Category Archives: Content Marketing

Big No-No for ‘Calling-card’ Nonprofit Content

Posted by Emily Cretella| 04.17.2014| in Content Marketing


A nonprofit client called about writing a brochure that provides prospective partners and donors a top-level overview of the organization.

This nonprofit does fantastic work, but it’s pretty complex. The client was thinking that a detailed chart that describes their process might be useful.  I said no.

Why did I say no?

Because no one cares, at least not right away.

Many will care eventually. It’s the information they may need to move them from a prospect to a partner or donor.

But when they are just learning your name and what you do, they don’t care how you do what you do. They just care that you do it, and do it well.

When we think about engaging new audiences with an initial piece of content, we need to think about it as meeting new people.

When you’re meeting someone new, you likely give a quick snapshot of who you are – perhaps where you work, or whom you know in common, or what you’re passionate about.

You don’t give your new pal a detailed description of the daily tasks you need to complete to be who you are.

And why don’t you? Because it’s understood that there are specific tasks you need to do to be the awesome, professional, go-getter that you are. No one cares that you start each day with a shower, read the newspaper and then grab a grande vanilla latte. They just care that you’re amazing. 

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Too often, passionate organizations let the details of what they do overpower the impact of what they do.

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Creating Calling-Card Nonprofit Content 

So how do you create engaging “calling-card content” that makes a powerful first impression?

1. Keep it short.

Just like in real life, you don’t want to overpower that first conversation. Give your audience a compelling glimpse at what you do – just enough to hook their interest.

2. Make it Memorable

People remember good stories. Most of us quickly forget facts and figures. Bring your good works to life to live with storytelling. (Find out how in “Nonprofits: Your Cause is not Your Story”.)

3. Make it powerful.

Nothing is worse than a weak, timid handshake. So demonstrate your impact in big, bold statements. Prove that you’re the answer to that need or problem. Toot your own horn, for Pete’s sake.

4. Close strong.

You don’t just walk away from a conversation without a close. So ask for something. It doesn’t have to be anything that requires a big commitment, but make it easy for your audience to take the next step. Perhaps that means linking to additional content, or contacting someone for more information, or answering a few questions. It’s not desperate to ask – it shows interest.

Make it strong, make it memorable – and remember that there’s a real person on the other end.

Emily Cretella is a content diva working with many social sector organizations.  She is an instructor for iMission training programs and is the founder of Cursive Content Marketing.  Also check out her Pinterest board on Nonprofit Content Marketing.

Nonprofit storytelling

Nonprofit Storytelling – Going Beyond the Cause

Posted by Emily Cretella| 03.28.2014| in Content Marketing


A few years ago, I watched a powerful video that completely changed the way I approach marketing. It made a profound impact on me, and I credit it as being the catalyst that turned me from a marketing generalist into a content marketer.

The video is about Rachel, a 9-year-old girl who decided to donate her birthday to charity by raising money for her favorite cause. She didn’t reach her goal, so she promised to try harder the next year.

And then she was killed in a tragic car accident.

The video goes on to show how people from all over the world rallied around Rachel’s cause and helped meet and exceed her goal by over a million dollars. It shows the impact Rachel’s legacy had on the people affected by the charity. It lifts your spirit and makes you regain some hope in humanity.

Oh, and it’s a campaign video by charity: water.

Why didn’t I mention the sponsoring cause until paragraph four?

Because charity: water was so successful at making me connect with this story that the cause itself – albeit extremely important – was secondary.

Without this video, I don’t know if I ever would have paid close enough attention to the need for clean drinking water in developing nations. Not because I don’t believe it’s critically important; simply because I’ve always felt more connected to causes closer to home.

But this video hooked me. And it’s because of the story.

There’s a lesson here for all nonprofit marketers and that is: Your story is not your cause – and your cause is not your story.

I am a supporter of charity: water because of its compelling marketing. Their marketing made me a believer. It opened my eyes to a real need in the world, and a real impact in which I could play a tangible role. Isn’t that what we all wish our marketing could achieve?

Storytelling inherently involves others outside of yourself. This makes many nonprofits struggle with developing a strong story, because it requires you to step back from your mission and focus on your audience.

Rachel’s story is so powerful because it puts Rachel (the donor) first. It demonstrates real impact, not static numbers on a page. And it makes it easy for audiences to get involved (check out charity: water’s corresponding Birthdays campaign, which allows you to pledge your birthday to the cause. A pretty low barrier to engagement.).

Rachel’s story may seem unique, but if you shift your perspective from marketing your cause to marketing your story, trust me, you will discover powerful stories of your own within your organization.

So how do you begin moving from only traditional marketing to content (storytelling) marketing?

  • Determine your unique point-of-view – the area in which you can claim expertise above all others.
  • Identify your target audiences. Develop buyer personas, and make sure you have stories compelling enough to move them along the decision-making spectrum.
  • Focus on developing one strong piece of content to begin. Then use that piece as the cornerstone for a campaign – create blog posts, webinars, infographics, videos and more from ideas or concepts introduced in your main story.

It may seem daunting, but the hardest part is that initial shift in your perspective – that realization that your cause must be secondary to the people you are trying to attract. Once you put your audiences first, the stories will begin to tell themselves.

Emily helps clients discover, develop and share their brand stories. A passionate strategist, copywriter and communicator, Emily is the former director of strategy at a full-service marketing and advertising agency, and has designed and implemented traditional  and digital marketing campaigns for clients ranging from small not-for-profits to large Fortune 500s.

emily cretellaEmily is a content diva working with many social sector organizations.  She is an instructor for iMission training programs and is the founder of Cursive Content Marketing.  Also check out her Pinterest board on Nonprofit Content Marketing.

Top 3 Social Media Myths

Posted by Rob Leighton| 10.30.2013| in Content Marketing


You keep posting and tweeting.  Your not sure if you are seeing a meaningful benefit. Are social media efforts really worthwhile? Do the returns justify the effort?  You have good reason to ask.  Social media can consume an incredible number of hours.

Rest assured, social media are natural tools for nonprofit organizations and socially-driven businesses. Thoughtfully used, social media will expand reach, build relationships and generate resources.

social media mythsWhat does it mean to be thoughtful?  There is, in fact,  a lot that goes into a successful social media initiative.  There are lots of ways to assemble your social media program.  There is no one right way, but I can tell you that there are common missteps.  These three social media myths are the root cause of many missteps:

  • Social is Cheap. Yes, you can get started in ‘social’ with no money down.  That gets lots of managers thinking, ‘why not.’  It’s also true that social can deliver more for less than traditional advertising, online or offline, direct or not. But social media is not cheap.  You need to allocate real resources. Social media success requires skilled staff, not just the summer interns or part-time volunteers.  It also requires ‘engagement’ funds for promotions, contests, sampling and other online events.
  • Social is Easy. So your kids each have 5000 Facebook friends, so you think it must be easy to get follows and likes.  Think again.  There is a real learning curve here – and constant changes in technology and social platforms require ongoing learning.  And remember,  social contacts between people, like your contacts with your friends, is very different from people connecting with organizations.  Think carefully how social fits your brand building or stakeholder development efforts.
  • Social is About Quantity.  You’ve been told to tweet multiple times each day and post on Facebook, Google+ or Linkedin multiple times each week.  That may be true for the most effective results, but do you know what’s worse than not hitting the daily posting goals? Pushing out boring information just to make the posting numbers. Your connections will tune-out and turn-off.  Start your social campaign with a clear understanding of the story you want to tell, and refine the message as your community responds.

Social media success is all about the thoughtful work and the skilled efforts to keep your natural networks engaged and expanding.   For nonprofits and social-driven businesses, social is becoming a key element of success, but cast aside these three social media myths to better assure real returns.  And remember, social media is part of a broader program of developing relationships with your donors, customers and clients.    Learn how to unleash the power of relationship marketing with a free e-book.

Relationship Marketing for Nonprofits - Download Free Ebook Now

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Rocking Email Open Rates – Without the Rock Star

Posted by Rob Leighton| 10.08.2013| in Content Marketing


Nelson Mandela, the former South AfricaWhat if Nelson Mandela, Tom Hanks or Eric Clapton sent an email on behalf of your organization?  These are all rock stars in my world.  It’s extremely likely that I would open the email.  Many others would too!  Your email open rates would rock.

Sadly, it’s difficult to get rock star support. It’s not only the expense.  Even the willing celebrity (i.e. a free endorsement) needs to fight through lawyers, agents and publishers to formally support your organization

The good news is that you can sharply improve email open rates without a rock star endorsement.  I am not talking about the tricks of email marketing technicians – like the how to create a strong subject line or avoiding spam filters. These are important, but are the second set of considerations.   Start by embracing the essentials of email marketing: building person-to-person relationships.

You already understand this!  You are highly likely to open an email from a friend, family member or colleague.  You are pretty likely to open an email from an organization that you know and trust. You quickly trash emails from businesses that sent dull information or overly repetitive product offers.  Yes, we all get it.  The closer the relationship with the senders, the more likely we are to open their email.  

Here are  six email marketing ideas that help build lasting online relationships. They’ll improve email open rates, and better yet, your organization will move more contacts to donors, clients or customers.

  • Be Personal Emails from real people get a much high response rate than emails from organizations.  Identify the people within your organization that will be the primary communicators.   It may be your president, your executive director, or anybody else that can effectively communicate a passion for the mission, the services or the products.
  • Speak Naturally Move beyond colorless reporting.  Forget what your English teacher or journalism professor told you.  Use ‘I’ in your writing.   And then use words that show that you are speaking to them.   Example: “I came across this article and thought you would find it interesting.”
  • Show Personality Don’t be shy.  Express your likes and dislikes.  Nelson Mandela, Tom Hanks and Eric Clapton really are favorites of mine.  That tells you a lots about me.  I am giving you a way to connect with me.
  • Think Orientation   The right communications during an ‘orientation’ period – perhaps 5-7 emails over a 30 day period – is a major factor in determining whether a contact will be opening your emails in 6 months, 12, months and even 24 months.  Take time to create a really compelling series of introductory emails.   Use automated systems to deliver these emails.
  • Listen! Not literally, but in the online world, you can learn a lot about your contacts’ interest  with just a bit of planning.  Capture this information, so you can send info that speaks to them ….. instead of speaking at them.   This is easier and cheaper than you might think. It starts with avoiding a few simple mistakes!  
  • Harness the Power of Aesop Remember Aesop’s fables?  Short sweet stories that have an important message.  Aesop wrote hundreds of fables. They are remembered.  They are told over and over again.  You don’t need to write hundreds, but effective storytelling and low cost videos let you harness the power of Aesop.

Content Marketing: Writer’s Block Resource

Posted by Rob Leighton| 09.06.2013| in Content Marketing


Content Marketing for NonprofitsHave you ever struggled with creating a new piece of content? A direct mailer? An e-newsletter?  A blog post?  I know I have. Sometimes I just can’t get the message clear. Sometimes it’s about not finding the right voice for the target segment.  Sometimes the words just don’t flow at all.

Here is a resource that I have found helpful for breaking through a writer’s block.   It’s  SOFII – the Showcase of Fundraising Innovation & Inspiration.  SOFII provides a comprehensive, well organized collection of fundraising related content from around the world.

SOFII organizes its content marketing library by:  Type of charity or cause  (arts, political, seniors, etc) Intended audience: individual volunteering, corporations, etc;  Type of campaign: legacy campaign, membership, capital campaign, etc.  (click for detailed list), and, Medium of communication: direct Mail, press advertising.

Here is what’s also good!  While its great to get inspiration from the best, it also is helpful to see what terrific content marketers have identified as fundraising bloopers.  Check some of these out here.  

Content Marketing:  The MIssion-Driven Edge

Mission-driven organizations, both nonprofits and socially driven businesses, have a competitive online edge.  They have an important and authentic story to tell.  That gets peoples interested. It gets the message heard above chatter of other online communications. That’s why the search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing provide high rankings. Successful mission driven organizations leverage this advantage with the power of breakthrough content.

Breakthrough content marketing is both a science and an art.  In this webinar, you will learn:

  • What information does not qualify as good content marketing.
  • Why your “Old Style” website is not performing.
  • Using content marketing to move online visitors to prospects and then donors, clients and customers.
  • How to use content to earn the right to make an ‘ask.’
  • Seven tips for managing breakthrough content marekting, now and into the future.

 Click Here to Register