In this age of information clutter, the concept of marketing communications for nonprofits seems all too sales-centric and too fuelled by money. Many nonprofits struggle with this concept, asking themselves “Is it too slimy to apply?”
Branding for nonprofits can be a challenge. All we want to do is focus on “doing good” and the last thing we want to worry about is our brand and voice. We are not selling anything so why worry about it?
As much as we would like to deny, the nonprofit market is saturated. With today’s superbly competitive fundraising environment, nonprofits are selling something. They are selling their mission, convincing those with resources to choose them over another deserving nonprofit. It is precisely this that makes communications all the more important to help you to effectively promote your cause.
Naturally, we, as a sector, don’t like talking about competition and certainly not about fundraising as sales. But, if we are going to survive the challenges facing the nonprofit sector, we have to admit that marketing and sales are essentially the same as communications and fundraising. We’re operating our business in a tough world, folks and we’ve got to prepare for the battle.
Brand Building for your Nonprofit
The onslaught of the digital age has put us all on a new footing. As the media environment buckles and shifts, as new forms of technology emerge and mutate, the business, ethical and creative challenges in communications are formidable. How do we connect with audiences who feel there is too much to take in and do anything about when everyone can have a channel with tools that are readily available, cheap and easy to use?
The fact remains: nonprofits have valuable assets to deploy in the digital environment – knowledge and content, trust and brand. They are becoming news and information providers, linking directly to their audiences, building social networks and partnering with different stakeholders.
The Key to Winning
If we continue to get smart together and reinvent our nonprofit organizations to that of communicating organizations, then each of us, in our own way, can help determine the shape of things to come. The key to success is thinking strategically and communicating clearly to stay ahead of your competition.
1. The Early Days of Battle – build your identity and spread your story
Fortify your brand image, communicate who you are and what you stand for, to stand out from the crowd; inspire people and connect with them to amplify your journey towards success.
Update your website and social media pages regularly, convey your BIG Story at community events; send thank you letters; and weave aspects of your BIG Story into your appeal tactics to remind people why they love your organisation.
2. Create a Strong Web of Alliances – focus on your targets
Each organization is fighting for its share of donors and supporters. You must find out what is really important to them. Success stories must connect emotionally and the call to action must be distinct.
Put a face to the problem. Use succinct and compelling messages to highlight your cause, stress the urgency of giving now, why they matter and why you need them. Always keep them engaged and be consistent but different!
3. Tactical Manoeuvring – explore all outlets of communication
Now that you know what you want to say and why, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to broadcast your message. No matter the outlet, there should be a common thread or theme that pulls all of your communication efforts together that embeds itself at the heart of your cause.
Utilize traditional and social media to communicate with your stakeholders. Once you’ve exhausted traditional media, focus on a select few by planning media-free communication activities, such as wall magazines, social dramas and targeted awareness drives.
Just like a battlefield, nonprofit communications should be about achieving change with minimal resources employed. But with the aim of creating social change, at the heart of nonprofit communications lie transparency, consistency and sincerity. So, never plan for a single shot; think of a series of continuous communication activities which should be tied together as part of a comprehensive strategy. That’s the formula to winning the hearts and minds of millions all over the world.
Posted by Stephanie Robert, Advocate(PR), CorpMedia
We’ve found there are six main reasons why PR practitioners and businesses avoid using images as part of their communications.
We thought we’d suggest solutions to these problems so you can start creating more vibrantly eye-catching and interesting content.
“Our product is boring. I don’t think it would be a good subject for an interesting picture.”
All the more reason you should use creative images to enliven your communications. Think of Innocent Drinks. Their product is not unique, but their social media content is awash with images that are unrelated to their product but fit with the quirky image they’re trying to give their brand’s personality.
However, if you don’t think this would work for your brand then you should consider thinking about how you can create an emotive or humorous image in some way connected to your product. Look at this humorous example for Webroot Internet Security.
Another tip is to write down your headline. What first comes to your mind when you read it? Have you used a metaphor? It’s often easier to match a picture to a headline than the whole story.
“Professional photographers are too expensive; I can’t afford to pay for photographs to accompany every press release I send out.”
Professional photographers might not be as expensive as you think. If you plan wisely, you can get a lot for your money.
Rather than hiring a photographer on an individual campaign basis, consider making a list of all the campaign activities you will have in upcoming months so you can think about the images you might like to accompany your documents.
It is much cheaper to hire a photographer for a whole day and take a wide range of shots to build your photo library. This collection of photographs can then be shared with your whole team so they can have easy access to photographs when they’re creating documents and presentations.
“We’re a small company we can’t afford fancy digital cameras, never mind a photographer.”
Don’t underestimate the power of your smartphone or tablet. The number of megapixels on these devices is equivalent to the digital cameras people were investing in only a few years ago. Also the quality of apps, such as Instagram, is continually improving.
Though the images these devices produce might not be of high enough quality for printed materials, they can certainly be used across social media and in blog posts.
“I take terrible photographs; they really wouldn’t be publishable.”
There are two websites worth checking out if you would like to improve your photography.
Writer and designer Adam Dachis has put together a comprehensive guide on Lifehacker that includes a number of lessons for use with digital cameras.
Expert Photography provides a thorough Beginner’s Guide to Photography and more than 250 other articles to help you improve your skills whether you are shooting with a camera or a phone. It’s definitely worth a read.
“I can never get my photographs the way I like them. I would have to buy expensive and complicated editing software or pay someone to edit them for me.”
Photoshop is the undisputed king of photo editing. However, it’s notoriously complicated and expensive. If you don’t want to fork out a whole heap of cash there are great free alternatives.
According to PCMag.com: “Paint.net lives in an interesting space between very basic image manipulation applications like Microsoft Paint and robust big guys like Photoshop.”
Gimp.org is a credible competitor to Photoshop, and it’s free. You can combine it with Photoshop plug-ins should you feel the package is not extensive enough. Read Brighthub.com’s review for details.
If you’d still rather use Photoshop but don’t want to pay for the full package, try Photoshop Elements. It’s a basic version of the full package at a fraction of the price.
“I am unsure of copyright laws so I would rather avoid using other people’s images.”
The Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act of 1988 is notoriously complicated and extends to more than 300 sections. Therefore, you should avoid using other people’s photographs unless you are absolutely certain you are not infringing any copyrights.
When you need an image in a hurry, it’s tempting to jump onto Google Images, do a few searches, and see what catches your eye. Of course, many images will be copyrighted. To find images you can freely use, use the advanced search and tick the use rights option that says, “free to use or share, even commercially.” Even then, please credit the original photographer.
The same applies with Flickr, the world’s largest photo-sharing site. Go to the advanced search and select “Creative Commons: find content to use commercially.”
“I find the photographs on these online stock sites are often very cheesy.”
Generally, it’s worth paying for stock photography, although it’s true you have to look hard to find shots that aren’t bland, generic, or cheesy.
There’s a knack to searching on these sites. Try to think of conceptual search terms that go beyond the obvious. You might, for instance, look for metaphors from nature or perhaps the arts.
As with most things, you tend to get what you pay for. Take a look at sites such as Alamy, Shutterstock, iStockphoto, and 123RF, and find the cost/quality ratio you are comfortable with. If you want to buy photos and use them without restrictions, make sure you search for “royalty free.”
So, these are just some solutions. What do you think? Perhaps you have some of your own tricks to add. Please let us know in the comments below.
CIO Irene Gomez speaks with Sean Worrall, Managing Director of content.sg
Consumers today are shutting off the traditional world of marketing. They rely on their DVR to skip television advertising, often ignore magazine advertising, and now have become so adept at online “surfing” that they can take in online information without a care for banners or buttons (making them irrelevant).
Smart marketers understand that traditional marketing is becoming less and less effective by the minute, and that there has to be a better way.
Enter Content Marketing!
Q: How would you define content marketing?
I don’t want to define it because I don’t see it as something new or special. Marketing is a business discipline that includes communication, but it’s also a strategic and financial role. What interests me is the evolution of communication media, and changing consumption habits. And what we currently find at the intersection of those two lines are opportunities to lower costs and raise revenue. The opportunities are new, but the principals of communication are not. Brands have been doing content marketing for a long time.
In 1891 Dr. August Oetker, a German pharmacist, developed a baking powder which he branded as Backin. Baking powder had been around for nearly 50 years before that point, but Oetker’s formula had a USP – a long shelf life that made it a more cost effective purchase than other baking powders. Naturally, he patented his formula to get a defensible competitive advantage. But he wasn’t content to simply offer a superior product. He thought long and hard about how he could get housewives to use more of his product. His solution was to pakage it in individual sachets – one sachet activated 500g of flour – and he printed recipe ideas on each one. Sales skyrocketed and he made a fortune (and, incidentally the Oetker-Gruppe is still around today with annual revenues of 11 billion euros).
I love this story because it very neatly encapsulates what I consider to be great content: it is helpful, actionable, strategic, and profit focused. Certainly he built brand loyalty and boosted sales, but he didn’t ostensibly achieve it by shouting about himself and his clever formula. He helped his target audience to fix a personal pain point – “What on earth will I cook for dinner tonight?”
Q: How is content marketing different from other forms of marketing?
It’s not different. A good salesman will share a lot of information about himself, his company, and his product. His aim is to make sure that you feel totally at ease with your decision to buy, and that you will come back and buy from him again. Changes in technology, media, and consumption now make it possible to have that kind of dialogue with all your customers, regardless of the business sector you operate in.
Q: Why is it important to businesses, big or small?
It’s a productivity thing. It offers the potential to reduce the cost of sales line in the P&L. Every business leader wants to raise marginal revenue and reduce marginal costs. Effective content marketing differentiates you from your competitors at the discovery phase, and drives your prospects more quickly down the purchase pathway. It’s a cost effective way to sell with confidence, and respect for your audience.
Q: What do you think is the biggest content marketing mistake?
Have you ever read or viewed branded content that makes you go: “So what?”
That’s the biggest mistake that some players are making today. Content should be relevant, sincere, and useful. I have no problem with content that is fun or quirky, but it has to be anchored to the goals of customer acquisition and retention. If your aim is to build brand affinity, then help me to understand what is distinctive and helpful about your brand. Pictures of cute kids and cats interacting with your logo don’t say anything useful. I’m exaggerating for effect there, but the key message is: don’t conflate the idea of content marketing with social media – one is a discipline, the other is a channel.
I think some B2B marketers are managing content very well, and they are getting better all the time. I feel that this is because they have a better foundation to build on. They already understand the complex jigsaw puzzle of information flow that’s needed to win a major client for (say) a multi-million dollar enterprise technology investment. B2C players can learn a lot from B2B.
Q: Creating and maintaining a successful content marketing strategy is hard work. Can you share some tips on creating an effective strategy?
I’m glad you acknowledged that it is hard work. My top tip would be to recognise that, and not to be tempted to simply throw money at the problem. It needs a collaborative commitment of time.
Next, draw a visual map of your customer’s journey and try to capture his state of mind at each step along the way. I find it helpful to do this as a role-play exercise because, if you verbalise the questions and answers, your content will be more specific and helpful. By comparison if you simply write down a generic topic like “trust”, you won’t get very far. If you’re an investment manager, I want to know how you think, and you’ll be around for the long term. If you’re selling curry puffs, I don’t care much about that – I want to know that your kitchen is clean and you use good ingredients!
Finally, encourage open collaboration from all around the organisation, and create a mechanism for people to submit suggestions. With my own clients, I’m evangelical about this. What I love most is when I get an email from a staff member I haven’t met before (e.g. from the customer call centre) and they say something like: “This could be stupid, but I’ve had an idea. I don’t know if you can use it, but…”, and they typically go on to describe a very interesting insight or experience. It is never stupid or a waste of time because that process often leads to great pieces of content.
Q: How do you see content marketing changing over the next 5 years?
Change is constant but I don’t think the next 5 years will be quite as disruptive as the previous 10 years. That’s not to say that there won’t be winners and losers – there will be. There are still agencies and clients who haven’t fully gotten to grips with digital media, and traditional media owners who haven’t figured out their response. But it’s not the same existential crisis as before.
There’s now a whole generation of tech-savvy marketers moving into senior positions, and many of the old old-timers have shifted up the learning curve too. There’s a foundation of knowledge and experience now, and that makes life-long learning and adaptation easier.
On the client side I think we’ll see some reconfiguring of marketing departments. We’ll obviously see a bigger role for writers, and there will be more in-house writers than we’ve seen before. But I tend to think they will come from the journalistic tradition, rather than the creative agency copywriting one: business-literate researchers, who know how to tell a story. PR and strategic comms people already have those skills, so I think they will take more of a leadership role. And we’ll see more B2B marketers crossing over into B2C (but I feel that will be a one-way street).
Overall, I think we’ll start to see brands communicating with more substance, and less fluff: a more sincere dialogue with customers that will redefine our notions of ‘image’.
Sean Worrall is a corporate storyteller and the founder of content.sg, a marketing services firm with a focus on customer purchase and retention pathways. A former business consultant and trainer, Sean was the MD of an international advertising agency before establishing his own practice. He is a naturalised Singapore citizen and has an MBA from Warwick Business School.
Brand building and brand management is only for big businesses with millions to invest – this has been the view among leaders of small to-medium sized enterprises for a long time. However, in the last few years, these businesses have been beginning to rethink their opinion in response to ever challenging market conditions. An increase in domestic and international competition, consumer purchasing restraint and waning consumer trust are just a few factors making the lives and survival of smaller businesses difficult. In such an environment it is now even more important to sharpen the brand profile:
If one succeeds in elevating the brand’s transparency, that is to say communicating the brand’s uniqueness and added value consistently both internally and externally, then an important building block for sustainable business success is laid.
A brand creates distinction
Having a strong brand gives small and mid-sized businesses the best opportunity to distinguish themselves in the marketplace, both from same-size and global competitors – because in a brand, a company can unite all its ideals, product and business-specific values. If this succeeds, it allows the brand to precisely express the claims, goals, and strengths of the company, thus giving it a distinctive identity. It confirms to existing customers that they have made the right choice, and convinces new customers about the brand’s advantages. Furthermore, a harmonious and likeable brand image plays an important role in attracting qualified staff and building their loyalty.
For a brand to have the effects described above, it must be unique and authentic, and this has to be reflected across all communication channels of the business: from PR work to advertisements, from web presence and information brochures to personal customer contact, e.g. through administrative services or sales processes. This is how the brand achieves a clear, recognizable image that sticks in the minds of the target group. A good brand creates more value than it costs.
What does a good brand cost?
Many small and mid-sized companies are of the opinion that their budget would not stretch to professional brand management. This is mostly a mistaken belief, as successful branding doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Of course, smaller companies generally have smaller marketing budgets at their disposal than the big global players. However, they do tend to have a clear idea of their own strengths, which they can then use in their brand communication, such as, for example, a stronger local presence, personal service and a high level of competence in their specific industry sector. Building on such elements allows companies to establish a brand profile with smaller budgets, which can then be turned into real brand value – because a good brand always creates more value for the company than it costs in terms of communication. And this is due to the fact that it communicates consistent and concentrated messages, which spread with incomparable efficiency.
Strategic brand building
How does a small or medium-sized business manage to find its very own brand? To achieve optimal results within the available means, it is best to work together with a professional communications agency that can point to comprehensive experience in the field of brand management. As a first step, the marketing department of the company needs to develop a unique brand profile in close cooperation with the communications professionals. In this, it is important proceed in a strategic way and to concentrate on the essentials: this focusing will result in a sharp, assertive company profile and simultaneously save resources. The following three-step analysis, conception and implementation process has proven itself to be very successful.
Step 1: Analysis
The process always begins with thorough research and analysis, an examination of the market, the competition and, of course, the business itself, including its own performance, strengths and weaknesses, values, philosophy, goals and target groups.
Step 2: Conception
Step two is the conceptual development of a positioning and builds on the foundation laid in step one. A distinctive profile forms the basis of all communications. At this point it is about translating the particular performance of the company into meaningful messages, and developing a creative platform and an expressive tonality.
Step 3: Implementation
The third step moves on to implementation, during which the formulated messages will be communicated in an effective way. If it does not already exist, brand language and imagery that will shape all communication material is now defined to give the business an unmistakable face. This is what makes a good brand quickly recognizable: at a trade fair stand as well as online, in adverts, brochures, mailings, press articles, and even in business correspondence.
The communications agency strategists oversee the whole brand building process and ensure consistent implementation across all communication activities. It is also important that the management of the business is open and supportive of the process. In small and mid-sized companies, marketing decisions – contrary to big companies – are usually made directly by the management who also mostly engages with the press. Dedicated time must be factored in for all of this in case it isn’t already. If not, the processes can easily flounder and lead to a missed opportunity for the business to profit from the myriad advantages and added value of having a strong brand. This chance is too little used, especially among small to-mid-sized companies – and yet it is one of the most efficient and simplest ways to distinguish themselves from the competition.
By Guest, Kai Dannenberg, rheinfaktor, member of The EVOKE Network