Tag: Content

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button_subscribe.png[Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from a feature article in the June 2012 issue of NTEN:Change, NTEN’s quarterly journal for nonprofit leaders. Read the rest of article, and the complete issue on “Content Curation” when you subscribe to the journal for free!]

By Beth Kanter, Beth’s Blog

Becoming “content fried” is a potential hazard for content curators, and that can get in the way of being efficient. In addition to the technical skills and tools described [in the extended version of this article], it is also important for staff to incorporate techniques into their daily work life that reduce distraction and stress.

As you encourage content curation activities for your staff, you may also want to remind them of techniques for being efficient and staying focused:

  1. Manage Your Attention, Not Just Your Time: Don’t just create a to-do list, lay it out on daily and weekly schedules, breaking down key tasks of the project into chunks. Consider the level of concentration and focus that each type of task or chunk requires – and schedule accordingly. For example, if I have to do some writing that requires a higher level of attention for me than does scanning Twitter or reading and responding to email, I schedule my writing time during peak concentration hours in the day. (I’ve charted those – so I know when they occur). I also use a timer when I’m scanning my networks and limit those activities to 15-20 minute bursts.
  2. Visualize On Paper: Over the past 10 months, I’ve made a return to paper and markers and using mind maps or visualization techniques to reflect, and plan my week or day. I use this as a pre-writing exercise as well as a reflection exercise. It’s why I felt the need to dive into visual facilitation and thinking techniques as a way to cope with getting “content fried.”
  3. Establish Rituals: Rituals in your work life are valuable. The mind map offers a lot of good suggestions for rituals – from decluttering your workspace to healthy habits like sleep and exercise.
  4. Reflection: Reflection doesn’t have to be a huge amount of time to be effective. I’m taking ten minutes every morning to practice some visual recording skills like drawing to create my “3 Most Important Things for Today List.” At the end of the day, I look at it, reflect on what I did – and plan for tomorrow. The advice is not to go online or check email until you get your three things done, but that is very hard for me – given so much of my work is online. What I do is try to avoid email first thing in the morning.
  5. Managing Email and Other Distractions: I’ve turned off notifications that pop up on my computer screen or send me a text message to my mobile phone.
  6. Managing Physical Space: When I see clutter in my physical work spaces, I try to take that as a sign that I need to hit a pause button. Usually it is because I’m doing too much.
  7. Just Say No: Maybe you are going to say no to social media for a day and go to meet with people, take a class, read a book, or take a walk. When I’m feeling most overwhelmed, I take a break. Even if it is just to get up and walk around my desk.

Have any techniques to add to this list? Let us know in the comments!

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button_subscribe.png[Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt of an article in the June 2012 issue of NTEN:Change. Read the complete article when you subscribe to the journal for free!]

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.

Creating

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.

Curating

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

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.

Community Building

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:

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But that mix is likely to change for different channels. Here’s a different mix for a Facebook page:

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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.

Continue reading this article, which includes more results from the reader survey plus more resources and tips: subscribe to NTEN:Change for free!

Will you make me a promise before you read this? Don’t make blog planning a six-month process. A little planning will go a long way towards making your blog more successful. A lot of planning will just slow you down. Use these steps as a guideline. Jot down some notes, have a couple meetings, and start blogging!

Promise?

OK. Here we go.

1. Listen

Research what blogs are writing about your cause, and where yours could fit in the conversation. Use Google Blog Search, Alltop.com, blog rolls, and Twitter Search to find blogs about your issue. Add related blogs to a feed reader like Google Reader to make it easy for you to read and comment regularly.

2. Find your blog’s purpose

Knowing why your organization wants to blog will help you determine how often to post, what to post about, and who should write for your blog. Questions to ask:

  • Why does our organization want to blog?
  • What goal(s) will a blog help us achieve?
  • What would a successful blog look like

3. Describe your ideal audience

Your blog may not be the right tool to reach everyone (e.g. donors, volunteers, constituents, funders, and press), nor does it need to be. Questions to ask:

  • Who are three people who represent our ideal readers?
  • What topics interest them?
  • What would make them read every post?

4. Brainstorm juicy blog post topics

This is a great activity to do with a group. Ask folks to brainstorm blog post topics that will fulfill your blog’s purpose and reach your ideal audience. Below is a list of types of blog posts to spark your imagination:

  • answer readers’ questions
  • ask for help
  • “best of” list
  • challenges (e.g. GOOD’s 30 Days of Good)
  • comment on current events
  • click list of other blogs’ posts
  • guest post
  • how to
  • interview
  • notes “from the field”
  • numbered list
  • opinion
  • personal story
  • photos
  • podcast
  • regular column
  • reviews (e.g. books, films, products)
  • round-up of news about your issue
  • series
  • video
  • your organization’s news (e.g. events, campaigns, press)

5. Select your staff

You’re going to need a blogger(s), a managing editor (if you have more than one blogger), a community builder, a web designer, and tech support. All these roles could be filled by one person, or by multiple people. A word about making your Executive Director your main blogger: unless they LOVE to write, don’t do it. They don’t have the time. If you’re thinking about depending entirely on guest bloggers keep in mind: 1. your readers probably don’t care as much about who these people are as you do, 2. wrangling people who don’t work for you to write posts won’t necessarily save you time. If you want to have interns run your blog, be sure to have a plan in place for who will write for it when they leave.

So, who should write for your organization’s blog? Someone who:

  • loves to write
  • is able to write short, engaging pieces
  • understands how to draw readers in with words and images
  • enjoys being social online

6. Decide how often to post

Here’s the deal, the more you post, the more likely you’ll be read. On the other hand, regular subscribers might not want to hear from you everyday; plus, you might not have the staff to invest in daily posting. The answer: post regularly, at least once a week. Two to three times a week would be great, but once a week is better than not at all. Also, when you’re mapping out your blogging time for the month, remember that “blogging” encompasses reading, writing, commenting, and sharing posts on social networks.

7. Choose your features

Some basic features all blogs should have are:

  • prompts to subscribe by rss and email
  • commenting
  • a short “about” paragraph
  • sharing buttons on the bottom of every post (e.g. tweet this)
  • the name of the blogger who wrote the post on each post
  • a link back to your site’s home page, if the blog has a separate URL
  • archives

Some features you’ll have to decide about are, do you want:

  • the blog to be integrated into your site, or separate?
  • a custom design, or template?
  • categories?
  • a blog roll (a list of related blogs) in the sidebar?
  • a donate button in the sidebar?
  • anything else in the sidebar?

You’ll also need to decide which blogging platform to use (e.g. WordPress.com, WordPress.org, Blogger, Tumblr.

8. Create an editorial calendar

When you have small windows of writing time, knowing what you’re going to write about can save time, especially if you’ve been collecting ideas and resources somewhere (e.g. your Twitter feed, a notepad, Pinterest). Some questions to ask:

  • How often are we able to post each week?
  • What’s going on in the world this month (e.g. holidays)?
  • What’s going on in our org’s world this month (e.g. conferences, campaigns, events)?
  • Which posts were the most popular last month? How can we write more like them?

9. Create a plan to build traffic and engagement

Even the most amazing posts in the world will go unread, unless you let folks know about them. At a minimum, you should be:

  • sharing all of your posts with your social networks
  • linking to the month’s most popular posts in your e-newsletter
  • putting a link to your blog in your email signature and on your business card
  • commenting on other blogs
  • writing great titles with keywords people are searching for, and that draw them in. For title inspiration, peruse The Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com)

If folks aren’t commenting on many of your posts try:

  • sharing a strong opinion in the post and title
  • asking a question in the post and title
  • asking for help, opinions, or advice. If you sound like you know everything, what is there to comment on?

10. Decide how you will measure impact

Look back at your blog’s purpose, and how you defined success to determine what metrics are appropriate. Some possible ways to measure impact are by noting:

  • subscribers
  • page views
  • comments
  • popular posts
  • Facebook likes, shares and comments
  • tweets, retweets and favorites
  • press that came as a result of your blog
  • donations that happened as a result of your blog
  • volunteers who found you through your blog

OK That’s it. Ten steps. Remember your promise: a little planning and a lot of blogging.

Oh, and here’s my biggest blogging tip:

Don’t be boring.

Do be creative, visual, engaging, educational, entertaining, resourceful, inspirational and fun!

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[Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from an article in the June 2012 issue of
NTEN:Change.]

By Beth Kanter, Author of Beth’s Blog

Content curation is the process of sifting through information on the web and organizing, filtering and making sense of it and sharing the very best content with your network. Rather than another potential recipe for information overload, content curation can actually be a method to tackle this problem. With so much information coming at us from social networks, web sites, emails, and other digital sources, we can no longer afford to just whine about it—content curation can empower us to win the battle over too much information.

What is content curation exactly? It isn’t mindless consumption of online information. If you think about what a museum curator does, it is very similar. The museum curator does research, is an expert in the particular artistic style, selects the best examples, puts them together in an exhibit, provides important context with annotation on the labels, and so on. I also like the metaphor of a sommelier. They know the grapes, the winemaker and their techniques, and vintages. They taste many wines to find the best of the best to appropriately complement (even enhance) the food in the restaurant. They can answer questions about the wine to help diners navigate a wine list to make the best choice. The content curator does something similar, but with information.

One reason content curation is becoming more and more appreciated is because of the huge amount of information available on the web (the equivalent of cheap red wine). There’s so much of it that it is now measured in exabytes, which is equal to a quintillion bytes. The creation and sharing of content on social media and social networks is contributing to this information overload. The average user on Facebook shares/creates 90 pieces of content a month. With over 800 million global users on Facebook, if you do the math—that’s a lot of information!

We can’t blame it all on the amount of information. The problem is our information consumption —we’re indulging too much at the buffet called the web. We need to go on an information diet. And guess what? Mindful consumption of information is at the heart of content curation practice .

Benefits for Nonprofits

The act of content curation can actually reduce our information overload. I believe that sense-making, both individually and in collaborative contexts at work or networked projects, will be the key to navigating the digital information landscape and finding relevant content efficiently in the future.

In addition, there are benefits for both nonprofit organizations and the people who work for them:

  • Improve staff expertise: It used to be that we could be trained to do our work and we wouldn’t need to update and synthesize new information on a daily basis. That’s less true. One 21st century work place literacy is sense-making of information together and alone. A good curator can appreciate content that is not, at first glance, related to their subject. This skill is called “Transdisciplinarity,” or the ability to understand and translate concepts across multiple disciplines, another 21st century skill.
  • Improve Thought Leadership: If your organization is curating content on a particular topic, it can help with branding your organization as thought leaders in the space. If your staff is trained in the techniques of content curation, this process can be a form of professional development, building their expertise in a subject area that can, in turn, have significant returns to your organization’s programs. Better yet, this professional development is a self-directed activity – and it’s free! Not only are they learning on the job, but getting work done, too.
  • Content curation forms the base of your content strategy pyramid. It’s about curation, creativity, and coordination across channels. Your content strategy is essential to the success of an integrated social media strategy. Content curation can also help increase the shelf-life of your content you’re already producing.

> Read the rest of this article by subscribing to NTEN:Change

Don’t miss Beth’s upcoming free webinar on this topic, presented in partnership with the AdCouncil:

“How Content Curation Builds Staff Expertise and Reduces Information Overload”, Thursday, July 12, 2pm ET / 11am PT.

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When our editorial committee decided on “Content Curation” as the overall theme of this issue when planning back in 2011, we knew that it would be an important topic for the nonprofit sector, but we didn’t anticipate that, in some ways, 2012 would turn out to be the year of content curation, as Beth Kanter predicted in January. If you’re still unsure of what the term encompasses and why it’s relevant to nonprofit work, see our “What’s Hot: Content Curation” article in the new issue for a quick introduction.

I’m pleased to announce Issue Six of NTEN:Change, A Quarterly Journal for Nonprofit Leaders!

NTEN’s publication, designed especially for busy nonprofit executive directors, departmental directors, boards, and other leadership staff, is free and hot off the press, and in the current issue you’ll find:

  • “The Unexpected Benefits of Content Curation for Your Staff,” by Beth Kanter, who makes the case for improving productivity and effectiveness with content curation practices.
  • “Mapping Your Communications Mix,” from Idealware’s Laura Quinn, with tips and examples for mapping the right mix of content for your channels–and organizational goals.
  • “Case Study: Pinterest for Program Planning,” documenting one museum’s application of Pinterest to meet internal program and project planning needs.
  • An Interview with ASPCAPro’s Pune Dracker on Content Curation.
  • Nonprofit Leaders talk about their balance (or unbalance) of IT for mission versus keeping the org’s lights on.

As well as content from the experts at Creative Commons, the NTEN community, a podcast from the CTK Foundation, and . . . I couldn’t possibly list everything here in this blog post, so please check out the new issue to see more (and make sure your Executive Director and Board Members read this):

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