Cosmic

How to Build a Next-level Content Strategy

You need a sustainable plan for memorable content. Learn how your content strategy can drive higher engagement and heightened visibility.

Eric Ressler
November 10, 2021
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To gain enthusiastic support and engagement for your cause, you need a solid content strategy. And we’re not just talking about a combination of monthly blogs, emailed newsletters, and Facebook posts. We’re talking about a diverse range of must-consume content that beats out any viral Twitter thread for your audience’s coveted (and scattered) attention.

This means your organization needs to fearlessly embrace functioning like a digital media company that consistently creates and distributes compelling content.

But creativity fatigue and a lack of operational bandwidth are often blockers to making your content strategy a reality — not to mention busting through the attention-and-algorithm economy. It’s enough to make you settle for creating whatever content you can manage.

There is a way to form a content strategy that’s sufficient and sustainable for your organization. A content strategy that not only feeds your supporter’s desire for up-to-date information and a tight-knit community, but one that increases your revenue stream.

By involving your broader team in the content creation process and expanding your idea of what constitutes content, you can form an invaluable strategy that moves mountains.

Content Strategy is Foundational to Engagement — and Revenue

A social impact organization functions at its best with a sustainable revenue stream and unwavering supporter engagement. That much is obvious, right? What tends to get overlooked, however, is how much of a role an organization’s content plays in building those engagement numbers and fortifying said revenue stream. And that’s a problem for organizations wanting to move the needle.

Let’s put it this way: If your social impact organization doesn’t produce content that inspires and activates your supporters, it's holding you back in ways much larger than you might think.

At its core, your organization’s content has the vast potential to:

  • Give your website and social media crucial information and stories with which to inform and hook your donors.
  • Activate your supporters by giving them a community to join.
  • Empower your organization by boosting your credibility, thereby increasing the chance of foundations and major donors giving to your cause.
  • Feed your membership model by providing more reasons and opportunities to join your organization.

The truth is, major donors and grassroots givers alike need to trust you’re doing everything you can to push your cause forward. The best way to earn that trust is by creating — and following — an intentional content strategy.

Ultimately, the more supporters you reel in with emotional, engaging, informative content, the more revenue you will see in memberships, donations, and unrestricted funding. Without this distinct content, you’re saying nothing — and your supporters can hear that loud and clear.

Your Content Exists to Inform, Engage, and Inspire Your Supporters

If you’re all in on forming a content strategy, your next step is understanding what your material should be about and what you need it to do. That said, your content should always hit on at least one of these objectives:

  • To educate your supporters on what needs to be done and why
  • To arm your supporters with real facts and information as talking points to share within their networks
  • To inform journalists and editors covering stories related to your cause

You may pen a thought-provoking article infused with unheard insight into your cause’s issue. Or shoot a video showcasing the proof of impact after your latest campaign. Either way, each piece of content should meet a larger objective. Not only that, but it should compel your audience to seek more information, more emotional stories, and more facts to share with their community.

For example, casual browsers can turn into fervent supporters the deeper they dive into your content. And your fervent supporters can turn more of their network onto your cause if you feed them with more relevant talking points. No matter where they sit on the engagement pyramid, your supporters should always be able to find content that resonates.

As you explore crafting your scroll-stopping content, do so with the notion that everything you create has the power to influence the larger conversation in your area of focus. In creating these stories and sharing information, you are bringing more visibility to your cause, creating opportunities to partner with thought leaders to spread the word, and persuading people with power and influence.

If your content doesn’t inform, engage, or inspire, it won’t serve your organization in the way you need it to. Therefore, the content you put out into the world isn’t optional. It’s essential to the work you do every day.

How to Create the Right Content Strategy for Your Organization

Let’s get down to business and formulate your organization’s content strategy. It doesn’t matter the size of your team, or whether you’re a newly launched startup or a mature nonprofit. You can be effective at any point. It’s helpful to break your thinking into two parts: the content side and the strategy side.

Here’s how.

The Content in Content Strategy

Blogs and newsletters can get the job done — or at least check the box. But the world of content creation is thriving right now, meaning you have a wealth of options for how you want to tell your stories.

Podcasts, videos, in-depth series, interactive microsites, short op-eds. The list goes on and on. People are used to being able to consume content in a variety of formats. Whatever works for them at any given time. This means you have to vary what you produce in order to increase your odds of catching them in the right way at the right time.

Think about it: Have you been on public transportation sans headphones? Of course, you want to read the captions to a video instead of being that person who listens anyway. But when you’re waiting at the doctor’s office, you want something to read to pass the time. Something good.

These are the experiences of your supporters, going about their days and needing to consume content that’s convenient and satisfying to them. And this is what you need to think about when you’re planning what content you’re going to create. Truly, the possibilities are endless. Just keep a few things in mind to make the most out of your efforts:

  • Be visual. Incorporate images and relevant photographs whenever possible. The more (appropriately) eye-catching, the better.
  • Cover your bases. Include transcripts and a high-level overview of any video interviews so people can scan if they can’t watch, or listen to, the entire segment.
  • Make your articles scannable. Format your articles with content that is easy to scan, including headlines, subheadings, and pull quotes. There’s nothing more exit-inducing than a massive chunk of text.
  • Don’t have fancy video equipment? Use your phone. Seriously, it’s OK. There are so many apps that can help any amateur make a phone-produced video look good. (One thing you can’t compromise? Audio. Make sure your audio is high quality — and always include captions).
  • Use your supporters’ content. Supporter-generated content, when vetted and approved, can be a great way to share content without having to produce it.

The Strategy in Content Strategy

Your content means zilch if no one sees it, so getting eyes on your content is critical. How will you distribute and promote your content, and to whom? Email campaigns, paid media, and social media channels are all viable ways to share your content in strategic ways.

Consider the timing of sharing certain pieces of content and with certain audiences.

Is there a gala coming up? Sharing an impact story via email to your segmented major donor audience (that you pulled from your donor management system) is good practice. Or maybe you’ve partnered with a like-minded nonprofit to organize a march. Social media may be a better avenue for sharing stories about why it’s important to join the march.

Planning your content calendar should happen with an eye to your strategic plan. Working up to 6-18 months in advance is smart for a cohesive strategy that makes sense down the road.

This is a team effort. Everyone at your organization has something to contribute, so let them! Like a newspaper, consider what “beats” members of your team can take.

There is no one-size-fits-all plan as to the how and when of sharing your content because every organization is different. And every organization’s initiatives and supporters are different, too.

Your main takeaways are to map out an editorial calendar, pull your team together, and divide in order to conquer.

Your editorial calendar should include:

  1. 1.
    What type or format of content you’re going to develop, why it’s important, and who is going to produce it.
  2. 2.
    When and where you are going to share it and to whom.

You'll also want to leave plenty of space to respond to unplanned opportunities: whether that's real-world events or exciting content to reshare from your audience.

Excellent, compelling, emotional content is out there — and it’s increasing in quality and quantity all the time. To make sure your organization’s message doesn’t get lost in the fray, you need a content strategy that is going to swoop in and tenaciously hold your audience’s attention.

The only way to do this, however, is by approaching your content strategy with intention, a tactical plan, and an eye for the not-so-ordinary.

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