Best part of digital story-telling: Content and community (extended notes #npau tweetchat)

Thanks heaps to Connecting Up for inviting me to guest tweet for the #npau (non-profits Australia) tweetchat yesterday arvo. Nothing feels more like home than a Twitter party with non-profit content creators….

Pulling together the tweet chat & some additional thoughts (because not even a couple of 140 character tweets do the content conversation justice) for extended notes on content and community: How to involve your community in your content. Cheers.

Content: What, why, how | Lindsey Talerico-Hedren

#npau Q1: What is content?

Content is one of the best and most difficult parts of your message. Content is the vehicle through which your message is carried, packaged and delivered. It’s your words, your creative and your story. Your content is what’s going to ultimately inform a potential supporter’s decision to donate. Quality content is what’s going to keep your audience coming back for more.

#npau Q2: You mention story and message, why is digital storytelling important for @worldvisionnz?/

Our message & story is everything (not just World Vision NZ, but for all non-profits). As non-profits, our story is what separates us from the for-profit world… that and a Christmas bonus. Our story is what drives us, motivates us and connects with our supporters.

Our story is everything. It’s our mission and our cause and it’s the message that creates conversation between us and our audience. Our supporters don’t stand by us because we pay them to or because we offer them discounts on shoes and handbags. They stand by us because they believe in our story.

Digital gives us a platform of endless opportunity and a stage to tell our story. Digital story-telling utilises, in my opinion, all the best assets of technology, communication and story to paint a vivid, colourful and informative picture of our orgs for anyone to see. With social media, our story becomes a participatory painting in which our supporters can now co-create content with us and tell a story that is personal, authentic, and largely unfiltered. But it’s also real and engaging and absolutely essential.

#npau Q3: @WorldVisionNZ does quite a bit, what types of stories do you tell online?

There are two types of stories I think we have to tell: 1) Stories of impact and change, and 2) Stories we are responsible to tell. Both types really boil down to the accountability we have to our stakeholders as professionals, but also as humanitarian leaders.

1) Stories of impact = These are the stories that are your proof of dollars well spent, supporter dollars that have been used efficiently and effectively. Donors need proof and if we are good, we should always have stories to tell. Stories of change could also be stories of your supporters who have been impacted as givers.

Then 2) there are the stories we are responsible to tell, the less sexier ones, the harder more complex stories that we promise to stand for. They’re not “cool” issues. But they are absolutely important. Critical, even, to our work and our mission. Don’t we have a responsibility to engage the public in those stories, too?

Examples: Refugees in Mali. Gender-based violence in the Congo. Urban development vs. rural development.

  • @hellobenteoh: Yep, definitely. There seems to be growing cynicism around donating to charities and nfp’s.
  • me @lindseytalerico: Maybe even criticism that we’re a little responsible for?
  • @envoyrelate: As long as you’re open to being open 😉
  • me @lindseytalerico: And refuse to close 🙂 RT @envoyrelate: @lindseytalerico @HelloBenTeoh As long as you’re open to being open 😉
  • @TRIcommunity: so true – accountability to stakeholders is something we need to always be aware of and address.
  • @hellobenteoh: ah “open” now there’s a topic for another tweetchat!

#npau Q4: What type of content do you use?

We are increasingly using more of a mix of content realising that every supporter has unique interests. Forsocial media, mixing up content keeps our audience engaged: being predictably unpredictable, meaning stay true to your message always (predicatable) but mix up the way you deliver that message and how you say it (unpredicatable). My content philosophy is that great content will keep people coming back for more. “Type”, “voice” and “mix” help you achieve that.

Example of mixed content type: 8 quality photos make a great additional to a Facebook photo album. But how about a photo blog post?

  • @CaitlinSyrett: org’s must remember that story/ies might be old to them, but will always be new to someone else. Don’t chase ‘new’ when ‘core’ works.
  • @tomjd: Totally agree w repurposing. This was blog post but was so good we made it into an ebook for eg
  • @hellobenteoh: Just on remixing content, I highly recommend @thecontentrules – here’s a blog post from the authors on remixing

Indeed, World Vision has great resources, outstanding even. But what we have in actual resource, we sometimes lack in curated, packaged content. That said, the ability to piece stories together still counts for a lot, even at a highly-resourced organisation. As well, level of resource available depends on the story. Water wells in Africa? HEAPS of resource. Malnutrition in PNG? Takes longer to dig.

The process can vary. The resource we’re looking for might already be available in our library/database of field content. If it’s not, we may put in a direct request to the field or even coordinate a resource gathering trip. Every situation and campaign has different needs. And, of course, there are always budgeting constraints to deal with.

Obligations for consent in publishing photos are different in every country and in every context. Could depend on how or why you’re using the photo. For instance — are you using it for a fundraising purpose? This changes the type of consent you need. World Vision requires informed consent from all photographed persons for all photography purposes — whether used online, in print, for fundraising or for an internally-circulated report. We also don’t publish photos that don’t uphold the dignity of those in them — we are especially sensitive to persons who have been sexually abused, are HIV-positive, etc. For photos of minors in your home country: always, always gain parental consent. Especially for photos that are going to be published online and clearly show the faces of those photographed in a way they could be identified.

#npau Q5: How does your community get involved in your content?

They start getting involved by feeling welcome to do so. As community builders, it’s our job to make that happen. We get our community involved by helping them discover how they can be leaders and agents of change. So we ask q’s, we encourage & inspire, and we give our community tools and messages they feel they can run with.

It goes back to content philosophy: Great content keeps people coming back for more. It also informs their decision when they are ready to donate (that’s the bottom line, right?). Great stories inform and inspire action to meet your bottom line. Another thought: Invest in analytics!! Analytics can show you clicks to story –> clicks to donate. Proof!

(unasked question) Why is it important to involve your community?

The best kind of content is participatory. Without involvement from your community, you’re no more than a spokesman speaking down to the people. Involving your community levels the field and puts you on the same ground as the people you serve and the people that give to your org. Also, involving your community offers you heaps of insight about your supporter’s needs, feelings, and frustrations. Improving our supporters experience begins with understanding their experience.

#npau Q6: What content do you find engages people the most online?

Generally speaking… photos are your go-to content. They speak the 1000 words you’d have to write to paint the same picture. Also, messages that meet the balance of your supporter’s needs. This includes stories of impact, stories we’re responsible to tell, etc. And don’t forget content that expresss a feeling of satisfaction and even achievement for your supporters. “How they are helping” … Other things that work extremely well: Infographics, pop-culture relevant content, memes (if done well and still in alignment with your message).

  • @petradz: inspirational links works for us too, when we combine them with pictures it’s a winner.
  • me @lindseytalerico: YES! Totally… photos + inspirational quotes/message are golden right now. Extremely engaging.
  • @hellobenteoh: We’ve had a lot of good response to using more photos, especially on Facebook

#npau Q7: When planning for content, what advice do you have?

Always leave room. Plan 60% and supplement the remaining 40% with content opportunities that arise as you see them. You can’t 100% plan to be relevant. Relevance requires flexibility. And flexibility requires that you have room for it in your content plans.

I typically plan main concepts or ideas & fill in details just before I publish. Then I know I have the most relevant info going out. Also – tinkering with minor details in your content week’s before it publishes only takes your time. Likely something will change. Save time, be efficient, know your audience, trust your instincts and create with speed and relevance:) <–black box content formula.

Yeah, all this in a 60-minute tweetchat. My content “issues” are nearly as bad as my compulsory cupcake eating. So if you’re keen to talk more content, more curation, more creation… count me in any day! Happy to give thoughts to new questions… leave ’em in a comment here. Hope the chat continues… we need more quality content out there. And I want it to be from non-profits!

Also – keen to have you part of the #npnz (non-profits New Zealand) hashtag, hopefully hosting sweet as tweet chats like this in the near future.

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