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The Essentials of Writing a Content Marketing Strategy


This topic was covered in the “Essentials of Nonprofit Content Marketing” webinar, recorded on July 16, 2014, which can be listened to from this page.

In the Nonprofit Content Marketing Benchmarks, Tools and Trends Report of 2014, nonprofit marketing and communications professionals who rank themselves as “Most Effective” at content marketing have a written content strategy.

Quite simply, a written content or content marketing strategy can and should serve as the foundation for a nonprofit’s communication initiatives to drive engagement, fundraising, educational or advocacy goals.Yet, the investment of time and money in strategy development as an essential content marketing first step is a new or foreign concept for many organizations. However, it shouldn’t be.

At the base of any well written content strategy is a solid grasp of strategic communication fundamentals. To this base of fundamentals, add in consideration for social media channels, multiplatform distribution, and CRM applications (i.e. Constituent Relationship Management tools), and you have the makings of a good content strategy.

While it’s not as complicated as brain surgery, there is a healthy dose of “rocket science” involved in creating a written content strategy, but nothing that should stop any good nonprofit marketer or communications professional from soldiering ahead. [Join us for our webinar on July 16th to hear all about soldiering ahead with a content strategy!]

Here are a few things to consider for creating a written content strategy:

Get to the Starting Line (Start at the Beginning)

Generally, the starting point is a fundamental understanding of content marketing essentials and how the digital or new media landscape has changed the way organizations engage with audiences. The digital marketing landscape is intimidating at best, and paralyzing at worst.

Try these resources:

The Content Marketing Institute’s blog is full of great insight into content strategy development, and a great two-book combo that covers the essentials is Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson and Content is Currency by Jon Wuebben.

Bring Others Along

It’s essential to make the case for a content strategy as it relates to your organization’s strategic goals. Bosses and boards need to know how investment in new media strategies, channels, and content will move the needle. Arming yourself with examples of how similar organizations or competitors are employing effective content strategies often helps.

However, it’s important as a communicator to have some vision as to how a content strategy can and will change you personally, as well as how it can change the organization. This often means changing the discussion about organizational communications and introducing concepts like:

  • editorial strategies
  • voice
  • editorial calendars
  • targeted engagement through relevant social media tools and email outreach
  • content curation
  • content marketing automation.

Plan the Budget, Budget the Plan

A written content strategy will enable you to develop and plan budgets for implementation of new programs. However, budgets for planning are often overlooked. Whether using internal resources or hiring consultants, you should plan a budget – time or financial – that will enable you to commit to creating the written strategy.

If you don’t have the internal resources, a consultant can help drive the process as a member of your communications team, whether that team is just you or an internal department of ten. As a benchmark, we’ve developed content strategies for nonprofits ranging in cost from $2500 to $25,000. The size of the organization, the number of stakeholders, the scope of project,  the need for surveys, stakeholder or board member interviews, and facilitation of meetings with employees and stakeholders, are all factors that impact budgets for development of written content strategies.

Get to Work

Whether working independently within your organization or working with a consultant, some of the fundamental elements of creating a content strategy include:

  1. Establishing a timeline for creation of the plan
  2. Clearly understanding organizational goals most often spelled out in your strategic plan
  3. Understanding of basic demographics and psychographics of your audiences, stakeholders or constituents
  4. Gathering data from existing constituent surveys, web analytics, existing donor databases
  5.  Locking yourself, your colleagues and/ or your consultant in a room for a day and capturing, then prioritizing, desired outcomes, audience types and and audience needs.

Put it on Paper

Your written content strategy should serve as a roadmap for your activities for the coming year or more depending on your internal planning and budgeting process. It will be the guide that will help you plan budgets, staffing and outsourcing as well as specifics related to editorial planning and voice. We have found that the development of a solidly written content strategy oftentimes significantly impacts or alters an organization’s overall strategic plan or thinking. When organizations begin to understand how new media tools enable greater reach and engagement with stakeholders, it opens minds to the power of content and the opportunities for organizations to tell great stories and reach larger audiences.