Guest post: Content that encourages action

In this month’s guest post, my fellow communications professional, Amy Hutson, shares some top tips for ensuring that your content works hard and encourages your audience to do something as a result.

person writing on brown wooden table near white ceramic mug

While writing might be something we do every day, writing content that encourages our audience to take action can be quite a challenge. So, I’ve put together a few top tips on what to think about when it comes to writing copy for your website, for a press release, for campaigns, for social media and for your internal communications.

I hope this post will give you some tips to use when writing content for your charity communications.

1. Website copy
When it comes to writing web copy about your charity, many people start with explaining ‘what’ they do, followed by ‘how’ they do it.

People care less about ‘what’ you do, but more about ‘why’ you do it. So, it’s important to start with why your charity exists, before talking about how and what it does.

Think of your website as the place for telling your charity’s story, so like any story you need to start with a character or set of characters your audience can relate to, who have a set of goals.

And like any good story, there will be a conflict to overcome. With the help of your charity and its donors, you can then show how the conflict will be resolved together.

2. Campaign copy
Charities have in the past been known for focusing their campaign copy around ‘melancholy marketing’, which rather than prompting people to act, often has the opposite effect. Instead, people like to read about something that they feel they can relate to and that they can do something about, which leaves them feeling uplifted.

So, when planning your content around any campaign, it’s important to firstly connect to your audiences’ values. And if you don’t know what they are, ask them.

Connecting their values to your charity values will have a big impact. Then you need to state the facts about the issue you’re highlighting, before showing your audience the solution which they can be part of.

3. Press release copy
Journalists often receive hundreds of press releases in a day, so it’s important what you send to them won’t be another one that gets deleted.

Firstly, make sure your headline is a quick summary of your story and keep it to under 15 words long.

Your introduction within the press release would ideally be less than 30 words and should be a synopsis of what the story is about. Not only should it tell the story, but it should cover the most exciting and newsworthy parts of the story to encourage the journalist to read on.

Think of the rest of the press release as a bit like a story, so use some of the storytelling techniques mentioned above to tell your story in more detail.

Finally, always include a quote from someone key to the story that’s emotive and helps capture the essence of the story.

4. Social media
Much like the rules of writing a good press release introduction, content for social media is usually best kept compelling and succinct. If you have more to say about a campaign or story, you can always include a link to your website for readers to find out more about the topic.

It’s also helpful to include relevant hashtags about what you’re discussing to help more people find your content.

person writing on brown wooden table near white ceramic mug

5. Writing for internal channels
While many of the writing principles are the same as writing for an external audience, sometimes organisations send the same messages out to all staff. But it’s helpful to think about how the varying interests, motivations and perspectives vary among different internal groups when planning content.

And as well as thinking about how what you might say to staff would differ, it’s important to think about what channels different staff members engage with. For example, front line staff might not be based at a computer so they may not check the staff intranet. Instead they may read an email on their phone or pick up a printed newsletter in the staff room.

And finally….
Regardless of what the content type is, it’s important that it’s clear and easy to understand (no jargon!).

It’s also useful to think about what you want people to do after reading your content. For example, you might want to encourage people to sign up to an e-newsletter with tips that relate to a specific campaign or you might want your social media copy to drive traffic to a specific landing page on your website that will collect their data.

Hopefully this has given you a few things to think about when planning your content.

Amy Hutson is an award-winning communications professional who is passionate about helping not-for-profits grow through improving their communications. For more details visit her LinkedIn profile.

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