Blackbaud and the Content Marketing Institute released its "2014 Non-profit Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends-North America" in November of 2013. This is the maiden release of this report. The fact that such a report was created signals to me that content marketing is officially a named area of work, as the report states: a whopping 92% of the 1,714 respondents engage in content marketing and 91% of them utilize Facebook.
The real takeaway is that only 25% rate themselves as "effective" and only 26% have a documented content marketing strategy...in other words, a written plan. The other key to effectiveness is having one person to oversee the implementation of content marketing strategy. A plan is essential. It is a waste of time to not fully integrate the marketing plan into the overall strategic plan. You must start with your goal and work backwards. Goals must be broken down into objectives and objectives into tasks. It is startling to witness the loss of opportunity that occurs when there is no written plan.
The overall goal of content marketing, for 79% of those surveyed, is fundraising. However, "large non-profits cite brand awareness" as their number one, followed by "engagement" and then fundraising. On the other hand, small non-profits put a higher premium on "volunteer recruitment" then large non-profits.
Now for the challenges. On average, 48% of respondents are challenged with creating enough content...that is actually engaging. Perhaps, that is connected to the 45% of respondents admitting that they are challenged with a lack of "knowledge and training." As someone who is responsible for content creation, it is finding the uninterrupted and focused time to dedicate to research and writing that is the greatest challenge. That time is only available if it is a priority of the organization and staff assigned are able to make it a priority. Not to mention, having the guidance of a written plan.
Specific challenges rated in the survey have lack of time and budget pretty much tied for first, followed by "producing the kind of content that engages" and "lack of knowledge and training." The inability to measure effectiveness and producing enough content are nearly even in the fifth and sixth slots.
Despite these challenges, content marketing is not going away, it is cranking up! Of those surveyed, 43% have increased production in the last year and most non-profit professionals use 11 types of content marketing. In-person events, social media (other than blogs), articles on your website, and e-newsletters take the top four spots and the spacing is tight. See the full list and the full report, here.
Budgets are anticipated to increase too, with 32% expecting to increase content marketing spending in the next twelve months (so, we're at the halfway point in the year...does this ring true for you?). Interestingly, those with a documented strategy are more likely to increase their content marketing budgets than those with out. Written plans include metrics, and those with written plans see the results - the documented return is what encourages them to commit more resources.
In fact, the majority of non-profits surveyed were already dedicating 20% of their marketing budgets to content marketing the year this survey was conducted. Those non-profits rating themselves most effective put 30% towards content marketing.
Most personally interesting, is the outsourcing data. Nearly half of non-profits surveyed said they outsource content creation. The larger the organization, the more likely to outsource. Design services rank highest by far, at 70%, with writing a distant second at 27%. Content distribution/syndication is a close third at 26%, with content planning & strategy and editing tied for fourth. Small non-profits are outsourcing design more and large non-profits are outsourcing writing more.
What is your biggest content marketing challenge? What is your best strength?
Why Lawyers Make Great Copywriters
Why hire an attorney to write for you? Aren't they suppose to be in a court room somewhere?
Actually, most of us aren't in court rooms and nearly half of us don't even practice. I did for a short time, and I was in a court room nearly every day. While that was exhilarating and I liked the mental exercise of litigation, it was creatively stifling and felt like the wrong fit for me.
After my short stint as a practicing attorney, I went back to the non-profit sector, where I had come from, and stayed there for six years. It was great, but demanding on time at the executive level, being heavy on evening and weekend events, which became hard to manage after having children. My husband was in the non-profit sector for those same six years, so the evening and weekend duties were doubled...
After some research, I discovered the secret world of freelance commercial writing and I've been on a satisfying thrill-ride, ever since! However, there is always the question of why an attorney is not practicing and a raised eyebrow directed at one claiming to want to do something else. Well, the fact is, lawyers are good at a lot of things because of our general, yet advanced, training - similar to an MBA - and we're damn great at research and writing.
When we (lawyers) successfully navigate law school we are changed forever! We no longer see the world in three dimensions – becoming an attorney is a life altering experience and it leaves us with a view to the fourth dimension. We learn another language - many English words take on a dual meaning, and of course, we pick-up a good amount of Latin…hence, legalese… We are extremely efficient with our time (ever heard of a time thief?). We are detail oriented and catch things that others miss.
As attorneys, we have been rewired (similar to having joined the military) to be research & writing machines. It does not matter if we are experts on a topic or have never heard of it before, because we have the IQ to figure it out. Through research we are able to become experts and then communicate the essence of the topic, problem, product, service, etc., simply and persuasively (= effective!).
Lawyer-writers are perfect for White Papers as they are very similar to legal briefs, and for Medical/Healthcare company projects – think personal injury law. Have a high-tech product you are selling to another company? Think lawyer-writer. We have to be good at taking complexities and simplifying them for our clients and other attorneys and we can convey the same high-impact, yet simplified message business-to-business.
To successfully navigate law school and then the bar exam we must be able to meet strict deadlines while juggling multiple projects and know that there is likely one chance to get it right.
Many of the lawyers I know, including myself, are extremely creative and play as hard as we work (that’s playing with my kids, now…). So, if you come across a lawyer who wants to write copy for your next content marketing piece - you might have just struck gold.
And I'll leave you with one fun fact: If someone has J.D. after their name they graduated law school - Juris Doctor, and if they have Esq., they have passed one or more state bar exams and they are licensed to practice law.
Have you hired a lawyer for a non-lawyer job? Tell me about it in the comments section.
Bridget Alexander is a non-profit consultant specializing in content marketing and development communications.