One thing I keep stressing relentlessly is that we are in the middle of society’s digital revolution. The Industrial Revolution began in 1780, just before the turn of the century with the rise of advancing technologies. Sound familiar? The people of that time had no idea that the next century would go down in history books as a pivotal period that transformed society. Most of us are walking around ignorant to the current historic revolution, despite this being the first year that Junior High School students are learning about 9/11 in their history classes.
The digital revolution has many pros and cons, but we are here today to discuss blogging for nonprofits. Originally, blogs were a popular source of content that resembled a computer diary for individuals. Now, blogs play a major role in attracting and retaining customers. They are more efficient than social media itself.
Why? Because your number one job is to get customers to your website where transactions occur. Your blogs are located right on the website, and therefore bypass the noisy world of social media.
Before going any further, I need to talk about how badly blogs have transformed our industry and society. The general public believes anything they see on the internet. From Cecil to Harambe, social media blogs have made it difficult for legitimate bloggers. The issue has literally shaped our 2016 Presidential Election and resulted in both Google and Facebook rewriting their algorithms to prevent false information. One way to ensure the legitimacy of your blog is through hyperlinks and referral links, of which I will discuss shortly.
There are a couple of rules for blogging with one innovative idea to be presented at the end of this entry. First, blogs should not be a Right Hook, but a Jab. In other words, the purpose of your blog is to reflect the values, point of views, and culture of your organization. It is the set up of value exchange with a potential customer, not an actual ask for money. So make it personal and ensure you provide value.
Blogs should strategically abuse hyperlinks. Your blog is bait to draw in new customers. Therefore, the jargon associated with your business may not be familiar to the general public. So communication accordingly. Enhance the readers experience and education through referral hyperlinks. This will make your blog highly valuable to the customer. For example, if you’re going to talk about enrichment, hyperlink an article or Wikepedia page that goes into the concept in greater detail.
The most important concept to understand about hyperlinks is the benefit of Search Engine Optimization. When you enter keywords into your search bar, the search engine has a set of rules and corresponding algorithm that ranks the results. So your organization's website will be ranked on how well these rules are followed. Hyperlinks to creditable websites (and referral links from creditable websites to your own) will increase your ranking in the search results FOR FREE. However, repetitive use of keywords within your website (and blog) is also calculated. Search engines are aware of this flaw and will penalize you for "keyword stuffing" by decreasing your ranking in the search result. Abuse credible hyperlinks, but DO NOT abuse keyword repetition.
The rules of blogging are the rules of modern marketing: provide unique content, storytelling, and engagement. You’re unique content should be universal concepts to increase customer reach. You’re storytelling should be positive and follow the 3,5,7 rule. You’re comment engagement should be as high as any other social media platform.
Storytelling in nonprofits must be about hope. “Emotional arousal does not increase market effectiveness” because the digital revolution foresters providing an equal return value and building relationships. Nonprofits have been stuck in the GreenPeace mentality of the 1980s, where high emotional engagement in the form of fear, sadness, and anger are used to motivate action. Times have changed and the abuse of this strategy has created a diminished response. The latest research shows that HOPE is the key emotion in nonprofit marketing, and overall people want amusement and awe (storytelling and unique content).
People want to hear about hope, and blogging about hope can also show customers all of the work your organization has done. For example, in shelter animals, don’t spend a lot of time talking about the horrible conditions the animal was found in. Focus on how their lives were changed by the hard work and passion of your shelter staff. CLICK does a good job of this.
Blogs should be 500-700 words each and you should post about 3-4 times a week. Longer blogs like ARRC’s should be posted once a week.
Hopefully this blog has provided you with some insight on effective marketing. Now for the grand finale. Nonprofit blogs should be written in the perspective of three individuals. The first is a key player, typically the face of you organization. For Australia Zoo, this would be the Irwins. For Columbus Zoo this would be Jack Hannah. For the Center for Animal Research and Education, this is Big Cat Derek.
The next option is an individual animal. As discussed earlier, bring your readers along the story of Lucy the shelter dog. Briefly talk about her rescue from the pit bull fighting operation, and immediately transition to her story of hope. Use descriptive language to bring readers along the experiences of the animal that could be relatable to people. Most importantly, highlight your shelter’s unique practices, sacrifices, and culture through the eyes of the animal.
Finally, the option is the organization itself. Brands are individuals. I repeat, your brand is an individual. It has its own values, morals, ethics, point of views, opinions and culture. Therefore, the best way to optimize your organization’s blogging is to write the blog as the individual entity based on the brand itself. Through identity salience theory, people will connect with the values and beliefs of your brand that align with that of their own.
This strategy will exponentially increase your customer reach. However, there is also a risk that the writer will misrepresent your organization’s values. GET OUT OF THE NONPROFIT FEAR. A nonprofit is a business, and a business progresses through calculated risks. So I’ll relinquish your fear for you and simply add that you can avoid these risks by having your blog read by multiple parties before posting. :)