By Laura Quinn, Idealware
Odds are good that your organization is using multiple communications channels to reach people, from social media to direct mail and email to websites and blogs. Because each can attract a different audience, and may be better-suited for certain types and lengths of content, coordinating among them all can be difficult. You want to provide useful, interesting, mission-related information to use each channel successfully and meet the expectations of the people who follow you, but how do you keep each channel different enough to be interesting on its own without turning content-creation into a full-time job?
In a recent survey of NTEN:Change Journal readers, we learned that organizations are using an average of almost four different channels as part of their communications mix. Using each to its fullest potential takes work—it’s time-consuming to write a lot of new content for your blog, but it starts to feel redundant if you post the same information there as on your Facebook page or Twitter feed.
In a recent survey of NTEN:Change readers, we learned that organizations are using an average of almost four different channels as part of their communications mix.
A little forethought can help you maintain the balance of information you’re posting, or feel you should be, and ultimately save time. To start sharing your content-related efforts among each of your channels requires strategic thinking in four areas: Creating, Curating, Promoting, and Community-Building. Let’s look at them one at a time.
Are you creating new, original, informational content for each channel you’re using? You may not have to. People frequently write news stories or opinion pieces for some channels, like their websites, email newsletters or blogs, while using others to share reposts, links or other means of “re-using” content. Original content is what many organization think about first when looking for high-quality ways to communicate with their constituents, but it’s certainly not the only way.
Increasingly, organizations are talking about “curating” content as another way to provide a lot of value in communications. For many, this means following news, blogs or other resources in your topic area and linking to particularly useful resources. Curating information created by other organizations and individuals is a useful way to bring other voices into your mix, but don’t forget you can also curate your own materials—for instance, you could use your mailed newsletter to summarize the best posts published to your own blog each month.
Promoting your own campaigns, events and fundraising appeals is an important part of your external communications. It can also be a substantial piece of channels like direct mail, which you may not be using very often. Don’t be shy about promoting your own cause—presumably, that’s why people are on your list to begin with. But since it’s never pleasant to correspond with someone who does nothing but continually ask you to do stuff, make sure you’re providing other value as well, either on the same channel or on different ones.
The ability to engage your audience is one of the benefits of online communications. Inspiring them to respond to posts and to talk to each other and generally creating a sense of community for your cause can, and should, be an important part of your mix—particularly for social media channels. How do you go about this? Ask questions of readers, encourage them to post comments, and solicit their answers to questions posted by other readers. The extent to which you should devote efforts will vary among channels. You’re unlikely to create a lot of conversation through your direct mail program, for example, but it might very well be a focus for your Facebook page or blog strategy.
Finding the Balance
Those are the types of content-related efforts you should be making, but what’s the balance you should aim for? You will likely have a different mix on each channel. For instance, you might decide that the vast majority of information on your blog should be new stories and opinion pieces written specifically for the blog, but that the primary goal of your Facebook page is to build community and promote events and resources.
Consider what types of content will work best for each channel, and how much of each type your organization is likely to need. It’s useful to diagram out the mix for each channel. We like to use a pie chart, as it provides a tidy circle for each channel that you can then combine into additional diagrams. As an example, here’s a possible mix of types of content for a blog:
But that mix is likely to change for different channels. Here’s a different mix for a Facebook page:
Of course, the actual mix will depend on your organization and goals, but remember that different channels lend themselves better to different types of communications. For instance, direct mail and email are very important communications method for many organizations, but neither is a great way to build community. Instead, they’re both great places to share original content, to ask people to take action with promotions or appeals, or even to provide some curated resources or links as part of newsletter.