How to create quality content consistently: tips for nonprofit communicators
How do you keep up with the need to create content for your nonprofit organization on a regular basis? And how do you ensure the quality of that content?
Is this something you struggle with?
As someone who runs two blogs and a content creation business, I certainly do have a few tips on this topic. But first, here are a few tips from your nonprofit communications peers.
Tips from nonprofit communicators: how to create quality content consistently
Plan it out
“Schedule it – not just in your communications calendar but in whatever organization-wide calendar or operational plan that your nonprofit works from. If your team knows a particular news item or story is planned, it holds both you and them accountable to see that it gets done. It also prepares your colleagues to carry out their role in the process, which is to help you find appropriate people to interview and take the time to review and signoff.
Having your content plan scheduled and visible also helps ensure that the content your nonprofit dedicates time to is a ‘fit’ with your strategy (helping to prevent random, one-off content ideas from getting added to your plate) and, finally, it helps keep the process and need for content development top of mind, which I find helps generate more regular story ideas from non-communications colleagues.”
Communications Specialist at The Law Foundation of Ontario and freelance communications consultant
Ask a lot of questions
“Ask your colleagues to talk about the biggest challenge they’re facing right now. Ask your donors why they give. Ask your boss to send you photos – bonus for captions! – from an upcoming conference. Maybe you’ll get lucky and she’ll send you a picture from a hotel bar with the U.S. Presidential Debate on TV behind her, alongside a community partner with whom she’s finalizing the next day’s presentation.
Ask your social media fans to brag about something awesome they’ve done in the last week. Ask yourself why you came to work this morning.
Somewhere in all that asking will be the inspiration or the motivation you need, the seed of a story or the title of next month’s vlog.”
Communications Manager, HealthConnect One®
Embrace the art of fearless writing
“Some of us are hesitant about writing. We may even suffer from writer’s block. That is why at Maytree we’re practicing the art of ‘fearless writing.’ When we start writing, we know that someone will edit our copy with respect and without judgment. They will take our copy, rough as it is, and turn it into a well-written piece.
So, when we start our writing assignment, we can focus on what we want to say without having to worry about how we sound when we say it. Instead of fretting about style, form or picking the exact right word, we can focus on simply getting our thoughts on paper. Anne Lamott, in her brilliant book, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, calls it the ‘shitty first draft.’ It will never see the light of day. But once you have one, you can start to work on quality and everything else.
At Maytree, fearless writing has been embraced across all of our teams. It has helped us to create high quality content with much more consistency.”
Director of Communications, Maytree
Know what works best for your audience
“One of my keys to consistently creating quality content is to first consider how my audience wants to receive information from my organization. Do they react to visual elements (images, video), want to engage with us directly (polls, questions), love interesting info that’s unique to my organization (fun facts, history tidbits)? Knowing what works best for your audience is a great place to start your planning.
Taking into account the kind of content that resonates best, I think about the key messages I want to share. There are usually a few, so I develop a plan that allows me to incorporate all of them into impactful, engaging content. Next is building a release schedule that balances our original content, info shared from partners and like-minded organizations, and fun/motivational items. Combined, my hope is to always provide informative, heartfelt and motivational content to my audience.”
–Angela de Burger
Manager, Communications, YMCA Canada
Now here are are few of my own tips for creating quality content consistently:
Schedule writing time
In her comment above, Nathalie raises an incredibly important point about planning and scheduling your content. But in this case, I’m talking about figuring out when writing and content creation fits into your scheduled work days.
In your role, content creation is at least as important as attending meetings, right? Treat it that way. Figure out a realistic time and amount of time (I like 50-minute segments) that you can block off on your schedule for content creation on a regular basis.
One option is to schedule standing “content creation” time that you use depending on current projects. Even more effective, in my opinion, is to schedule content creation for specific projects so you know exactly what you plan to write before you sit down.
Batch content production
When the time is right (for example, you have fewer meetings or projects, greater clarity of thought, you’re feeling in “the zone”), create content. Create more than you need. Look ahead to your schedule and make as much progress as you can for now with upcoming content (then finish it later). Create evergreen content that can go out whenever you need to fill an unexpected gap.
Don’t assume that you’ll always be able to get in the same productive zone consistently every week (or two weeks, or month). Take advantage of productive, creative times to take the pressure off of busy or just uninspired times.
Brainstorm first, streamline and select later
Trying to come up with content ideas right before you need to publish is hard. Too much pressure can suck the life out of creativity and leads to scrambling to figure out content that is “good enough”. Coming up with ideas ahead of time gives you room to evaluate, adjust and discard ideas when the time comes. Having a list to choose from gives you the option to abandon or put on hold something that isn’t working out or coming together as quickly as you need it.
These tips are my absolute sanity savers. Would they work for you?
What are your tips for creating quality content consistently? Please share in the comments.