In a world with enough content to allow any one person to choose the facts that they want, maintaining a purist stance as a writer and content marketer is an ongoing challenge. For many content strategists, the fight to be heard is constant. Often, the only way to ensure that your material will be viewed (let alone read), is to craft headlines that drive curiosity or make a promise that the reader can’t refuse. Commonly referred to as “link-bait,” these headlines have long disturbed me (and plenty of others) simply on principle. However, as a content professional, my job is to ensure that the right material reaches the right audiences, and there are times when being a purist won’t deliver those results. In my experience with non-profits in particular, I’ve found that certain principles strike a compromise and guide many of my decisions for content. You can’t always avoid a clever headline in this content-saturated world, but you don’t have to sell out; and in the non-profit world, selling out is simply not an option.
Be honest and deliver
For non-profits in particular, there will – or should be – times when your material really is groundbreaking and even worthy of a viral response. Whether your headline is simply an update on the work your organization is accomplishing or news that belongs at the center of discourse for your organization’s given focus, be sure to deliver what you’ve promised. Many “groundbreaking” headlines simply don’t contain content that matches the energy and promise of their headlines. As a non-profit, the pressure is greater to be honest and fair about the material you are sharing – and rightfully so. As a content marketer, consider yourself a gatekeeper for your organization: don’t let cheap material into the world – ever. It’s your job to find a way to engage readers, but never by sacrificing the integrity of the content, which can ultimately take a toll on the integrity of the organization as a whole.
Long-form content isn’t the enemy
I firmly believe that non-profits in particular benefit from longer-form content and thought leadership. Many non-profit organizations rely on a public perception that they are leaders in their focus and/or industry, and as such, a certain level of research, reliability, and thoughtfulness should be expected at all times. Long-form content may not have a high read-rate when compared to “instant gratification” pieces or quick updates. However, you’ll likely find yourself coming back to your longer, more serious pieces again and again. They provide an excellent source of link-back material and further establish your organization as a reliable resource.
Come back to your core
I love non-profits because they are born out of honest and generally basic desires: help people, make the world better, improve access to water, eradicate a disease, etc. These are not small promises, but they are focused and generally impossible to disagree with as worthy goals. If you find yourself scrambling to come up with content that is widely shared or read, remember the core of your organization and the “why” behind what drives others to support that core. I’ve found that returning to this initial, emotion-driven core is helpful in that it a) reinforces the most important messages that you can craft for your organization and b) re-establishes the promise to your stakeholders and readers – and often, that promise is what led them to your website, blog, or other content presence in the first place. Don’t be afraid to reiterate what works – you might be surprised that this is exactly what your readers want (or need) to hear again.