There is nothing quite as effective as great content when it comes to winning new supporters — and keeping old ones engaged.
A little while ago, we shared some advice on how to tell a good story. Today’s post will focus on the other key ingredient for producing content that matters: coming up with a plan that keeps you on target.
Whether you’re creating your charity’s very first content strategy or you’re looking for tips on how to refine your existing one, following the three steps below will help you map out content clearly and focus your creativity.
STEP 1 - OUTLINE YOUR STRATEGY
This step is all about evaluating your charity’s needs and resources, and deciding on a basic framework. Ask yourself the following three questions:
1. What are my communication goals based on my organization’s needs?
To be able to create focused content that serves your organization it’s important to outline strategic communication goals for the next quarter, 6 months, or year.
For example, if your goal is to grow your audience, ask yourself: What part of your audience? For what communication platform? If your organization needs to grow their small donor base this year, think about how you can support this need through strategic goals and targeted content.
Start a document that outlines…
- strategic goals, e.g. raise awareness for a certain topic or program, support fund development, grow newsletter list etc.
- metrics, e.g. 100 new Facebook followers, 50 new newsletter sign ups, 30% more traffic to your blog etc.
2. What are my resources?
Take stock of your various communication channels, as well as your resources, and try to estimate how much content you’re able to create.
Add to the document you created in Step 1 and outline…
- frequency of blog posts, Facebook posts, tweets per week, month or quarter.
- person-hours this kind of commitment will take up
Your estimates might be way off for the first quarter or year, but that’s okay. The main point here is to establish a baseline that will inform your goals, objectives and commitment for the next year.
3. Who are my audiences and what are they interested in?
Knowing and listening to your audience — or audiences — and learning what they are interested in is key when creating content. Create a document, or add to the one you already created, and parcel out your primary and secondary audience segments along with a brief description for each.
STEP 2 - CREATE A BIG PICTURE COMMUNICATIONS ROADMAP
Developing personas could be a fun exercise for your whole team and will help you understand who your supporters are and develop targeted content. Check out onDemandCMO’s blog for some inspiration.
Your roadmap spells out all of the events and milestones that will drive your communication in the coming year, along with calls to action and storylines you want to share in the months to come — without getting into too much detail.
Think about your communications roadmap as a document that provides your staff, contractors and volunteers with a big picture overview of where you are going as an organization.
To create your map, make a list...
- of what types of content you’d like to publish to communicate with your various audience segments, e.g.
- Website: events, volunteer opportunities, new projects, etc.
- Blog: success stories, thought leadership pieces, volunteer profiles, campaigns, etc.
- that outlines how you want to divide content between platforms or audiences, e.g by percentage, man-hours etc. Try to focus your energy and time on audiences and channels that best align with goals and needs outlined in Step 1.
STEP 3 - CREATE AN EDITORIAL CALENDAR
What is an editorial calendar - and what isn’t it? Salsa bloggers Steph Drahozal and Jennifer Gmerek say it perfectly in their post about how to improve your editorial calendar:
What it is.
“An editorial calendar is basically an organized to-do list. It’s a collaboration of ideas for your content, all in one place. It’s an accountability tool, a forum for brainstorming, and a source for motivation. It keeps track of content publication across all of your different media channels.”
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What it isn't.
“An editorial calendar is not static. … It is ever-evolving. Also, an editorial calendar is not just one person’s responsibility, but should be a shared resource that a larger team is invested in maintaining.”
You can think about your editorial calendar as your own personal Marauder’s Map — minus the magic — that’ll help you and all your content creators stay on track. It’s an incredibly useful tool to:
- plan out your content ahead of time
- visualize themes, timelines, categories, different types of content and accomplishments
- get your team aligned around your communications strategy and create a sense of shared responsibility
"Aside from all the benefits that come from just being straight-up organized, an editorial calendar allows us to plan our communications strategically and proactively rather than reactively. This helps us develop long-term messaging and narratives, and fundraise more effectively."
Kevin Hollett, Communications Director at Pivot Legal Society
"I think all parts of your program should have a calendar. It keeps you focused and while it requires some front loading, saves loads of time down the line. I'm sure I'd forget about half the stuff I need to produce without one"
Sean Condon, Executive Director of Megaphon
What goes into an editorial calendar?
Ultimately, your editorial calendar needs to work for you and your team, so there is no one way to do it. Feel free to experiment with various ways of structuring your calendar until you find a format that fits your needs. If you’re looking for some inspiration, LKR Media founder Laura Roeder has some useful advice:
“Here are some ideas of things you can include on your own editorial calendar.
Publish date – When is this thing getting thrown up on the ol’ interwebs?
Due date – Setting a deadline for yourself is hugely important to following through – I like to write my posts at least a week ahead of time.
Author – I always fill this in so I know whether I’m the one writing an upcoming post, or if it’s coming from a guest author or someone else on the team.
Topic – So, uh, what’s this blog post actually ABOUT?
Category – … Tracking your categories makes it easier to avoid posting too much of the same thing, one after the other.
Post breakdown doc – I save everything I write in Google Drive and link to it from the editorial calendar. That way, I can always reference drafts of old posts really easily, and other people on my distributed team can access drafts without us having to send them back and forth.”
"At the YWCA we use a Google Spreadsheet that we populate with everything from monthly themes and events to content type and description, destination channels and target audiences. I love that our calendar can be updated and shared in real time with all my team members. It’s great for collaboration."
Amy Juschka, Digital and Content Strategist at the YWCA Metro Vancouver
What platform should I choose?
Content planning and management is often a complex affair. That’s why there often isn’t one platform that fulfills all needs and most organizations choose multiple platforms to use alongside each other.
At Chimp, for example, we settled for a combination of Trello for our blog, Google calendar for social media and Google docs for quarterly planning and strategic goals. We also have a dry erase wall in our office with a big calendar painted on it to remind all team members of key events, deadlines and holidays.
The range of platforms and tools to choose from is huge, but here’s a list of the most popular (free) tools for you to pick and choose from:
- Google Docs
- Google Calendar
- DIY calendars, e.g. post-it calendars, wall calendars etc.
Scroll to the end of this article for a selection of templates for each platform and instructions on how to set up your own calendar.
"Our first crack at developing an editorial calendar was in Word using a table, then we graduated to using a shared outlook calendar and now we use the outlook calendar with Function Fox’s ‘timefox’ function to set reminders as part of our tactics."
Heather Skydt, Director of Communications and Marketing at United Way Greater Victoria
What else should I consider?
- Your content strategy and schedule is key in keeping all content creators aligned, but just as important are regular in-person check-ins. Aim for at least one 15- to 30-minute meeting a week.
- Your communications strategy and your editorial calendar need to be reviewed, and sometimes re-assessed based on changes within your organization and what works for you. Don’t be shy to iterate. It doesn’t mean you’re failing, it means you’re making progress.
- Leave room for the unexpected! Be flexible and create context on the fly if necessary. Your content strategy and schedule shouldn’t be static, but ever-evolving.
- Create a place in your calendar to store ideas. You don’t want to miss out on good ideas that don’t fit into this week’s schedule, but would make for great content in the future. And your “ideas collection” will give you something to draw from whenever you’re running low on stories.
Best Practices & Tips
Maximize Social Business: Nonprofit Content Marketing, Storytelling and Social Media
Network for Good: How to Create a Nonprofit Editorial Calendar
Nonprofitmarketingguide.com: Editorial Calendars – Resources for You
Nonprofitmarketingguide.com: Your Big Picture Communications Timeline
Robyn’s Online World: 7 Steps to Creating an Editorial Calendar for Your Blog and Social Media Channels
Salsa: Developing an Editorial Calendar for Your Nonprofit Marketing Team
Templates & Instructions
Markerly Blog: How To Build A Calendar In Trello
Google Drive: Selection of Editorial Calendar Templates
Hubspot: Create an Editorial Calendar Using Google Calendar
Writtent: Top 15 Life-Changing Editorial Calendar Tools
Top Nonprofits: Free Editorial Calendar (Excel Spreadsheet)
Lightbox Collaborative: Editorial Calendar Template (Excel Spreadsheet)
CoSchedule Blog: A Free Editorial Calendar Template (Printout)
Say Yes: DIY Paint Chip Calendar