A 3-step content marketing strategy for nonprofits, in partnership with J-schools

In a win-win arrangement, a nonprofit organization can work with a journalism program to develop a content strategy, and have j-students help execute the strategy in the form of internships. A content strategy may consist of three ingredients: topic research, content production and social media promotion.

Digital and social media provide nonprofits with an unprecedented array of tools to directly reach target audiences, altogether bypassing the traditional media; however, non-profits, especially the small, local ones, don’t have the expertise to develop and execute a content marketing plan.

Here’s a 3-step content strategy that can be adapted to suit needs of different nonprofits, assuming there’s a dedicated “content team” working on it; the content team may consist of a staff member and a few journalism student interns.

Topic research: Monitor and identify trending or “hot” topics that are related to the messages this nonprofit wants to promote. For instance, for a religion group, the content team can use Google search tools to identify trending topics related to religion. An easy-to-use tool is Google Trends – I just searched “religion” and, among other results, here’s some top/rising searches in past 30 days:

religion search

On a regular basis, the content team needs to discuss and brainstorm their content production plan based on topic research findings: what topics they want to target, how to approach these topics, how to get the contents produced, and how to “build” this non-profit into these contents.

For instance, the Google trends report shows “true religion” is trending up, then the content team can dig deeper into this phrase using Google search tools and draft a plan to produce contents that elaborate on “true religion.” More importantly, the content team needs to determine how to “embed” this nonprofit into all these contents: bylines and attributions, researchers appearing as sources, research results being quoted, etc.

Content production: A variety of materials can be produced for 1) special contents based on topic research and 2) regular activities and events of the nonprofit. Under the supervision of a staff member, the content team can create contents for multi-platform distribution: print articles (blog posts), audio interviews, video pieces, photos, audio slideshows, data visualizations. This is a good opportunity for journalism students to practice what they have learned in regular and digital journalism classes.

Social media promotion:With the digital contents created, the content team needs to practice content marketing online and on social media. There are no universal or established practices to follow, but here’s some tips the content team can try:

  • Work on search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Publish to popular hashtags
  • Engage social media influencers
  • Keep a watchful eye for new practices

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About Mu Lin

Dr. Mu Lin is a digital journalism professional and educator in New Jersey, United States. Dr. Lin manages an online marketing company. He also manages MulinBlog Online J-School (www.mulinblog.com/mooc), a free online journalism training program, which offers courses such as Audio Slideshow Storytelling; Introduction to Social Media Marketing; Writing for the Web; Google Mapping for Communicators; Introduction to Data Visualization; Introduction to Web Metrics and Google Analytics.
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