Content marketing is an excellent way to build trust with your audience. Nonprofits like yours can take advantage of content to increase brand visibility, drive revenue and boost engagement across your platforms. In communicating a need and driving your audience to take action you’ll not only increase donations but build a loyal group of followers.
Nonprofit marketing expert Maria Bryan joins the show for the second time to share how to build a successful content marketing strategy, the key factors that will help you connect with your audience and how to avoid burnout when content planning.
Top 3 Takeaways
- Content marketing is all about solving a problem and staying authentic to your organization's values. Think about the challenges your donors or community face and create content that communicates how your organization will help them overcome that problem.
- Look for any gaps of knowledge that your organization can fill. One way to measure what resonates most with your audience is to keep track of your best-performing blog posts. Popular topics can reveal the most critical questions people have about your industry or mission.
- Good content strategies take time. You are not going to build a large group of dedicated followers overnight, it takes time to create a collection of content that not only answers questions but builds authority with your audience
Our Favourite Quotes
(04:37) If your content out there builds trust and authority for the problems that you solve, the problems that you solve for the people you serve and problems that you solve for the donors and partners that support you, the more authoritative content you're putting out there, the more buy-in that you're going to get, the more opportunities you'll have to build these relationships with potential donors and potential program participants.
(09:13) I think you want to be strategic with your content marketing. You want to be directing them to do something specific, and you don't necessarily want to be asking them on the offset to donate to you. Right. That's kind of asking someone to marry you before you've gone on some dates.
(19:26) I always tell nonprofits that I work with the press pause on their marketing when they're feeling a little panic or what I call marketing manic. If they're feeling uninspired and overwhelmed, exhausted, burnout, whatever it may be, don't keep going. Press pause. It's going to be okay if you skip a week of your content or any marketing related activities that you're doing and do that work of figuring out what problems you're solving, coming up with the kind of content, themes and ideas that you have, then go through the work of saying, hey, next month we're going to focus on this particular idea.
Let's learn about content marketing with Maria Bryan.
Hello and welcome to Driven's Fundraising Superheroes Podcast. I am your host, Sabrina Sciscente, and as an innovator in nonprofit technology, our team at Driven is determined to help you reach your true fundraising potential. We would love to help you work on your fundraising strategy, so make sure to give us a visit at trustdriven.com to learn more. We specialize in donor, volunteer and member management and you can reach out to us on our website.
Content marketing can be such an effective way to grow an audience for your organization. Sharing meaningful and relevant information with your community not only showcases you as a leader in your field but can also build so much trust, which leads to long-term supporters and of course, donations. Maria Bryan is joining us for the second time on the show today. She is a marketing strategist who provides practical strategies and mentorship to nonprofits ready to amplify their mission and message. She has over ten years of experience in marketing communications in the public sector, a master's degree in public administration and a Bachelor's degree in journalism. Maria is a firm believer that storytellers make the world a healthier, safer, cleaner and happier place.
She has been an excellent guest in the past and I am so excited to have her on the show again. So thank you, Maria, for joining us.
Hi, Sabrina. So happy to be back.
Yeah. So can you get us started by talking a bit about what content marketing is? Why is it so effective? What makes up content marketing?
Yeah. So content marketing is content. So that can be anything from blog posts to social media webinars podcasts that solve a problem. And when you're solving problems, you are building trust with your audience. So, for example, I am recently in Tallahassee, Florida. I'm from New York originally and for the first time I have a yard. So I wanted to start a garden. I don't know anything about gardening and I most definitely don't know anything about gardening in North Florida. So I spent a lot of time Googling what can I garden in North Florida? Do cucumbers do well in North Florida and the same site kept coming up every time that I was asking Pinterest or Google or YouTube what I should plant and how I should plant in Florida, especially in North Florida. I stopped with the search engines and just to go straight to the site. Right. So I started to really have my go to source for gardening and something that was popping up frequently was this optin into their email if I wanted a free downloadable garden planner specific for Florida. So you better believe that I signed up for that and that was really helpful.
So that I used their emails were just right on. Every month I was getting emails telling me exactly that month what would be helpful for gardening in North Florida. And then when it came time this year to garden. I wanted to do it from seeds. I was feeling brave. Now this site sells specific seeds that grow well in Florida. They did their research. So what did I do? Absolutely. Even though they were a little pricier, bought these seeds from this company that I have spent a year relying on. So that, my friends, is content marketing. It's putting content out there that is solving a problem that is building trust. And after time, that kind of cultivation leads to sales if you're a for nonprofit. But in nonprofit, it leads either for donors to support your organization or for beneficiaries to take part in your programs. And so it might feel like this makes more sense for sales than for donor cultivation. But actually nonprofit more than ever. I mean, nonprofit are solving problems. So if your content out there builds trust and authority for the problems that you solve, the problems that you solve for the people you serve and problems that you solve for the donors and partners that support you, the more authoritative content you're putting out there, the more buy-in that you're going to get, the more opportunities you'll have to build these relationships with potential donors and potential program participants.
So that's best content marketing. In a nutshell, that was like a beautiful example.
Yeah. Content marketing is so effective in showing you it's like an authoritative figure on whatever subject you're doing, whether it be gardening, whether it be running a local animal shelter. You can really become a resource and like a center for trust with the community. So now that we know what marketing is, do you have any tips for organizations when they're building their content strategy?
One way to show impact is to tell stories, and I'm a big advocate of telling stories. But when it comes to content marketing, it's crucial that you are answering questions and solving problems. So people are finding you because they have a problem that they want to solve. Maybe their problem is they want to learn more about an issue. So use storytelling, but make sure the pieces that you're creating are solving problems. So let's say something is happening culturally that has to do with your issue. Maybe there's an uptick in a certain kind of cancer or something was on the news about a child in that case and you work in child welfare. People are going to have questions about this issue. So if you're providing quality content that answers those questions, it doesn't just tell about who you are, but specifically answers the question and provides value on what to do next. And has these calls to action that is going to be crucial with content marketing, it's so important to do the work of figuring out what questions your potential donors have about your issue and organization, what potential beneficiaries, what problems they need to solve, and what questions they need to have answering, and you'd be surprised how much what we call content themes or content ideas that you'll come up with.
So, for example, one of my clients is a program that provides leadership for girls through soccer. So while traditionally they write a ton of blog posts and emails about the amazing work they do, if they want to bring more girls into their program, they could do tons of blog posts and all other kinds of content on what to do with your children over the summer. Right. You can get them into soccer. What to do with your children to build confidence. All of the things that they're solving within this organization is the kind of content that is going to lead people to you. And then once they're there, you can continue to cultivate them through these very specific stories of how you are doing that.
Oh, that's so cool. You mentioned blog posts. Do you think that there are other channels that work really well within the content strategy? Does it? What have you seen from your experience?
Absolutely. There's so many things that you can do, and so many kinds of content that you can create. Webinars are still really valuable. So putting webinars out there, people want to take advantage of webinars, not necessarily for something philosophical, but they want to learn something. They want to learn something new. You can do a podcast.
Also, people go to podcasts to learn new things so you can become an authority on your mission through podcasts. I think you want to be strategic with your content marketing. You want to be directing them to do something specific, and you don't necessarily want to be asking them on the offset to donate to you. Right. That's kind of asking someone to marry you before you've gone on some dates. So the kinds of questions that you are, the call to action that you want to have when you're first introducing your organization through content is maybe to visit your website or more importantly, to sign up for your email. So I find some of the most powerful kinds of content marketing are something that you can substantially download. So maybe it's an ebook, maybe it's a checklist, maybe it's a template. So let's say that pet owners are looking for tricks on how to potty train their puppy or how to create train their puppy. Right. And maybe you work at a shelter. So if you create pet owners or probably your target audience. Right. For donors and maybe people that would foster or adopt.
So if you're creating content on maybe a checklist for bringing home a new puppy or how to potty train a puppy or how to create train a puppy and you create maybe a really valuable blog post, and then they can download this resource if they opt into your email, that's one way to further engage them. And that's exactly what happened with this Florida gardening website. They offered something very valuable for me instead of Googling all over the place. How to Plan My Garden they created a beautiful ebook on how to plan a garden, specifically in Florida. So I was happy to opt in to their email list for that download, which eventually led me to become a customer of them. So be thinking about not just blog posts and webinars, but how you can direct people to specifically probably sign up to your email because that's really powerful to have people sign up to your email. So be thinking about that. Be thinking about what kinds of resources people might want to claw after that you are very knowledgeable at and can provide for your audience. And I think to add to your question on so that's the content channels that would be really helpful.
I would say that not all social media channels have the same purpose and are created equal. There are two particular social media channels that actually serve as search engines. Pinterest is one of them and YouTube is the other. So people go to YouTube likely when they have to solve a problem, right? They have a leaky faucet in their bathroom. They go to YouTube to figure out if they can fix it themselves. Pinterest people go to Pinterest for all kinds of problems and inspiration that they want. So again, these serve as search engines. You will go to Facebook and go through your feed, Instagram, you're going through your feed, TikTok, you're just going through your feed. You're not there looking for something specific, but you will go to YouTube and Pinterest when you have something very specific in mind. So if you're looking to do content marketing effectively and you want to draw people to your content, those are two social media platforms that people tend to put on the back burner, but are actually really powerful vehicles to get people to your content. Because again, your content is answering questions, they're solving problems. So go where people are trying to get their problem solved.
You mentioned that signing up for an email list, which is like I know in my content strategy is so important. But I'm curious, are there other ways that you can measure success with your kind of marketing strategy, whether it be with engagement?
I find that it's always important to have the most basic metrics, like if you're doing blog, which blog posts are the most popular, that's going to really be telling for you on what kind of content people are drawn to. So when I started my blog, I wrote all kinds of content about nonprofit marketing and the kinds of blog posts that people were consistently to this day going to work on communications policies and procedures like least sexy part of nonprofit marketing. But there was a huge gap in content available for something as basic as creating communications policies and procedures for your nonprofit social media policies and procedures. So I started really focusing on that kind of content to bring people to me. So that's one metric that's just simply, yeah. Which kind of content is getting the most views? And once you start maybe sharing content on Pinterest or YouTube, something like that, you'll be able to see as well which kind of content is doing really well. You can be tracking website traffic. So if you're consistently, even maybe posting this kind of information on Instagram or LinkedIn, whatever it may be, you'll be able to see which social media platform is directing the most traffic to your website.
And you can do that through Google Analytics. Or if you're using something like Squarespace, there's analytics built into that as well. But ultimately you have to have a call to action in mind. So going back to building your email list or even asking for people to maybe come to an event, whatever it may be, make sure that you're absolutely tracking the ultimate goals that you have for content marketing. So I worked at a health center. It was one of my first jobs in nonprofit marketing. And I don't think they really we knew what we were doing had a name, that it was content marketing, but the whole Department I was in health education. We were creating highly valuable health education resources, specifically for immigrant communities, specifically for Asian American Chinese immigrants. These were bilingual, culturally appropriate resources. And they were driving a lot of patience our way because we were answering all kinds of questions that they specifically had about their health. So once we kind of became more strategic about that, we could put out very specific content and then invite people to an event, and then we'd go to the program staff and say, can you please ask when people arrive at this event, how they heard about it?
Did they hear about it through social media, through a referral or what have you? And that helped us with our content strategy as well. Knowing that it was working, people were coming to us through content that we were putting on social media.
Yeah. I guess sometimes the best way to find out how effective it is is just ask.
Yeah. Because driving traffic can be so important, especially for nonprofit organizations. They can come to your website, read about you, they leave, they come back down on the resource, they leave. So it seems like it's a long journey.
Absolutely. Content marketing is a long game, and it's tough because it's an important long game because the more authority you're putting out there, it's foundational for your brand and for your organization's presence. But it isn't going to convert people overnight. So content marketing should go hand in hand with more short term goals. And I find a really good kind of counterpart marketing activity might be something like a referral program, like something that very quickly you can ask people to bring their family, friends, colleagues into the program or to donate that's what peer to peer marketing is. It's all essentially referring and referral program. So do have a balance of long term marketing like content marketing, which I cannot underscore is important, even if it doesn't maybe have as strong results as something like referral program, but definitely balance like advertising and referrals with the long term content that you're putting out there.
So we talked about measuring success, but I would love to hear if when you're working with nonprofit, if you notice a lot of common challenges people have when they are creating or executing their content strategy, what are some of the most common hurdles that people have when they're just starting out?
One of the biggest challenges is losing steam and feeling stuck on inspiration for the kind of content to post. So if you are going week by week, day by day trying to figure out what kind of content to produce, it can be very intimidating. And I'll even say in my own business, I'll go through seasons where my content planning is like on point, and my emails and blogs and social media are planned in advance. And I go through seasons where I'm just kind of going as I go. And it's so stressful. It's so stressful to know that you have to get an email out this week or create some kind of valuable blog post or webinar because you're doing consistent webinars and to not have an idea at your fingertips. And the best way to remedy this is content planning. I always tell nonprofits that I work with the press pause on their marketing when they're feeling a little panic or what I call marketing manic. If they're feeling uninspired and overwhelmed, exhausted, burnout, whatever it may be, don't keep going. Press pause. It's going to be okay if you skip a week of your content or any marketing related activities that you're doing and do that work of figuring out what problems that you're solving, coming up with the kind of content, themes and ideas that you have, then go through the work of saying, hey, next month we're going to focus on this particular idea.
So, for example, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. So if that's appicable, maybe you're going to really focus on mental health if that has to do with your organization. June is Men's Health Month, so maybe you're focusing on that. There's all kinds of things that will drive traffic to you that you just have to kind of even come up with the bigger idea. And then from there break it down. This week we're going to specifically talk about this. The next week we're going to talk about this. And you'd be surprised, once you start going, the creative juices will start flowing and you can really plot out and you don't have to write all the content at once. But even just coming up with themes, headlines, ideas, and plotting out just even a month in advance. What you're going to focus on is going to make a huge difference and then do take the time to build that out. There's a lot of research out there that shows that when people kind of stop and start activities, it just takes more time to get things done. But when you block off maybe a day or a morning to create a ton of content, you're going to be fully focused and in this creative zone and accomplish more.
So essentially, content planning is going to be your friend if you're feeling the content planning burnout to help you get ahead of it and to be thoughtful and purposeful about the kinds of content that you're putting out there.
Yeah. And that's a perfect segue to the next question I wanted to ask you, because I found when I was building my content marketing strategy, burnout is very real. And there's such a pressure, especially now, to stay top of mind. I got to get the content out. I don't want people to forget about me. How do people shy away from that mindset? How can they develop a more sustainable approach to marketing?
Right. Well, first of all, take a deep breath. It's okay to take a step back and to press pause on what you're doing if you need to focus on anything else, especially if what you're focusing on is a more strategic marketing plan or more strategic content plan. So the world will not fall apart. The sky will not fall if you take a little break, if you take a little breather. So that's number one with burnout, any kind of marketing burnout is just to press pause. I've been following Scott Harrison, co founder of Charity Water, and over the weekend he had posted about when you're feeling a drop in creativity, go outside. Like, go outside, get some sun, do something that you enjoy, relax. It absolutely takes bandwidth and creativity to create a ton of content. So rest and do things that bring you joy and that will help to reboot your burnout and help you to kind of get in that creative zone again. But it's okay. Sometimes I'll find people who come on LinkedIn and social media and say, we're back. And I'm like, oh, I didn't know that you left because social media is so fast.
So people might not notice that you skipped a month or you skipped a week or a season. As much as it's important to keep going, it's also okay to press pause and to take a break. Sometimes I find that when people take, like a substantial break from content, when they come back, they find a jump in engagement. And I think that has absolutely to do with the energy of taking a break and coming back. And also the algorithms are like, welcome back, don't leave us.
And then they'll kind of like jumpstart your engagement a little bit. So as much as I want you to be putting content out there and being consistent with it. It's okay to press pause.
Totally. Yeah. I agree. When you're excited about your content, other people can tell.
Yeah. And on the other hand, people can tell when you're uninspired and just trying to get something out there, quality over quantity, if you can just do less, but make it more meaningful. But absolutely. I'm so glad to hear that you took a little bit of time off. I took off a week in April and just completely shut down email and social media, and it was game changing for my business and for my marketing. So big fan of taking breaks and resting.
Well, before we go today, I'd love to give you some space to share with our audience. How can they get in touch with you? Where can they learn more about your work?
Yeah. So my consultancy is Maria Bryan Creative, and you can go to Mariabryan.com to learn more about my work. That's Maria Bryan. And there's a few ways that we can work together, I do one on one consultations. I am supporting a few nonprofit to create their end of year campaigns this summer. So I'm doing summer sprints with just a few nonprofit to really dig deep and help them have really powerful messaging, making a really exciting and loud game plan for their campaign and then actually building out their campaign. And this is actually to avoid burnout at the end of the year when you're kind of in a scramble to get something done. I want to help nonprofits make the most of their summer and actually get a head start on their campaign. So that's a really fun project if you're interested. Did you reach out to me in my email firstname.lastname@example.org, or my social media, which is '@mariabryancreative" I would love to talk to you further. And lastly, my signature activator is a week-long nonprofit marketing program, which will be at the end of the year. So I'll have one in the fall, in the winter.
So just stay tuned for that because they're my absolute favourite thing to teach. And a big part of that is how to create meaningful content.
All of the resources Maria mentioned will be linked in our description box for you to access. I highly recommend you check out Maria's content. Her blog has some amazing advice. And if you're looking to really fine-tune your content marketing strategy this year, Maria is definitely a person to help you do that. And if you're looking to get the most out of your data, your metrics and analytics, we would love to help you. You can visit us at trustdriven.com. We have a newsletter. We have all of our past podcast episodes, and we also have a ton of content that will help you get the most out of your fundraising strategy. Well, thank you again for joining us on the podcast, and we'll see you next time on Fundraising Superheroes.