Sarah Durham (00:04):
Hello everybody, this is Sarah Durham and I am delighted to be your host today for the session on Content Planning and Management 101. We still have a lot of people who are logging in. So before we dig into the substance of our discussion today, I want to just do a little bit of housekeeping. First, if you are new to GoToWebinar there are a few features I want to call to your attention. You should see on your screen a Q & A panel. You can chat in questions, feel free to chat in questions at any point. I am going to do my best to get through this content quickly so that I can address some of your questions at the end and I will keep track of your questions and if I don’t get to them today because we have a lot to cover, you can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah Durham (00:53):
I am joined today by Advomatic project manager Theresa Gutierrez Jacobs, who some of you know. I saw some of you logging in are probably good buddies with Theresa. And Theresa is going to be doing a few things in the session today. First of all, she’ll be monitoring the email address, email@example.com so if you’re having a problem with GoToWebinar and you don’t know how to solve it, you can email Theresa at firstname.lastname@example.org and she can try to point you to some resources. Theresa is also going to be chatting out some of the references and things I mention. So keep an eye on that chat box you should see in GoToWebinar. We are recording this session and we will be posting it on the Advomatic website, both the video and a transcript in a couple of days. So if you want to take notes, great.
Sarah Durham (01:43):
But you’ll be able to reference the transcript pretty soon and Theresa will be sending out an email with a link to that page after we post it so that you can share it with any colleagues you’d like to. So with that, let’s begin. For those of you who have not worked with Advomatic before, a number of you are Advomatic clients, but some of you are new to Advomatic. Advomatic is a firm that helps nonprofits build and maintain sturdy websites in Drupal and in WordPress. And our sister agency is Big Duck and some of you know me from Big Duck. This is actually a workshop I developed for Big Duck many years ago. And it was originally developed as an all-day workshop. So you’d come and spend a whole day with me and we’d go really very deeply into this content.
Sarah Durham (02:36):
But I decided to adapt it today because I have been talking to a lot of nonprofits over the past few months who are more and more aware of how important it is making sure that the content on their website and the thought leadership that they’re producing on behalf of their organizations is effective. Especially right now when your website is perhaps the most important destination your organization has. So what I’ve done is I’ve taken this day long workshop that I developed for Big Duck a while ago and I’ve kind of collapsed it down to be sort of a blitz which I will go through, hopefully in about 50 minutes. I’m going to be moving very quickly and covering a lot and we’re going to cover all the things you see on this slide today. But I also want to mention that I’m going to be skimming through content pretty fast here today.
Sarah Durham (03:25):
So again, don’t hesitate to email me at email@example.com if I go too quickly. And also I should say that this is a workshop that is really developed for people who are newer to content planning and management. So some of you that I know who’ve logged in are seasoned pros. I hope there will be some good refresher points here for you. But if you’re a newbie, I hope this will help you get oriented and think about how to manage the content or the thought leadership about your organization or your issue that you probably mostly post on your website. That will be the primary focus of what we’ll do. Well, we’ll talk about other channels and tools a bit today too. So let’s get started. So content is the thought leadership about your organization and the issues that you work on. And the reason we want to produce great content, it’s pretty obvious, but just to sort of spell it out, having great content online helps attract, engage and convert the people that you most want to reach and connect with the people who help you advance your mission, your donors, your clients all those people whose actions and beliefs you are trying to change.
Sarah Durham (04:37):
And I’m actually in the middle of a four-part series of webinars over at Big Duck and I’m giving a webinar tomorrow about engagement and mind share. So if building engagement, building mind share is something that’s important to your organization, thought leadership is a great strategy to do it. And you’re also welcome to join the webinar tomorrow. It’s at BigDuck.com. And hear a little bit more about mind share and engagement in other ways. But let’s get started and talk about crafting your content strategy because I think a lot of times what happens is organizations just start blogging or they just start posting stuff and there isn’t always a really clear sort of grounding in goals. And there have been a lot of studies that have come out over the past few years. Here’s just one of them about why organizations should do content marketing.
Sarah Durham (05:28):
And engagement is the number one reason. Brand awareness is number two. And again, I would say that brand awareness is really about mind share. It’s about, Oh, you’re not seeing my slides. It’s about making sure, do you see this now I just had to change a filter. It’s about making sure that the right people are connecting with your organization. Let me just make sure that this is going okay. Good. I had a, I had a little little internet hiccup there. So, we want to make sure that the right people are reaching in and engaging with your organization and that you’re building mind share with them in a way that helps advance your goals. And what are those goals? Well, probably they are a mix of programs, advocacy and fundraising goals, which means we’re going to want to produce content that reaches and engages audiences across all of these metrics.
Sarah Durham (06:24):
So one way I think it’s important to think about thought leadership is, you know, in terms of the ladder of engagement, and this is a tool that we use both at Big Duck and Advomatic to think about where people are in terms of their familiarity with your organization and what kind of content you might want to share with them in order to help them get more engaged. So if they’re totally unaware of your work, they’ve never heard of you, and you were able to reach them perhaps through social media and you get them to click on a link and go to your website and read an article, what kind of article is going to help build their mind share, build their engagement with you, get them to take some sort of action. Another key advantage of thought leadership and content marketing is that the more content you post on your website, the more you actually attract the Google bots that crawl through your site and look for search words and that helps your search engine rankings.
Sarah Durham (07:20):
So if you produce 3,000 or more indexable words of content, odds are good that Google is going to see your website and boost you up to the top of your search ranking. So even if you’re not totally sure who’s out there reading that blog or that news or whatever content you’re posting, it is still a really good practice to do it because it will help reach the unaware by boosting your search capacity. And one of the people that I love working with over at Big Duck is Bill who works at the Fair Labor Association. Bill and I were on a panel last week together and Bill talked actually about the importance of writing a brief. He talked about how as a communications professional, it’s so important to start any big project by being clear who you’re trying to reach and what action you want to take.
Sarah Durham (08:08):
And that’s certainly true with your thought leadership. You want to set a specific goal. So if you haven’t done this already, I would encourage you to take a step back and ask yourself, you know, this question about what is the goal of content marketing for your organization? And maybe start by writing a sentence that will help you really get clear in that sentence. In some ways it can become the mission statement for this work. And I think that will be very helpful for you as you start to invite other people, like your colleagues and the programs department to produce content because you can put that brief in front of them and help them really stay focused on what you’re trying to achieve with the content. And ideally the goals that you set for the content should be SMART, which is to say specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.
Sarah Durham (08:55):
So you might say in your brief that you want to reach donors and prospective donors, you want to increase your donor list and your prospects by 10% this year. That should be an achievable goal, something you think you actually have a real track record of doing. You’re trying to do it in a realistic time frame and not bite off more than you can chew, but then really hold yourself accountable to measure it. And if you haven’t ever gone through a formal goal setting exercise before, there is an ebook over at Big Duck that you can download for free about setting strategy. It breaks down the definitions of goals, objectives, strategies and tactics. And it’s got sort of a little worksheet tool in it too. You can use, you can get that at bigduck.com and maybe Theresa, you could chat out the link to this ebook. Okay. Let’s move into a quick conversation about understanding your audiences because this is a place where I think a lot of organizations as they get into thought leadership kind of struggle to get their footings.
Sarah Durham (10:01):
But once you get your stride, it really gets a lot easier. And I think the big question you ask yourself is, will you find an audience for your content or will you develop content for your audience? And the difference is obviously whether you are very clear who they are and what they’re looking for, or whether you’re not clear who they are and you’re just producing things that you hope somebody will be interested in. The best way that I know to make sure that you’re developing content that is relevant for your audience is to start by developing audience personas. A persona or an audience mindset is a kind of a cheat sheet tool that you use to help get your team in the head of the person you’re trying to reach. And this is the kind of thing that a communications professional can help you develop.
Sarah Durham (10:48):
Or a company like Big Duck or Advomatic can work with you to develop them and they don’t have to be super fancy. They can be pretty straightforward, but they are very helpful when you’re writing or designing because you can write or design for that person. So I’m going to share with you two examples of personas. These were developed for the Wildlife Conservation Society by their agency. One persona that they found was key to their sort of base of support was somebody they called a Thinker Activist. And you can see that this is the kind of person who likes to travel. They like documentaries, they have certain values and beliefs that are identified here. Because this is a wildlife organization and they said this person is kind of like a wolf and there are other brands that this person identifies with. You could imagine that if you were writing content for this organization, you could write to this person.
Sarah Durham (11:41):
You could ask yourself a question, is this article we’re developing going to be relevant or interesting for this person? Here’s another example of one of their personas. This one is more of an emotive, a purist kind of persona and some things in common, but some things are a little different and you don’t have to always write content that’s one size fits all. If you’re going to be blogging regularly or podcasting or doing video production or things like that, it’s quite possible that you’re going to start to segment out the content you produce for different audiences and doing so is actually great for your website because it’s going to help you hit a lot of different words that are going to boost up that organic search. Okay, I’m moving quickly here. Don’t hesitate to chat in questions for the end. If I’m moving too fast, I will go back and cover something in a little bit more depth.
Sarah Durham (12:37):
But let’s talk for a minute about what it takes to build a machine that succeeds. And I think that this is probably the reason that I, I developed this workshop in the first place is that I’ve seen a lot of organizations who start blogging or they start producing videos or, or doing something they’ve never done before because it’s fun and it’s creative, but actually they just flame out because they don’t build a machine that helps them sustain doing it consistently. So there are a couple of things that I think are really critical to building machines to succeed and we’ll spend a couple minutes on them that starts by selecting the right tools and the, the less sexy side of communications is this software and, and really project management software. So there are a couple of tools that are commonly used for thought leadership and content marketing.
Sarah Durham (13:35):
I personally am a big fan of Asana at Big Duck and Advomatic both. We use Asana to keep track of our content. And what’s great about Asana is you can create a task. You can assign sub-tasks or tasks to people. They can attach files, they can, you know, you can set up a calendar around it. There are even templates for things like content calendars in Asana. If you get a paid version. A lot of people I know also use Google Sheets or Excel, but it is important that you use something that multiple people can share because you’re going to be collaborating with your peers and colleagues and you want to make sure that they have the ability to see the deadlines, see the materials they need in some larger organizations. And for businesses, GatherContent is a tool that’s commonly used.
Sarah Durham (14:21):
Personally. I’ve never used it. It can be expensive. I think it starts at $75 a month. But if you’re trying to build a very, very sophisticated machine with a lot of people involved in it, that might be one thing to look at. Personally, I’d check out Asana though. Here’s just a screengrab I took of some of the things that you might have in a very simple thought leadership tool like Asana. So what you can see here is, you know, this month there’s, you know, a mix of blogs or speaking engagements. You can see who it’s been assigned to, the date. You can even in Asana, create these little tags that help you identify the channels and tools that you’re working with. And this is actually I think in the free version. So there’s no cost to do this.
Sarah Durham (15:12):
The other tool that is critical to an effective thought leadership platform is a great email service provider. And that’s because when you’re trying to reach the people at the bottom of your ladder of engagement, besides organic search, when they’re looking for something, the best way to reach them is to try to capture their email address and start to email them. So if you work in a smaller organization, there are a lot of tools that have free versions and then sort of graduated pay-as-you-go. Options are: VerticalResponse, MyEmma and MailChimp are three of the ones that are quite commonly used by nonprofits. We use MailChimp at Advomatic and I’m a big fan of it. It’s got a lot of great tools and even the free version of MailChimp comes with some really nice standard features that a smaller organization can really use nicely.
Sarah Durham (16:00):
Once you get a little bit bigger, your list gets bigger or you want to do some things like segment, which means basically sending different emails to different parts of your audience, maybe by their persona type. You might need something a little bit more sophisticated. At Big Duck, we use a tool called ActOn, and there are lots of larger options like Marketo, Pardot, HubSpot. And what happens is you get into these medium and larger email service providers. Not only can you do more segmentation, but you can also develop what are called drips, which is to say flows that show how you might communicate with somebody based on their behavior. So on the right of the screen here, you might see hopefully you can see the details here. The first little drop is a white paper.
Sarah Durham (16:58):
So let’s say in, in an email drip or marketing automation drip, you send out a white paper. If they don’t open that email, then maybe you send them another email with the video. And if they don’t open that, that’s the end of the drip. But if they do open that video, then we send them maybe another ebook or so on and so forth. So what you can do in a drip campaign is you can essentially nurture relationships by asking them to take actions based on their past behavior. And what’s really lovely about that is that the recipient is getting something that feels a little bit more customized for them. The kinds of emails you might want to send out could be as simple as just the beginning of a blog that they have to click on or read more button and go to your website to keep reading.
Sarah Durham (17:43):
Or you might do something more sophisticated like a newsletter with lots of different types of content pockets. But generally as a rule, I recommend that as much of the content as possible actually live on your website. Don’t just write things that you put in email because when it’s just in that email, it goes away. If people don’t open that email, they’ve lost it and you don’t get the benefit of all those great keyword-rich words on your website. So a couple more things about automation. If you’re new to content marketing, there are a few basics of automation. I would encourage you to think about: the small size, the bite size, introduction to automation would be a welcome series. So if I go to your website and I sign up for your email or I download something and I give you my email address, you should send me a welcome series, something that says, “Hey Sarah, you know, so delighted you signed up for our news.
Sarah Durham (18:37):
Here are two or three of the articles that will help you get to know our organization. And here are two or three things that relate to the topic that we think you’re interested in.” Based on the thing you just clicked on in a larger, more sophisticated program, you might have some of those kinds of things plus some simple marketing automation drip. So you might start to send me things that are a little bit more customized based on my behavior. And in larger organizations, the drips tend to get more complex and involve segmenting. And the difference here in small, medium and large is less to do with the technology you’re using. And it’s more actually to do with your staff’s capacity because in truth, doing the large option here requires writing lots and lots of different messages and mapping out lots of different courses. So if you work in a shop where you’re the only full time communicator or you’re a part-time person managing communications, it’s usually not that realistic to do these sophisticated, complicated automated drips.
Sarah Durham (19:37):
One of the great ways to grow your list, which is, you know, one of the main reasons we engage in thought leadership, is by having gated content. So gated content means that in order to get the information, I have to give up my email address. I have to fill out a form, for instance, to get something. And there are a lot of great examples of nonprofits doing this. This is something that often gets debated in my workshops. People are loath to ask people to give up their email address or have to go through any barriers to get any content. But there are all kinds of ways you can do that. Here’s one example. I really like a lot from the Vera Institute of Justice who does a lot of robust publications around studies that they conduct. And this is one batch of work they did about prisons where they did this deep bit of research, and then you can see they broke it down into five different sorts of expressions of the research they did.
Sarah Durham (20:32):
So there’s decks, there’s PDFs, there’s Excel, there’s all kinds of things. And what they’ve done very nicely on their website is some of these things you can access without filling out any gated content. But if you want the deep downloaded report with all of the access, you have to fill out a form and then they have your email address so they can, they can email you. A smaller organization that does a really nice job of this is the Coast Guard Foundation. And one of the things they did that I thought was very interesting was they identified that the people who are most likely to support the Coast Guard Foundation are people who care about boating. They might be recreational boaters, for instance. So they created a guide for recreational boaters, which is a boating safety guide. And, they also created another tool called an equipment and departure checklist.
Sarah Durham (21:19):
And they promote this in social media and a bunch of different places and all you have to do to get it is fill out your name and your email. Now they’ve got your email address and they can start to email you their content. So as you get into building your thought leadership platform, I would encourage you to not try to do it all to focus on the channels that are going to be most effective for you based on the people on your team who can produce content and the audiences you’re trying to reach. So let’s take a look at a few of the ways you might think about channels and tools. This is I think a really nice visualization that helps think about the types of content by rattleback.com so there’s interactive content, things like webinars like this where you have the opportunity to actually, you know, write back or speak or talk.
Sarah Durham (22:10):
There’s short content like articles and short videos, micro content like email or social media that people consume and very bite-sized chunks, spoken content, and then deeper content like eBooks or research reports, white papers, things like that. So you don’t have to do all of these things. You might find that there are actually people on your team who prefer to produce content or channels in some of these areas. And you might find also that if you experiment with these different channels and tools over a period of time, the different audiences want content differently. So the first question you should ask yourself is, where are your audiences? Are they likely to be opening emails from you or are they likely to be on Twitter? Are they on Facebook? Are they on LinkedIn? What’s the best vehicle you can go to them where you can reach them, where they already are?
Sarah Durham (23:01):
And then as I said earlier, thinking about what you can produce well is really critical. My experience is that some people are great writers, they love to write, they write quickly and intuitively. I was talking to Theresa earlier actually, and she’s a great writer and she writes blogs beautifully and she’s very able, I think to quickly and efficiently boil a complex idea down into a brief blog. But there are other people I’ve worked with who would really struggle to do that. Sometimes the people who struggled to do that would be great in a video or they’d be great at giving a webinar or leading a conference call with your partners or your donors. So think about the best vehicle for your audiences. One example of this that I think is really terrific is from the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Sarah Durham (23:49):
This is actually an old screenshot of a podcast that they launched a couple of years ago called The Activist Files. And The Activist Files is a podcast where they take issues that they’re working on in their legal work and they interview the lawyers working on those cases and different people involved in it. And then they produce this as a podcast. And that’s a great example of a way that they’re teasing out these complicated ideas without actually having to get the lawyers that work on these cases to, to write, which is challenging. If you’ve worked with Advomatic, you’ll know that one of the things we are really, really passionate about is accessibility. And there is an AdvoTalk that I did last year with Amanda Luger, who’s one of our developers at Advomatic on this topic. In fact, you can, you can go to advomatic.com and poke around our insights and find that maybe Theresa, you can chat that out. But what is great about the, oh, I just lost, I just lost my display panel. I want to make sure you are still here.
Sarah Durham (25:00):
Theresa, can you just chat me and make sure that you are hearing me okay still? It looks like I’m okay, but I had a little glitch there. Okay, good. Theresa says we’re okay. I’m always very suspicious these days of the internet because it seems to glitch out a little bit. So one of the things that we have found in the accessibility work we do at Advomatic and you’ll see covered in that recording with Amanda, which maybe Theresa can chat out, is that transcribing is a great way to make it easier for people to see your content. So you’ll notice on our website whenever we post a video like the recording we’re making today, we also transcribe it below. And we do that for a number of reasons. First, there are people who just don’t like to watch videos. If you give them the transcription, they can actually read it and skim through it.
Sarah Durham (25:54):
And for some people that’s just a preferred way to do it. Secondly, if people have different abilities, they may not be able to watch the video or hear the podcast. So transcribing gives you another way to make content accessible to more people. And thirdly, it helps your search engine optimization. So when you post a recording, you actually get all those words as indexable content on your website. So I would encourage you, if you do videos, webinars, podcasts, anything with audio, to transcribe it. And make sure that you’re posting all those things on your website so that more people can see it and access it. I’ve been talking a little bit about this already about optimizing for search engines. This is a topic that is a deep specialization of a lot of people. It’s something we think about a bit at Advomatic, too. And I want to share a couple of basics with you.
Sarah Durham (26:49):
First, whenever you are writing anything, try to really think about the keywords that the people you’re writing for might search. And we see this a lot with nonprofits, in terms of jargon. So if for instance, you talk about a program that you’ve got as workforce development, but the person who’s likely going to be searching for information on that is going to search a term that’s more like, “getting jobs” or “job training,” make sure you’re writing copy that uses the terms they would search for, not just the terms you use that will make your copy more audience-centric and friendly. And it’ll also make sure that you’re more likely to turn up in their search engine. Be sure to use things like title tags and meta descriptions that help make sure that the bots see the information you’ve posted in ways that make it more search engine friendly, friendly for transcribing.
Sarah Durham (27:47):
There are a couple of tools that we regularly use at Advomatic and Big Duck. We like Temi and Rev.com. Temi is done as a transcription that’s done entirely digitally. So Temi is going to give you back a transcript that’s going to come back very quickly and it’s going to not be very expensive, but it’s going to have a lot of your little ‘ers and ums and other little things that a computer might not distinguish. They’re going to show up in that transcript. Rev.com has the option for a human to also listen to the transcript and do some additional cleanup. So if you really want something to be beautiful and you expect a lot of people to read it, rev.com can often be a better way to go. Let’s talk for a second about how to set the right pace for your thought leadership. Because this is another place where I think people often find it overwhelming.
Sarah Durham (28:36):
How do you know how much you should post? Should you blog twice a week, twice a day, once a month? How do you know? Well, the rhythm of thought leadership is really important and it’s important because your audiences actually come to depend on that content. If they really are up that ladder of engagement and paying close attention, they might look forward to hearing your podcast every other week or reading your blog once a week and they might have woven that into their schedules. It’s also important for search. You want to make sure you’re getting things out there at the same time. You don’t want to do any more than you have to because odds are very good that your time and your staff capacity are limited. So here’s what I recommend. I would encourage you to start on a weekly basis by making sure that you’re having a meeting or some other sort of group conversation to coordinate the content.
Sarah Durham (29:29):
And make sure things are moving forward and then ideally you are producing content every week and posting ideally something every week. That’s going to be probably a nice steady clip on a monthly basis. Make sure that you’re not just posting one or two things, but that you’re looking at your overarching content calendar and you’re looking at the analytics. Try to get a sense of which are the articles, which are the podcasts or webinars that people are actually paying attention to that people want. When you look at your analytics, you get a sense of the content that’s most interesting for your audiences and that helps you decide how to set the content calendar in the future on a quarterly basis. It can be very useful to think about what’s coming up in your organization. Is there a new program launching? Is there a big holiday that’s significant for some reason?
Sarah Durham (30:17):
Is there something happening that relates to the world you operate in? Like if you’re a school at the beginning of the school year, use those things as jumping off points to brainstorm with your team and to set themes like back to school or like the start of the new year that can help get your team jump-started on producing some new content. How often should you review the data? Well, a lot of people I know struggle with this. It’s like the data review is, you know, not something that they find easy to do. So if you are at a smaller organization, I recommend that at least quarterly worst case scenario, twice a year, take a look at the data, take a look at what people are doing on your website. It will only make you smarter and the hour or two you spend doing that is going to make you more efficient in the long run.
Sarah Durham (31:09):
In larger organizations, the more you look at the data, if you have somebody who is hopefully dedicated to doing so, the more I think that you will be able to produce even more targeted and useful content. And that’s particularly important as you get more into segmentation. I wrote a book recently called the Nonprofit Communications Engine and there’s a whole chapter in it devoted to checklists and processes, which I believe are also a really, really critical tool that nonprofit communicators tend to kind of breeze by. But we need to spend a little bit more time on it. So let’s dig into it as unglamorous as it is. Before you post your content, have a checklist that helps you make sure that you go through all the things that make sure that that content is going to be excellent.
Sarah Durham (32:00):
So, you know, maybe it’s about the word count. Have you written that meta description? Do you have, you know, title tags and things written that are going to be great? Do you have copy that’s been read? Proof-read you know, QA checked by the right people on your team? You might have it on your checklist, some benchmarks that you set for yourself. For instance, if you’re trying to build your list, do you want to have gated content once a month or once a quarter? And you might ask that before you post, on your checklist, is this content worthy of gaining something desirable? Somebody would actually give up their email address to get this content. You might also want to have a checklist after you post. For instance, should this content be shared on Twitter and other social media?
Sarah Durham (32:47):
Should you send this content like the video recording or the blog to key donors or key partners or put it in a, print it out and put it in the board packet that your board members get at the next meeting. One of the things that I’m a fan of is producing a content treasure chest. So your organization might, for instance, find that your executive director has produced some really great articles or opposites or some other pieces that you want to keep on a separate list in Asana as a sort of content treasure chest. And when a new donor connects with your organization or you’re introducing the organization to a key, you know, new foundation support or something like that, you go to your content treasure chest and you can send them some of these materials to help grow their sense of understanding and connection.
Sarah Durham (33:37):
So again, keeping a checklist of all the things you need to do is a great way to do it. And one of the reasons I’m a big fan of Asana is you can actually create those checklists as a template in the paid version of Asana. Or you can jerry-rig a template in the free version of Asana that allows you to put all these steps in there so you don’t have to remember it every time you do it, you just duplicate that task and you go through the steps point by point. So let’s talk for a few minutes about how you produce great content. And everything we’ve talked about so far has been kind of the windup or the machinery around producing great content. But at the end of the day, if your team isn’t producing great content on a consistent basis, this is all for nothing.
Sarah Durham (34:21):
So the first step is to define the roles of who’s going to produce content. And there are a couple of key roles that I think are really essential to success. Three roles. In fact, the first is that it’s really important for your thought leadership to have somebody who is accountable to be the editor of the content. The editor of the content is the person who ensures that the content and the strategy for the content aligned. So if you started off your thought leadership by producing that brief, that’s the strategy. That’s the reason you’re doing this. And the editor’s job is to make sure that the blog post somebody just wrote or the speech somebody is going to give, whatever that content is, that it makes sense with the strategy. They might also be the person who doles out assignments, sets the scene, sources content, keeps their eyes peeled for other things people have produced.
Sarah Durham (35:11):
That could be great content. Sometimes if it’s a director of communications, I’ve seen these people in meetings say, “Hey, wow programs person, that’s an awesome idea. Could you collaborate with me on a blog about that? Or could you, you know, come on our podcast and let me interview about that?” The editor then also works with the author or the person who’s producing the content to make sure that it’s right. So in some cases that might mean just, you know, giving something a quick read and making sure it’s good. But in my experience as the editor of content for Big Duck and Advomatic, I find that you get to know how people work and some people need a little bit of coaching or support. You might want to encourage them to write an outline first or, or flesh out an idea a bit before they do the final draft.
Sarah Durham (35:59):
The editor may or may not be a proofreader. In many smaller organizations, they are also a proofreader, but sometimes the editors’ best skills are strategic, not necessarily grammar and punctuation. So you can break that piece out if you need to. But the editor sets the editorial calendar and they should be the person who draws the insights from data and says, “Wow, I’m noticing that people are really interested in the content we’re producing on this particular topic right now. So I’m gonna reach out to my colleagues who are experts in that topic and ask them to write more or produce more content.” The second role that’s critical is the author role. And in most organizations, this is a role that many, many people play. An author can be anybody, it can be anybody in your organization or outside your organization. But the idea with the author is that they understand what the point of the content is and they can produce content that helps.
Sarah Durham (36:53):
So one of the things I have found helpful to do is to create a guest sort of template or guest blogging template. And occasionally I will ask somebody that I collaborate with to come on the webinar series we do for Advomatic as a guest. Like, I’ve got somebody from Stanford university coming on or somebody from ACLU coming on. And it’s important that those people who are going to author content understand who our audiences are, what the point of this thought leadership is so that they can help craft something that’s going to be relevant for that audience. With blogs, you can create a guest blog template so you can put in writing who your audience is, what the point of the blog is. Maybe even things like sample articles that you think are great examples that they should read or or sample word counts, things that will help them write content that’s going to be just right for your blog.
Sarah Durham (37:48):
If you want to see an example of something like that. The Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) invites people to submit articles for publication and they have a PDF form where they link to all these simple articles. So they give you guidelines about who you’re writing for and what it’s about and encourage you only to pitch ideas if you’ve followed through with that checklist. The third role that is critical in your thought leadership machine is the coordinator role and the coordinator and the editor can be the same. In fact, it’s quite possible that in many organizations the coordinator and the editor are the same. And also, that person is sometimes the author. But I want to unpack it here as a separate function because sometimes in larger organizations, the coordinator function is separated out and can often be managed by somebody who is not necessarily a senior or as well versed in the organization.
Sarah Durham (38:46):
The editor, might be the coordinator, is somebody who understands the strategy enough to keep things moving and answer basic questions. But mostly their job is logistical. They manage the calendar, they nudge people, they make sure deadlines are met, they keep things moving. They might be the person who literally posts the blog or posts the podcast. So they are people who are able to to actually use the technology and the tools that you use and get it all done. In some organizations, this is a more junior person, but not always. And what we see at Advomatic is that many of our clients who are larger organizations really have incredible content management experts who play this role. And that’s a real gift because those people, as they become deeper in their expertise, they engender trust in the organization and they are able to actually get buy-in and support in a, in a deeper way because of that seniority.
Sarah Durham (39:46):
So let’s talk for a second about sourcing great content because I think one of the things many organizations struggle with is just getting it done, just producing it. So I want to encourage you, before you start just producing all kinds of content, to think of your brand as your organization’s voice. I do a lot of speaking and writing on this topic using a model that we created at Big Duck called Brandraising. And I think it’s important to kind of take a step back and say, what is the voice of the organization? Does your organization have a personality that is more intellectual or academic or scientific? Or is your organization’s voice funny like Camille? And then is it, you know, entertaining and terming or are you the kind of the Sage, the Oprah Winfrey kind of organization that people trust and feel comfortable with and want to believe in?
Sarah Durham (40:45):
One of the very popular blogs in the nonprofit sector is Vu Lee’s blog, which actually I think after I took the screenshot, he rebranded as Nonprofit AF. And one of the great things about Vu’s blog is that he writes about what it’s like to be an executive director in a nonprofit, but he does it with enormous humor. His blog is very popular because it’s not only deeply insightful, but it’s very, very funny. So know the voice of your organization and that will help you know how to edit and create content that is truly aligned with that voice. Definitely you should source content internally and there are a number of ways you can do this. That shouldn’t be a heavy lift. If you’re in meetings already with your colleagues, keep a notepad with you and try to develop a habit of just jotting down ideas in those meetings.
Sarah Durham (41:42):
What could be a blog, what could be a podcast? Is there a person that you are talking to that you could just interview you know, through Zoom right now that would create a little video or create a little micro piece of content that you could post. If you’re going to produce a lot of content, you might want to form monthly ideation sessions where you invite people in your organization to show up, maybe optionally, and come up with ideas for what kinds of content you should be posting. And of course you can then turn around and say, that’s a great idea. Could you write that piece for me? And we have found that it is often useful to source ideas from people, but not expect those people to be the content producers. People are going to be much more likely to share an idea they have if they don’t think they’re going to be the one who has to produce it.
Sarah Durham (42:30):
So if it’s useful to get people brainstorming by taking them off the hook of having to produce the content too, you might find that gets you a little bit further externally to look around you. Who are the people who are writing on the issues related to your work that are your peers and collaborators. Oftentimes you will find that those people are delighted for you to share their content. A lot of foundations do a great job of this. One example is the School Foundation. You can see here, this is a screenshot I took where some of the pieces on this blog they produced, some of them were produced by you know, people at other businesses or other nonprofits and that’s a great way to add content is to just share what other people are producing in your space. Of course you need to reach out to them and get permission to do that, but consider, you know, all the different places where your team comes together to advance the mission and think about how those things might be expressed online.
Sarah Durham (43:28):
So you might for instance, create a column called “Ask the expert” or an executive director corner where they might write their own kind of op-ed like pieces in the blogs. There are lots of places you can do this. And a lot of organizations develop like a third, third, third rule where a third of the content you produce might be original or new. A third might be somebody else’s content that you are republishing. And the third might be your own content that you’re repurposing. So for instance, that video that you transcribed, maybe you take a couple of paragraphs out of it and you edit it and you turn it into a blog. That would be repurposing. But the basic process for producing content is anybody has the idea. Then you as the editor assigns the person who’s going to create the content, the person who’s going to write or speak or whatever, they schedule it.
Sarah Durham (44:22):
In working with the coordinator, the coordinator makes sure that it actually gets done, that all the right people see and touch that content. They then send it back to the editor who approves it because you want to make sure that at the very end, before it goes live, it’s still on strategy that it hasn’t been sort of diluted down in some way. Then perhaps the coordinator shares it in social, shares it with key stakeholders and maybe helps repurpose it. It’s also really important that your coordinator thank everyone, especially if you’re trying to get your colleagues internally to keep producing content, you want them to feel like they’re appreciated. Lastly, before we do a quick Q&A, I want to talk for a second about tracking your results and using those results to improve your thought leadership in the future.
Sarah Durham (45:15):
So first, at the very beginning when we talked about briefs, I encouraged you to set SMART objectives which is the same thing as defining the results you want to achieve and then tracking those. So we’ve already talked about trying to produce at least 3,000 indexable words per month in order to boost your search engine rankings. But you might think also about things like how many website conversions or conversations do you want to begin? Conversions are when somebody completes a form. But a conversion might be something like if you have a live chat bot on your site or the ability to get people to sign up for something on the site, like booking a meeting or something like that. Form completions are a great metric because if I’m actually willing to give up some information like my name or email, it’s a, it’s a way I’m raising my hand.
Sarah Durham (46:08):
It’s a way I’m showing you that I’m moving up the ladder of engagement. You can, of course, look at the traffic on specific pages like your blogs. You know, how many people are coming to those pages, how long are they staying on those pages? You might look at the number of emails that you’re sending out and you might look at your most viewed or shared content. But I would encourage you with all of these areas to really set goals that are tied to your ladder of engagement. Understand why it matters that people are visiting the blog. We don’t, I, you know, I think I’m a little bit of a contradiction on this, but I’m not a believer in impressions per se. I’m not interested in people just visiting your website. I’m interested in people visiting your website in order to take action.
Sarah Durham (46:57):
So to me, a form completion or a website conversion or constant conversation is a much more meaningful metric than just impressions because it shows that somebody is taking action. So be clear whether it is a mind share goal or an engagement goal that drives the metrics so that you know you know what you’re getting and make sure that as you gather those insights, you share them with the people who’ve produced them. So if you go back to the author of that blog and you say, “Hey, that blog is so popular. So many people have shared it and they’ve repurposed it and it’s going to be, you know, the kind of thing that we’re going to ask you to blog about more.” It’s going to make that person feel great. And it’s also going to give them better ideas for the next time that they blog.
Sarah Durham (47:45):
So we have a few minutes left. I want to encourage people to chat in questions. If you have any, I’ve got to switch over to the question. Oh yes, I see. I see some questions here. So please chat in some questions if you would like to. And before I pivot over into your questions, I want to just share a couple of resources. Advomatic.com has a number of resources, great blogs on managing your website and the team at Advomatic, including my colleague Theresa, have a lot of experience with helping content producers and content managers. One of the things that we do at Advomatic for some of our larger clients is we help them manage a lot of aspects of their websites, not just the tech support, although we do a lot of tech support, too. So if you have questions about this kind of stuff and you need some support don’t hesitate to reach out to us. You can probably, the best thing to do is email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can email email@example.com. Okay. Let’s get into your questions. It looks like we just have a couple and we’ve got about 10 minutes to go. So feel free to chat and a few more if you want. One of the questions and you know what I’m going to do is I’m gonna stop sharing my screen and I’m going to turn on my webcam so that I can see you.
Sarah Durham (49:17):
Okay. Hi there. Hopefully you can see me. I’m sorry, I’m a little backlit. Let’s see if I can move that. Okay. So the first question is about executive directors. And the question is, I’m going to paraphrase this cause there’s some personal information related to this organization here, but basically the question is what do I do with my executive director who has a lot of ideas but doesn’t produce content in any kind of consistent way? This is definitely a movie that we have seen before. And my advice to you is to create a stockpile or an arsenal of content from your executive director before you go live with something new. So one example of this is an organization that I did some coaching with a number of years ago where the executive director would have these great ideas for blogs or would come in in the morning and have written all kinds of things, but then they would sort of stop producing for a period of time.
Sarah Durham (50:16):
They’d get inspired and then they would, I guess not have time to keep producing. So in those kinds of situations, what you might do is you might say to the executive director, “I’m not going to start posting these blogs until you’ve given me five of them, or three of them or 10 of them.” And then you can dole out that content incrementally. So, just because your E.D. has a burst of inspiration, it doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to post it in real time. You’re going to meet her out so that the experience that the audience has is that they’re hearing your executive director’s voice in a more consistent and predictable way. Okay, what to do with somebody who’s got a lot of great ideas but is a lousy writer. That is another thing I’ve seen quite a bit of. And you know, in my experience, the best way to handle that is to coach the people that you’re working with.
Sarah Durham (51:09):
I have found actually the best way to do that is to say to them upfront, “Hey, you know, I’ve never written, I’ve never read anything you’ve written before. So before we commit to you writing a regular column or blogging regularly, let’s do a couple of things together and I’ll give you some feedback and you can tell me how it feels.” And in my experience, the people who are not great writers often really struggled to write in the first place. They, that takes them a longer time and it’s kind of a slog. So you can ask them about the experience they have writing. Did it, was it easy to do? Did it feel like they were able to get through the content in a reasonable amount of time? Could they do more of it or not? And through those conversations, I think you can probably surface whether that’s the right medium.
Sarah Durham (51:51):
My suggestion is that if it’s not the right medium, consider exploring alternative mediums. Maybe a good way to do it is to do a Zoom conversation that you record and then transcribe it or edit it. One of the things that I do frequently is I will interview people and get the transcription and then use that transcription to help them write an article or to write an article myself because I find people are often incredibly inspiring in terms of their ideas. They just struggle with the particular medium. Okay. I’m looking through the questions and I think there are not that many. Oh, just got one. Okay. I work on a very small team and the roles, author, editor, coordinator are usually all put on me. This hasn’t proven to be efficient in producing content on a regular basis because I’m not always the best person to be the author or the editor, how can I help our small team embrace the process of everyone involved in creating content?
Sarah Durham (52:45):
Great question. And definitely something I agree you should do. One way to do that is to weave some awareness about the need to do this into your staff meetings or other places where you connect with your staff. You can do that in part by showing them how your peers do it. So look at your peers websites. Let’s say they all blog or they produce content, showing some of those in a staff meeting and saying, notice how the School Foundation for instance produces this or produces that, or this organization that’s in our space blogs twice a week. And you can see that the authors of those blogs are different people. So kind of educating your colleagues about what it takes to build this as a machine is a great way to do it.
Sarah Durham (53:37):
Oftentimes, if people are reluctant to do it, it’s mostly about time. So the other thing I would encourage you to do is think about the most time-saving and efficient ways you can kind of suck the content out of them. So, is that interviewing them, transcribing and editing as opposed to you offering the whole thing. Is there somebody else on your team who’s a good writer where if you kind of teed it up, maybe they could produce the content. The other thing you might consider doing is using Temi.com, which is that transcription service I mentioned. They actually have an app that you can put on a smartphone. So go to some of the meetings and ask if you can record sections of those meetings. Use Temi to transcribe it. And you might find that actually a lot of the content that you want to produce emerges from those transcriptions.
Sarah Durham (54:25):
And either you can edit it or you can ask the person who said it to edit it. But basically using Temi or another transcription tool to jumpstart the authorship piece. If you are a communications person, odds are good that the most important role for you is the editor or the coordinator role. If you have to wear multiple hats, those are the two roles I’d want you to hang on to. The author role is definitely one I would encourage you to distribute across other people on your team. And finally, my last piece of advice is don’t put all the content production on you. Look outside your organization if you need to for other sources. Who else in your space is producing great thought leadership who might let you repurpose a blog or something like that. If you’re posting blogs that somebody else has already posted, the search engine benefits are not as great as if you’re posting original content.
Sarah Durham (55:22):
And sometimes it’s really good to just link to those things. So you might, for instance, write your own short paragraph that says, I noticed there’s been a lot of discussion on this key issue in our space recently. Here are three articles that, you know, have a lot to add to this. So it’s, you know, your article becomes a roundup of some of the other things that are happening in the space as opposed to the, which is a much easier thing to produce than the heavy lift of writing something completely from scratch. Mmm. I have a, I think a comment here in a question. After a while one gets good at creating content and the more that is produced and the more engagement we see. But management wants calendars, analytics and spreadsheets that take so much time to update. We use Asana.
Sarah Durham (56:10):
So the project management is fine. How to right-size expectations. Yeah. You know, in my new book, The Nonprofit Communications Engine, one of the things I talk about a lot, and this is part of the series of webinars I’m doing over on the Big Duck side, is reflection. The producing those calendars, looking at the analytics side, you know, sort of siphoning down the insights you get from that into a spreadsheet. It is actually important work because it’s the way that you take a step back and you’re really kind of critically assessing what is worth it and what is not. It’s also very important, I think, for leadership because it becomes a way that they can determine the return on investment if they are asking staff to spend a lot of time producing this content, that’s how they’re going to know if that’s a good use of staff time.
Sarah Durham (57:00):
In terms of right-sizing it though, I would encourage you to talk to your executive director or leadership team about the appropriate pace for that and how much time it takes you. So for instance, in many organizations, what I have seen is that it is important to do some of those analytics and probably most important either on a quarterly basis or right before board meetings, executive directors love to be able to go into that board meeting and say, we increased our web traffic by X percent or our Twitter followers are up Y percent. And so sometimes the most important moment for those analytics can be the week before the board meeting. But talk to your, talk to your executive director and if you are in a little bit of a push and pull about the time it takes to do those things and the value of that time investment.
Sarah Durham (57:50):
One of the interesting tactics you might try is tracking your time. So over a three month period of time, use a time tracking tool like Harvest and track your time around analytics, around authorship, around editing, around different tasks you do so that you can actually demonstrate in very tangible terms how much time that’s taking you. And you can have a really candid conversation about the ROI of that time investment. Okay, we’re out of questions and we are basically at the top of the hour. Again, I am, maybe I’ll just chat this out to all of you. I am firstname.lastname@example.org if you did not get a chance to ask a question or there’s something you’re thinking about that’s a little bit more unique to your organization, feel free to drop me a line. If you work with them, Advomatic, feel free to reach out to your project manager. If you’d like to talk more about how we can help you with your content planning and management or content production. You can also sign up for the future webinars we have here at Advomatic. There’s a few great ones coming up with some awesome organizations in May and June, same thing over at bigduck.com. Thank you all and have a great afternoon.