Inbound marketing for nonprofits is not a new idea: Hubspot, the company that created the concept of inbound marketing, has a document written specifically for nonprofits, introducing inbound and how it applies specifically to nonprofits. Their theory is that anyone can benefit from the strategy, even if you’re not in the business of selling a product.
Big name nonprofits (the Sierra Club, UNICEF), have no problem with marketing — you recognize them and their mission, even though all I’ve done is written their names. It’s the small nonprofits, local charities in your neighborhood, that need the help. They’re the ones that don’t have the resources to get their name anywhere and everywhere. They’re not sponsoring local foot races or sending out calendars with cute pictures every winter; they’re hardly able to provide any service at all. As the saying goes (sort of), “the spirit is willing, but the wallet is weak.”
This doesn’t have to be your organization. (image: Anna H-G)
So what can an inbound marketing plan do?
- It’s open to any kind of promotional push: the most fun thing for a lot of nonprofits is being among their beneficiaries, seeing them take advantage of what the nonprofit is offering. Post pictures of events, when they’re happening, even before, while you’re setting up for the day.
- It encourages constant updates: board members and staff are already on the computer, doing web searches for grant opportunities or coordinating meeting times. Add a quick description of what’s happening that day to show the organization is active, even when it’s not time to look for funds.
- The Delight phase: one part of Hubspot’s plan is the “delight” phase, where a group using inbound marketing methods can help someone achieve a goal, solve a problem and go beyond. Solving problems is why nonprofits are founded (for-profits, on the other hand, are founded to sell you a product or service; if it solves a customer’s problem, that’s great, too). And going beyond that is easy, especially once the nonprofit sees other ways it can help — and there’s always other ways to help.
What goes into an inbound marketing plan, one for a small nonprofit without a lot of money? Plenty that’s already there, if the staff and board are willing to spend what they do have: time.
I passed my Hubspot exam on the first try, which is rewarding; the next step is to promote it everywhere (this web site, LinkedIn, etc.). Most importantly, I’m going to use the knowledge I gained during the course to develop what I’m calling “Media Kits.”
This is the kind of thing that Hubspot encourages, and that marketing/design studios work on all the time — a package of online and off-line material that publicizes, promotes, and in some cases operates as damage control for a company. It’s an easy thing to set to the side in the chaos and busy day-to-day activity of running a business, or a non-profit organization. But at the same time it’s something that’s so essential that everyone needs it. You can’t get anyone to pay you if they don’t know you’re there, after all.
What is in a Media Kit? I’m still developing that, though I think back to when I was writing music reviews, and we would receive the following. Keep in mind this was the early days of the internet. There was email and bulletin board systems, but no YouTube or Facebook, not even Myspace. To promote yourself in those days you had to send pieces of paper by mail!
A press kit would include:
- Pictures of the musicians, in a black and white format.
- A one-page summary of what they were promoting (usually the latest album, or an upcoming show in town).
- A CD copy of the album, and once in a while, even a cassette. It would have something like “For Promo Use Only” on it, but otherwise it was just like a CD you’d get at the store. I guess I was pretty limited in my music knowledge; in probably 10 years, I only saw one CD from a group I recognized: Van Halen, Best Of Volume I. I don’t know why it came to the newspaper where I was working; it’s not like a review by me was going to affect sales one way or another. But I did have the album, until I sold it in favor of the later 2-disc Van Halen greatest hits, which I haven’t listened to in a while, or thought about, really.
- There might be a sticker or something too, but most kits were pretty simple. Nobody had money for publicity back then, either.
This is what it looked like, except with a gold “Not for resale” and some other text on it.
You can see the “For promo use only. Not for resale.” down at the bottom there; I sold some of them anyway. This album is pretty good, though; I have another Paul Burch album too. Yes, it’s from the 1990s, I did say I’ve been doing this for a while.
I’ve since worked on publicity materials for a few organizations, but these days it’s mostly about a nice website and social media presence… which brings me back to this Media Kit idea. Establish a schedule for promoting content — informative, uplifting, not-directly-selling-based content — and make sure there’s enough material available if something goes awry. What does the schedule look like? What does the content look like? We’ll get into that next.
The secret to success in the modern world of business is by offering value, providing something unique that you know people want. That’s a contrast to the “old days,” when people would find you because your business listing in the Yellow Pages started with AAA. And as I have written about before (a long time ago), monetizing journalism — making a living as a professional writer — is a puzzle that no one has solved. There are attempts to go into niches, the thousands of specialty magazines in the market today… for example, magazines about Kalamazoo and Lansing.
As I mentioned last time, here’s what I see is my value: I write short. I find out what’s important, and say it in a clear, concise way. I tell the audience what it really needs to know about the product or service, or news item, or whatever the topic is. How to earn money from that? Well, that’s what journalism is, explaining what’s really important, whether it’s the results of a new governmental policy or the need to highlight a small group of people doing something fun. It’s all about communication, and that is a job that does pay.
That’s the goal, to get paid. (image: John Ridley)
Back to our old question: how to monetize journalism? The answer is: you don’t. You can’t, even at the New York Times, which charges you to read most of their articles (called a paywall). They lift the paywall pretty regularly, and there’s ways to get around it. You can’t get paid (much) to write articles, though the magazines I write for have been fair and reasonable. Article writing isn’t a goal. It’s a tool to get to the goal, promoting yourself and your skills. That’s how interviewees see it too: they want to be shown in the best possible light in a newspaper or a magazine, because people who read that article will then want to find out more about them, and ultimately pay them.
People won’t read an article about me, but they can see plenty of articles that I have written, and from there get an idea of what I can write, and what I can do to promote their business. That’s the secret to success, good content promoted well. That’s what we’re working on here.