitor didn’t even think about?

Nearly half of donors forget the charity they last supported
Charity Digital News (7th February 2019)
An interesting read about how people are less likely to make repeat donations if they are asked to make their first donation via a third party website (such as JustGiving), which highlights the importance of charities having their own donation webpages with supporting content that helps donors connect with (and remember) the cause.

My top takeaway: “It’s no secret that a good user journey is key to succeeding in any avenue of digital marketing; being redirected to a separate website to make a payment is detrimental to any user journey. A charity’s brand identity must inspire trust and transparency, and a visitor to the charity’s website should be able to find out where their donations go and the impact it will have. Sending would-be donors to an unbranded third-party fundraising website takes them away from this carefully constructed ecosystem.”

5 reasons why your charity might need brand management
Charity Digital News (5th February 2019)
This article explains how using a brand management system (a library of assets, containing everything from copywriting guidelines to graphic design templates) can help you produce coherent content in all your marketing communications.

My top takeaway:Charities that invest in strong, consistent brands reap the awards of rising awareness and incomes. Your brand is the outside world’s perception of your charity – the way you communicate your organisation’s distinct personality, values, purpose, impact and the sum of everything you are as a charity. Ultimately, if you’re unable to communicate it clearly you will not be heard in the crowded arena of voices competing for audiences’ attentions.

Solidarity not charity: Why not-for-profits are shifting their marketing focus
Marketing Week (17th January 2019)
An interesting read about how some charities are trying to use more empowering language (and depictions of beneficiaries) in their marketing, with examples and comments from organisations including the RNIB, Macmillan Cancer Support and Oxfam.

My top takeaway:Charities need to revisit their mission and their purpose. You have to understand both your customer base and the people you support but also understand wider society and what their views and perspectives are. It’s really about grounding your communications with real authenticity.” (Sophie Castell, RNIB’s relationships director)

Four charity digital marketing trends you need to know for 2019
Charity Digital News (16th January 2019)
This article comments on the findings of Salesforce’s The Nonprofit Digital Marketer Report and suggests that many charities aren’t making the most of their digital marketing efforts to raise awareness and engage with supporters.

My top takeaway:75% of charities cite raising awareness of their cause as the top reason to use digital marketing. Many charities are still tackling challenges around identifying the right platform, building their brand awareness and growing their online fundraising. So, while many understand the benefits of digital, there is still room for improvement when it comes to getting maximum value from their digital marketing investments.

What can charities expect from the year ahead?
NCVO (14th January 2019)
An overview of the findings of the NCVO’s The Road Ahead 2019 report, which offers insight into the forces and trends that are likely to have an impact on the voluntary sector this year.

My top takeaway:There is a growing belief among decision makers and policy makers that many of the problems currently faced by our society are caused by the absence of meaningful connections between individuals, and between individuals and communities. This provides opportunities for charities and voluntary organisations to be more vocal about their role in building social connections.

Let me know what you think of these articles (or any others you’ve read this quarter) in the comments.

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