Content marketing explained and three steps to get started

Marketing spelled out with Scrabble letters

There are many buzzwords and much hype that surround the term content marketing – but what is it, and how can it support your organisation’s goals?

Content marketing definitions

“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” – Content Marketing Institute

There are many different opinions on what content marketing is, as this list of definitions from 25 thought leaders shows.

For my part, I believe content marketing aims to connect people with valuable content, based on their goals and needs, that drives them to act.

It also provides customers and organisations with a better understanding of how they can work together to achieve shared goals.

Three steps to start content marketing

1. Get to know your customers

There are many ways you can introduce content marketing approaches at your organisation, however the first step should always be thinking about your customers.

Who are your customers?

Internally a customer could be viewed as staff, volunteers, senior executives, board members or more. Externally you may communicate with clients or service users, their family members or support network, carers, other organisations and referrers, donors, funders, government – the list goes on.

What are their goals and needs?

What are your customers looking for? For example, someone with a back injury may not instantly think “I need a massage” or “I need to see a physio” – their first step may be to research back pain and the causes, to identify the best treatment options.

How can you address these goals or needs with content?

Your organisation’s expertise and experience, shared through content, can be a great way to demonstrate what you’re all about and how you can help. From the example above, a physiotherapist with extensive knowledge of back pain causes and treatments could share their advice through meaningful content. In turn, this content could drive someone to consider making an appointment with a physiotherapist for specialist treatment.

2. Build your news sense

Stories and information gaps are everywhere; you just need to know them when you see them. Developing a knack for news and knowing what offers value to your customers is the best way you can drive regular content over time.

If you’re working within an organisation, building relationships with colleagues is crucial. Meet with leaders, chat to people in the tea room about what they’re working on, review client feedback and keep an eye on mainstream and social media commentary. What are customers feeling excited about? What are they feeling confused about? How can you address these needs through content?

3. Make a plan

Now that you’ve thought about your customers and their content needs, it’s time to put it together into a plan.

  • Identify a common goal – shared by your business and customer
  • Based on your customer reflections, brainstorm some content ideas
  • Consider your content options – from blogs to lists and infographics, there are many ways to present your information
  • Create a publishing schedule – factoring in timelines for drafting and approvals, and responsibilities for each step

There are some great resources available online to support your content journey, here are just a few:

About the author

Over close to 10 years, I’ve worked within non-profit and community organisations to drive communications and marketing campaigns and initiatives. Making sure people have access to valuable, accessible and inclusive information is a true passion of mine; and a passion I’d love to share with your organisation.

Learn more about Pen For Purpose, the copywriting, editing and content marketing services available to you, or simply get in touch to talk about your communications needs.

Communications tips for consumer directed care

Older woman sitting outside smiling consumer directed care

The growth of consumer directed care in community services in Australia presents exciting opportunities for clients and organisations alike.

With the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and Consumer Directed Care, many clients of disability, mental health and aged care services have the power and control to select their services.

This type of service delivery is likely to increase in the future. In fact, the Productivity Commission public inquiry into human services and increased competition and choice is well underway. Recommendations and a final report are expected to be released in October 2017.

So what does this mean for your organisation? Communicating clearly and directly to current or potential customers is now more important than ever before.

Tips to make your communications customer-focused for consumer directed care

Speak directly to your consumers

The traditional way of describing community services is very different to the way of the future. In the past, a service was described in terms of the problem it solves or the issue it addresses. Clients were referred to with an impersonal term like ‘the individual’, sometimes with an added loaded descriptor of ‘disadvantaged’ or ‘marginalised’.

It’s time to flip the focus. You are now speaking directly to potential customers – how will they feel about being described as disadvantaged or marginalised? And importantly, what services can you provide that meet their goals and needs?

Speak directly to your customers, explain what you do in clear terms and drop any judgmental language.

Cut the jargon

The community services sector is full of complex language and acronyms, which can be overwhelming and confusing for people seeking services or support. If possible, remove acronyms from your vocabulary, or when they are used, make sure you spell them out and explain their meaning.

Make your communications accessible

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, close to 44% of people have low literacy levels and find it challenging to read and make sense of everyday information. Levels of low literacy were found to be higher for older people, with 67% of those aged 60-74 assessed as having lower levels of literacy.

People with an intellectual disability may need Easy English resources to understand the services you provide. Easy English is a style of writing and formatting that uses plain words, large text size, short sentences and images to convey meaning.

Use Plain English language as much as possible, and consider developing Easy English resources to ensure people can access the information they need about your organisation.

Check your language

Make sure you use respectful and inclusive language. There are many great resources available to support your communications which I’ve covered in the blog “Why words matter: writing that promotes inclusion”.

Seek specialised support

Over close to 10 years, I’ve worked within non-profit and community organisations in Melbourne, Australia to drive communications and marketing campaigns and initiatives. Most recently, I have focused on NDIS communications and sharing accessible information about the scheme and the supports available.

Learn more about my skills and experiences or get in touch to discuss your customer-focused communications needs.

Why words matter: writing that promotes inclusion

The words you speak become the house you live in

Everyone has the right to information that meets their needs and treats them with fairness and respect.

Sometimes when describing people, inaccurate or offensive terms can be unintentionally used. Making sure you use the right terms isn’t just about being ‘politically correct’. Using lazy language can make people feel upset, excluded and misunderstood. It can also deepen divisions and create an ‘us versus them’ environment in the wider community.

As an organisation, living up to your values is critical. One of the best ways you can embed respect is to use fair and inclusive language in your communications.

In the words of Iranian poet Hafiz, “The words you speak become the house you live in”.

Let’s build a house on the write foundations.

Inclusive communications resources

Getting it right when it comes to language isn’t always easy. Luckily there are a number of great resources to get you started.

The ‘Guide to Disability Reporting’ by People with Disability Australia is an excellent resource for checking your language when talking about people with disability. As the guide says in its introduction:

“Your use of language when referring to or talking about people with disability has an impact on the way people with disability feel and the way they are perceived by other people in society. It is important that you are aware of the meaning behind the words you use when talking to, referring to or working with people with disability. Some terms and language can be a barrier to full participation in society and also can mean people with disability feel hurt and excluded.”

The Mindframe Media Guidelines are another great tool that can support you to talk about mental illness and suicide with sensitivity and respect. Developed in partnership by mental health professionals and the media, the Mindframe guidelines aim to change attitudes and perceptions of mental illness and suicide.

The GLAAD Media Reference Guide provides advice on language, content and reporting about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people. This guide aims to support fair, accurate and respectful LGBTQ stories.

The ABC’s Indigenous Content Guidelines, while intended for ABC content making, is another useful resource for organisations. These guidelines share advice on language, naming and references, as well as other important cultural traditions and considerations.

Additional resources

Do you have any guides or tips you can recommend? Share your advice in the comments section below.

Seeking specialised support?

Over close to 10 years, I’ve worked within non-profit and community organisations to drive communications and marketing campaigns and initiatives. Making sure people have access to information that is accessible and inclusive is a true passion of mine; and a passion I’d love to share with your organisation.

Learn more about Pen For Purpose, the copywriting, editing and content marketing services available to you, or simply get in touch to talk about your inclusive communications needs.

How to make word-of-mouth marketing work for you

Three women and one man holding colourful speech bubble signs in the air

Asking a friend for an opinion before making a decision, and the concept of word-of-mouth marketing, isn’t anything new.

Talking to friends, family or neighbours to see if they know a good plumber, doctor, gardener or real estate agent is as common now as it’s ever been. The digital revolution hasn’t changed the power and influence of people’s opinions and word-of-mouth marketing. If anything, it’s added greater weight to the value to people place on genuine recommendations.

More and more, people are turning to those they know (and even those they don’t) to seek authentic and trustworthy recommendations.

Across the world:

So how can you harness the power of word-of-mouth marketing? Here are three keys to success.

1. Make people happy

Do what you say you’re going to. Seems pretty simple, right?

Ensuring customers have a positive experience with your product or service is without a doubt the best way to support word-of-mouth marketing.

If you’ve ever been either very happy or disappointed with an experience with a company, it’s likely you’ve told a few people about it.

Strong feelings about an experience with a product or service usually come down to the expectations of the customer. Have you promised more than you can deliver and failed? Have you clearly explained what you offer and met or exceeded your customer’s needs?

Determining your value proposition and proof points is key to establishing reasonable and realistic expectations.

By taking the time to truly understand what you offer, and how this meets a customer’s needs, you can craft effective and authentic messages and marketing materials.

  • What value or benefit can your product or service add to a customer’s life?
  • How can you prove what you say about your product or service?
  • If you can’t prove it, why are you saying it?

While it can be tempting to say you are the “best”, “biggest”, “cheapest”, “fastest”, you need to be ready to back up these statements and deliver on your promise.

Some companies take their value proposition a step further by putting their money where their mouth is and offering a better deal or discount if they don’t live up to their promises. Consider the fast food restaurant Domino’s Pizza, who’ve built their value proposition around affordable and fast pizzas. Enter the Domino’s Delivery Guarantee – pizza delivered in 20 minutes, for a small fee of $3, or your next pizza is free. Or even the price promises of Bunnings and Officeworks, who commit to the lowest prices or a reduction in prices to beat competitors.

While promotions like this don’t work for every company, the lesson is fairly simple: do what you say you’re going to do to build trust, credibility and integrity.

2. Learn to love and leverage user-generated content

Thanks to the growth of social media and user-generated content it’s never been easier to make your feelings known and visible about a product or service. Loved your brunch at a cafe? Post a review on their Facebook page. Had a terrible travel experience? Warn others by posting a review on TripAdvisor.

User-generated content is defined by Curata as “essentially any content created by an unpaid contributor”. It can span a range of sites and channels from review websites or tools through to the use of hashtags on social media.

Review websites and tools continue to grow every day. From Google ratings on business listings to industry-specific sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp, people love to share their opinion and read the opinions of others.

According to statistics compiled by Vendasta:

  • 92% of consumers now read online reviews
  • 40% form an opinion by reading just one to three reviews
  • Reliability (27%), expertise (21%) and professionalism (18%) are the most important attributes for consumers

If there are review tools and websites relevant to your company or industry, it’s critical to actively monitor and respond to reviews – the good and the bad.

How can you manage and engage with reviews?

  • Thank people for taking the time to write a review
  • Write a meaningful and relevant response to the review – don’t just copy and paste a generic answer
  • Act quickly – according to the 2018 Online Reviews Survey, customers expect a response within 7 days (if not sooner)

Even if the review is negative, providing a response is beneficial. Research by the Harvard Business Review shows that responsiveness to reviews increases the number of reviews received and impacts customer perceptions and ratings over time.

Testimonials or case studies are also an excellent way to showcase the impact of your company and to build trust and credibility in your brand.

Some powerful and affordable tactics include:

  • short videos
  • written case studies
  • content competitions to capture and share customer experiences

For more details on case studies, check out my previous blog on Pen For Purpose “How to craft a compelling case study”.

3. Keep the conversation going and be ready to listen

Engaging tools to enable customer feedback, suggestions and new ideas can support you to stay on top of emerging needs and trends.

Maintaining an active social media presence, and being responsive to comments and reviews, creates an opportunity for ongoing two-way communication.

Through social media you share what’s going on for your company, and just as importantly, listen to your customers. This active listening empowers you to make operational changes and improvements as needed.

eNewsletters are an accessible, low-cost option for regular communications with your customers.

There are a range of eNewsletter tools out there that enable you to design professional looking updates for customers. You can also encourage readers to send their feedback on the content of the newsletter or to share their experience in future newsletter editions. This guide by ConnectingUp provides some great tips on why and how you should start up an eNewsletter.

I hope this guide has been helpful in explaining some of the low-cost, high-reward opportunities available to your business by leveraging the power of word-of-mouth. What are your challenges in word-of-mouth marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments.

About the author

Over close to 10 years, I’ve worked within non-profit and community organisations to drive communications and marketing campaigns and initiatives. Telling great stories is a true passion of mine; and a passion I’d love to share with your organisation.

Learn more about Pen For Purpose, the copywriting, editing and content marketing services available to you, or simply get in touch to talk about your communications needs

Accessibility 101: How to make your nonprofit’s digital content more accessible

Concrete accessibility ramp with red railings

“Accessibility 101: How to make your nonprofit’s digital content more accessible” originally featured on NonProfit Marcommunity – a space for nonprofit marketers and communicators to learn from and share knowledge with each other.

Nonprofit communicators connect people in need with valuable information and support every day through a range of digital communications channels.

Many organisations support people with disability, older people, people with English as a second language and people with low literacy to access practical help and programs every day. For many people experiencing disadvantage, finding out where to go for help is a huge first step.

As a nonprofit communicator, you can support people to access the tools they need to succeed by ensuring your language is clear and that your website is accessible.

What is website accessibility?

Website accessibility is all about making sure everyone has equal access to information online. While primarily focused on supporting people with disability, good accessibility benefits everyone. It makes information easy to access, understand and navigate.

According to the Website Accessibility Initiative:

“Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web, and that they can contribute to the Web.”

Especially in nonprofit organisations, where many of us work to connect people in need to the right services, providing equitable access aligns to both our values and our goals.

So how can you make accessibility a priority and a reality in your organisation? In addition to using everyday and inclusive language, there are a number of settings and tools you can use to improve the accessibility of your online communications.

Here are three simple accessibility actions you can take today

1. Choose meaningful, relevant images

Images are a powerful addition to your content, however choosing a cheesy image or not providing image descriptions can frustrate or exclude some readers. As this article by a disability advocate shows – How to be disabled according to stock photography – stock photography can get it very wrong when it comes to reflecting reality.

Adding descriptions to the images you use – also known as “alt text” – enables people with visual impairments to make meaning of visuals used on your website. Alt text can be read by screen readers, which are tools that read out loud the information on the page. Without alt text, your images are just empty space!

To make images accessible you can:

  • Describe the image in the alt text settings area of your website or email system. This is usually in the image editing or upload function.
  • Provide an image caption, especially on social media when you cannot add alt text
  • Avoid text embedded in images, or if the text is necessary, make sure you provide a description in the alt text or as a caption.

This University of Washington checklist provides some more detail on how to make your images accessible.

2. Check the contrast between colours

Using a good colour contrast ratio makes your content easier to read and understand. Have you ever watched a slideshow presentation that used yellow or orange text on white, and found yourself squinting? This is due to poor contrast between the text and background.

There are some great tools available online that allow you to check the contrast between colours on your screen:

If you have standard colours you use for your logo or online channels, use one of the tools above to make sure that there is enough contrast between the colours you use.

3. Enable captions on videos

Enabling or adding captions on video content can have a number of benefits. On YouTube you can add your own subtitles or closed captions in the video settings. People can turn on the captions as needed or depending on their communication needs.

You can also add captions visually on a video file during production so they appear permanently. This is a good option if you intend to share your video on social media, where many people have the auto-play feature on and the volume off.

Another way you can make your videos accessible is to add audio description, which is when you add a voiceover to describe what’s shown visually.

The business and values case for prioritising accessibility

After reading these tips you might be thinking, “Wow that sounds like a lot of extra work.” You’re right – implementing accessibility measures can take some time to begin with. However, over time they will become part of your everyday practice and processes.

Accessibility makes good business sense for organisations too; there is a strong vision and values case for ensuring everyone has equal opportunity to connect with your organisation’s support and services. As a nonprofit communicator, implementing accessibility measures are a tangible way you can connect people to the help they need – and that’s what we’re all here to do, right?

If reading this article has sparked your interest in exploring accessibility, check out these great resources:

About the author

Over close to 10 years, I’ve worked within non-profit and community organisations to drive communications and marketing campaigns and initiatives. Creating compelling content and telling great stories is a true passion of mine; and a passion I’d love to share with your organisation.

Learn more about Pen For Purpose, the copywriting, editing and content marketing services available to you, or simply get in touch to talk about your communications needs.

How to craft a compelling case study

Hands of two women holding coffees while sitting at wooden table

True stories from people your organisation supports can provide a valuable, objective endorsement of the services you provide. Whether you’re in the business of delivering groceries, fuelling family cars, or supporting families experiencing crisis, case studies are powerful content. So how do you craft a case study – and do it well?

Top tips for crafting a case study

1. Unearth and connect with people who’ve had a good experience with your organisation

Stories are at the heart of human connection. We relate to each other by sharing experiences. Within most organisations, staff working on the frontline have the best access to and understanding of client experiences.

Good news stories and positive client experiences are sometimes captured through formal processes, like client feedback surveys, however personal human impact stories are usually only shared and celebrated among colleagues.

To unearth leads for potential case studies:

  • Provide avenues for staff to share positive client feedback in an informal, easy way. Consider creating a dedicated stories email address for your organisation or adding an online form to your staff intranet.
  • Encourage clients to share their experiences with you directly by creating opportunities for open communication and engagement. Online forms, email addresses, phone numbers and paper-based forms could work for you depending on the communications needs of your clients.
  • Build relationships with frontline staff, who have direct interaction with clients, so they can let you know about any potential stories to explore.

2. Prepare well to provide a positive experience

So you’ve found someone to chat to – great! But how are you going to approach the conversation? Depending on the nature of the story and on the client themselves, sharing an experience with someone new can be confronting. There are many ways you can support someone to feel comfortable in sharing their story.

  • Get to know them informally first by meeting for a coffee, talking about the process and how stories are shared at your organisation. This is also the ideal time to talk about their rights and options in regards to providing consent, maintaining privacy or anonymity, or withdrawing consent if things change. Ensuring people are aware of all their rights is absolutely critical in developing and sharing case studies.
  • Prepare some questions or topics of conversation ahead of time and share them with the client in advance so they can think about what they might like to say.
  • Meet in an environment that is comfortable and convenient for your client – whether it’s their home, the local park or a cafe.
  • Allow plenty of time so you don’t have to rush through the conversation.
  • Consider taking an audio recording so you aren’t busy scribbling notes while chatting. Having a notepad can also make the conversation feel more formal, which may prevent people from feeling comfortable. There are many free audio recording apps you can download to your smartphone.
  • Thank the client for sharing their experiences and let them know about next steps.

3. Tell the story – set the scene and share the successes

Finding the start of a story or the best angle is often the hardest part – and also the most important to draw the reader in. Think about what stood out from your conversation with the client – was it something they said, was it seeing the smile on their face, how they interacted with their world, or maybe an anecdote that really resonated with you emotionally?

There are many great resources available online to help you find an angle and write your human interest story. With a case study, your narrative is likely to follow a client’s journey from:

  • their life before they engaged with your organisation or service
  • how they found and connected with your organisation or service, and
  • the positive change your organisation or service has brought to their life or the life of someone they care about.

Over time and with practice you will develop your own style and confidence in crafting a case study.

4. Close the loop and make a call to action

Through the case study, you should aim to:

  • demonstrate how your organisation supported the client to achieve a good outcome, and
  • provide a meaningful link to how other people can access your services or get involved

After taking readers through the narrative of a case study it is important to provide some guidance and next steps by adding a call to action that aligns to your business and content goals. Depending on the nature of the case study, and your audience, your call to action could be to provide a link to:

  • ways to donate or support a project
  • how to learn about or access a service or product
  • more case studies for people who’d like to read more.

I hope this guide inspires you to start storytelling in your organisation by crafting compelling case studies. Not only are they great content, they are a fantastic way to celebrate positive outcomes and experiences.

About the author

Over close to 10 years, I’ve worked within non-profit and community organisations to drive communications and marketing campaigns and initiatives. Telling great stories is a true passion of mine; and a passion I’d love to share with your organisation.

Learn more about Pen For Purpose, the copywriting, editing and content marketing services available to you, or simply get in touch to talk about your communications needs.

What is Easy English?

Person's hand signing contract

Easy English is a style of writing and formatting that makes information more accessible to readers. While primarily designed to support people with an intellectual disability, Easy English materials can also be helpful for people with low literacy and people who use English as a second language.

Why is Easy English important?

Sharing accessible information enables people to connect to businesses, organisations and government departments and to make choices about things that are important in their life.

Literacy and understanding information impacts everybody every day – from reading signs to signing service contracts, knowledge in many ways is power.

In Australia:

Easy English materials can support more people to understand information and make informed choices and decisions independently.

What does Easy English look like?

Easy English documents have a number of content and style features that make information easier for readers to access.

Easy English uses:

  • Simple everyday words
  • Minimal punctuation
  • Short sentences, with one idea or concept per sentence
  • A wide left margin and plenty of white space
  • Images or icons that add meaning, placed to the left of sentences
  • Large easy to read font, at least 14pt

Once translated, Easy English resources can be read by people independently or with the support of someone they know.

Learn more about Easy English

Interested in learning more about Easy English? Check out the resources below or get in touch to discuss your Easy English translation needs.

About the author

Over close to 10 years, I’ve worked within non-profit and community organisations to drive communications and marketing campaigns and initiatives. Making sure people have access to valuable, accessible and inclusive information is a true passion of mine; and a passion I’d love to share with your organisation.

Learn more about Pen For Purpose, the copywriting, editing and content marketing services available to you, or simply get in touch to talk about your communications needs.