How To Power Up Your Content Strategy When You’re Short on Time and Staff

Even an overstretched team can create an effective content strategy that can break through and gain traction in the attention economy, keep customers and advocates engaged, and attract new ones.
Bootstrap Your Content Strategy

One of our core philosophies is that social impact organizations need to adopt a digital-first culture. And a big part of that culture is consistently producing scroll-stopping content to reach, inspire, and activate your community.

But let’s be realistic. Even if you’re a CEO or an Executive Director who understands the importance of producing regular content, your busy team has a lot on their plate already. You may not even have a marketing or communications team, let alone a dedicated person. How can your organization produce the content that you need to rise to and remain top of mind?

The good news is even with limited capacity you can create a content strategy and content production model that starts small, builds over time, and won’t overwhelm your organization.

We'll show you the roadmap for how to do this below.

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Why Content Creation Matters

Dropping content creation and distribution is a mistake we’ve seen both social enterprises and nonprofits make. We’ve also worked with organizations that have embraced a digital-first culture and benefitted from developing a content creation process that works for them.

If you’re not engaging your customers, advocates, volunteers, and donors, you’re going to run out of momentum, interest, and revenue. Fresh content is one of the things that keep people coming back to your digital hub, action center, or marketing website.

Effective content can help you break through and gain traction in the attention economy. It keeps customers and advocates involved and attracts new ones. You might think that people come to your website via the Homepage. And of course, some do. But people rarely share an organization’s Homepage. More often, they share engaging content that provides value on its own.

Content gives your fans a way to express themselves and tell their friends and family about you. It turns them from customers and supporters into champions who can grow your audience, extend your reach, and help drive your success. Content can be the lifeblood of your organization. It should be one of the top four things you’re always working on.

One way to look at content is to think of it as if you're building a machine. You're building your brand and your digital footprint. This engine helps propel you forward and get traction towards your mission. But you need to give it fuel. And the fuel for that machine is content.

Types of Content to Create

People absorb messages differently. This gives you flexibility to expand on the types of content you produce. Some example of common content formats include:

  • Written articles, short blog posts, or white papers

  • Videos & Photos — Both professional and informal

  • Audio — People listen to podcasts while commuting and doing things around the house

  • Graphics — A good example is a series of background images (not just photos) and written content used to tell an Instagram story or Facebook image series.

  • Live Streams/Events — Workshops, panel discussions, webinars, etc.

You can even repurpose existing content. Go back to an old blog post and find a way to summarize it in a video for your Instagram Story. Find an email from your Executive Director that performed well and sit down with them to record it as an audio interview. Maybe this even sparks a podcast series.

The pandemic and resulting rapid digital acceleration has lowered the bar for video production quality. Yes, professional video still has value, but a simple video shot on a smartphone with attention paid to lighting and audio can be a good thing, and make your organization feel more human and grounded to your supporters. Zoom interviews can produce compelling content, too (more on this below).

If you can, change up the format of your content. If you present a video one time, an article the next, and follow that up with an audio interview or podcast, you can engage different audiences with the format they prefer. It’s also fun to vary the types of content you produce; you might find hidden, untapped skills among your staff that lets them shine.

What to Create

People often ask us:

“So, what kind of content should I create?

It’s a good question. The simple answer is, “Create content that creates value for your audiences.”

One of the main values nonprofits add for their supporters is education. You’re on the ground. You’re seeing the issue firsthand. So the value that you can provide to the general population is education. Inform people about what's happening in your issue area. Tell them what's new, what you've recently learned, and what needs to happen next. They’re not paying as close attention to the issue as you are. You can serve as their guide on the subject.

People who are educated about the benefits of your products or services tend to become more receptive to your requests for support. And once you educate people, you can activate them. That’s the benefit to your organization.

On the social enterprise side, it's very similar. You educate people on your products or services and how they make an impact on the world. For example, at Cosmic, we educate people on social impact marketing that they can take and do themselves. Or they can hire us to help them do it better. But we give away educational content. Content marketing, by definition, is educational.

Whether you’re a social enterprise or a nonprofit, content marketing is educating, advocating for your mission, and providing a sense of authority for your brand. When you establish authority, you're top of mind when people are ready to buy or engage.

Content Topic Hacks

Crowdsource ideas from your supporters. They’re the ones reading your content. What do you get questions about the most? What campaign areas excite them? What perspectives or behind-the-scenes details are they most curious about? Why do they look to you as a leader in your focus area? You can source these by asking your staff what they are hearing, do competitive keyword research for similar organizations, or build on the momentum of your most popular social media and email campaign content thus far.

Keep in mind the 3:1 Give Before You Ask strategy, where you produce (give) three pieces of valuable content before you ask for an action or donation. One source of topics is reporting back on successful campaigns. The progress you make and the success stories your work creates are areas ripe for use as content. Don’t exploit the people or communities you serve, but share in their successes and provide a place for their voices to be heard.

How to Get Started

1. Set Your Content Cadence

Another question we get a lot is:

“How often do I need to produce content?”

There's no one answer, but a good guide is to produce as much as you can within the cadence you establish. One mistake to avoid is to start off doing more than you can sustain.

Consistency with content production is vital to being effective and successful. Establish and stick to a realistic cadence. It’s better to commit to producing one piece of content a month and do that well and consistently, versus committing to three or four pieces of content a month, doing that for two months and then doing nothing for the next two months.

Know that it's going to take time to get results. You may get some immediate wins and anecdotal results, but it takes time to build credibility with Google and to develop an engaged audience through your newsletter, blog, videos, and social channels. And that happens through quality, consistent content, rather than big fits and starts.

You need to find a pace that works for your organization. Once you get into a flow, you may find you can produce more content than you thought. If that’s the case, notch up your output or expand your content formats to reach more of your community.

2. Determine the Volume of Your Content

As with cadence, there’s no simple answer. Create content that’s appropriate to the subject you want to cover. An Instagram story can motivate people as powerfully as an in-depth article.

You can break larger pieces of content into smaller bite size chunks and dole them out over time. You don’t have to start from scratch every time, or create a 5,000 word opus. If you have a big idea, you might get more mileage out of it by creating several posts instead of one huge essay. Don’t forget your supporters are short on time, too – you’re making this content easier for them to consume and easier for you to produce.

3. Create an Editorial Calendar

Once you’ve established your cadence and the volume of content you’re creating, block out your content release schedule for a year. Nothing creates stress like a deadline that you didn’t plan for.

Releasing content on a regular basis is much easier if everyone knows what content is going to be released when. An Editorial Calendar helps your team integrate content production into their schedule.

Put all of the components (outlined in Step 4 below) of content production in the Editorial Calendar. Having a deadline is great, but it takes time. Be sure to set milestones for idea creation, content productions, revisions, and any additional elements, such as photography, artwork, and graphics. This helps small teams set aside time in their schedules to get the work done.

4. Coordinate, Create, and Distribute Your Content

The Content Production Process

A content strategy consists of three components that work synergistically.

  1. Content Coordination

  2. Content Creation

  3. Content Distribution

Content Coordination

Someone needs to make sure that content production happens. You might think of that person as the Content Coordinator. Provide your Content Coordinator with the authority to oversee content production from ideation to distribution.

The Content Coordinator doesn't need to create the content, though they might create some of it, or assign tasks and edit content that others create. Content coordination cannot be spread across your team. Someone needs to own the entire process and ensure that the content gets distributed.

Content Creation

This is where things can get interesting and where you have more flexibility than you might think. Lift up your team’s voices. Creating content doesn’t have to fall on one marketing person or the best writers on your team alone. Come up with repeatable structures to lift up everyone’s perspectives on your team.

Your Content Coordinator could task someone with interviewing other team members about their program or get their take on a recent development in your space. That interview could generate a blog post or an article. You could conduct and record the interview over a video platform like Zoom, and release it, with some simple editing, as a video.

Tailor your content towards what feels natural for your team, like a selfie video for Instagram or an email written from the heart. If you have someone on your team who thinks deeply on their area of expertise, ask them to write an in-depth article.

Leverage your board members. They want you to succeed and they often have area expertise in the work you do. They can write articles about what being a board member means to them. They might also be open to writing white papers and more ‘scholarly’ content.

Spreading out content creation across your team takes the pressure off of a single person to do it all.

Content Distribution

Part of the content strategy for small teams, or teams of any size, is getting the content to your audience. You have to establish a system for posting and promoting it.

We often post our articles one week and promote them the following week. This allows us to spread out these tasks among our small team. We don’t do everything at once. You don’t need to either. Just make sure that you know where you’re going to publish your content and when and how you’re going to promote it — through social media, your newsletter, and/or targeted email.

You can read more about our thoughts on adopting a digital-first culture, publishing scroll-stopping content, and crafting a distribution strategy in our manifesto.

It can be exciting to promote your content and watch the engagement. Paying attention to engagement also helps you fine tune future content strategy.

Measure. Analyze. Refine.

Set up some basic tracking on your site, in your email platform, on your video platform, and on your podcast platform. That way, you can get a sense of what kind of content and format and topics are getting the most traction.

Once you have a sense of what’s working and what your audiences are responding to, you can refine your approach and produce more content that they gravitate toward.

You Can Do This

We understand that starting and maintaining a content strategy can seem daunting and overwhelming. We faced the same challenge when we got started. The good news is that by following our suggestions above, you can get started with your existing team and resources. Start small and build as you move forward.

You might find that content creation is more fun than you expect.Your staff and board may be thrilled by the opportunity to express their feelings and share their knowledge about the work that you do. After all, they believe in your mission and want to help you succeed. Tap into that shared passion and produce content that inspires people to get behind your products, services, and your cause.

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