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3 Easy Rules to Get Your Story Seen and Heard

WRITTEN BY SCOTT COUCHMAN

Previously in our MobileCause blog post, How to Keep Your Cause at the Forefront of Donors’ Minds, we talked about how repetition in marketing can really benefit nonprofits…and it’s true! It’s imperative to keep reminding supporters about your cause. However, if you repeat too often, you may wind up breaking some of “the rules” of good marketing. When this happens, at best, your story could fall on deaf ears. At worst, you run the risk of losing your supporters. The question then becomes, what are some of these “rules” and what can nonprofits do to ensure their story is being heard?

RULE #1: DO NOT COPY/PASTE

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In other words: your organization has to have more than one story. Everyone tells stories, all day, every day. What happened at work. What you did today to make a difference. Where you encountered speed bumps on your path to joy. The list goes on.

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”

― Philip Pullman

The fact is: we are creatures of stories and we need them. And while hearing the same story, or similar version thereof, sometimes feels good, if that’s the only story then you’ll get bored pretty quickly.

The story you share can be a big win, like helping an entire neighborhood. It can be the little win of helping a child or a pet. It can be as simple as how you feel when someone says thank you.  But they are all different, and they are part of your organization. So tell them and tell them all!

Social Media tends to rely on algorithms to determine what gets seen so there’s a more manageable flow of information. According to Buffer, social algorithms such as Facebook’s pruning of your Newsfeed, Reddit’s “Sort by Best”, or Twitter and Tumbler’s cultivated “things you may like” emails all mean that your post might have a one in five chance of even your most loyal supporters seeing it. How can nonprofits up those odds?  Should you copy/paste the same message five times, even with minor alterations throughout? Clearly the answer is no. Just no, don’t do it. Even If you happen to beat the algorithms, you will just annoy your supports.

Even if you happen to beat the algorithms, you will just annoy your supports.

Even if you happen to beat the algorithms, you will just annoy your supports.

Even if you happen to beat the algorithms, you will just annoy your supports.

See what I mean? Wait, one more:
Even if you happen to beat the algorithms, you will just annoy your supports.  

There we go.

 What these algorithms are doing now is looking for original content. Things that are interesting and different. Of course it’s more complicated than that, but they are looking for repetitive material and sending it to the bottom of their lists.

But what about the whole repetition in marketing thing, you say? Doesn’t this contradict that? Introducing:

RULE # 2: REPEAT THEMES, NOT CONTENT OR PHRASES

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We’ve established that you have lots of stories to tell and that you shouldn’t tell exactly the same one all the time. However, your content needs to be cohesive and based upon the same theme: the drive behind your cause, how things can and will get better with support.

Celebrate all the wins, and lament the losses if you like. If you have a slogan, by all means, use it! Tell the story of your mission not only on your webpages but on your donation page, through text messages, blogs and social media channels.

Just be sure all phrasing and content sets the same tone without repeating the same exact words. With some concerted effort, it is possible to tell a gripping and complete story in anything from six words, to one hundred, to a thousand or more. Take your storytelling seriously, just be sure to add some heart and humor where necessary.

Pro tips:
Have other people read your work before you post it. Check for repetition you may be missing. Does your content repeat the same phrasing that’s not a slogan? Is it pointing to the same theme? Is it interesting?

Here’s a personal example.
There’s this one organization that I generally enjoy and support, but they constantly copy and paste. It is a politically affiliated organization, and they routinely state that one politician or another is “on the ropes” or “terrified” by certain events. Occasionally, usually with a heavy sigh, I click the link to see that the politician in question is simply doing things as normal. In fact, upon further examination, this same politician has been doing this same thing for
many years. This doesn’t seem to be “on the ropes” to me. Additionally, and more importantly, it gives me no real reason to donate to their organization. And yet, a few days later, that same politician is, again, “on the ropes” for something else. That’s why we have:

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RULE #3: BE HONEST (WITH YOURSELF & YOUR SUPPORTERS)

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Politics are a fact of life, and we can’t avoid them. But the message this organization is sending to me is disingenuous.

They make it sound like they’re taking big steps to influence and disrupt areas of government, ones that I have indicated are important to me by signing up for their emails. However, if you take a step back and apply a skeptical view, then, well, it sounds like they’re lying right? Nothing appears to be changing, especially what they’re saying has changed via their messaging.  There’s no indication of how they are helping.

Whether it’s them exaggerating to their supporters who don’t bother to click the links (and therefore accept their words as truth), or they’re simply lying to themselves in order to create an air of self-importance, they are being dishonest. It’s sad. And it will lose supporters, like me.

When you share your honest passion in unique but similarly relevant ways, it infects your supporters. In fact, it empowers them as your ambassadors. They feel your pain, and can bask in your success because it is their success too. Don’t be afraid to enlist these individuals to help  champion your cause on their own channels or personalized peer-to-peer pages. They will share your many stories for you. And therein lies your best version of marketing: repetition through passion and your passionate supporters.

Take the time to be specific in your storytelling. Let your theme and accomplishments shine. Show the plight and the success of your benefactors. Be truthful in where the cause has stumbled, and how you will attempt to correct it. They may be the Luke Skywalker, but you’re the Yoda. They may be Daniel Craig’s James Bond, but you’re Dame Judi Dench’s M. Follow these simple rules in your storytelling and the energy and excitement will surely shine through.

Scott Couchman
Training Manager
MobileCause

 

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