To the Point: Don’t Write Crappy Content
Remember "Green Eggs and Ham," the famous children's book by Dr. Seuss? Sam wants X to try his new breakfast. When X refuses, Sam keeps trying to serve it up in exciting new ways — on a boat, on a plane, in a house, on a train — until finally X tries it and thanks Sam for his persistence.
We have a similar content strategy for nonprofit marketing. The only difference is no one is thanking us for repurposing bad content. For all the talk these days about new marketing tactics, we've forgotten that there really are only two tools that fuel our communications efforts: words and images. Our goal is to put these items together in exciting ways to weave compelling narratives. The problem is if our copy is crap, new and exciting delivery mechanisms can't change that fact. Creating great content is both art and science. Here are some steps you can take to improve yours.
1. Write to one person
This is one of the best pieces of advice I've ever received. Having a single person or persona in mind (e.g., 60-year-old married woman with no children) when you write helps you know what to say and how to say it. Many nonprofits write to the "general public," and that makes their copy sound vague.
2. Use active vs. passive voice
Forgot Rhetoric 101? That's OK. Here's an example of active vs. passive voice. Passive voice: "Our nonprofit is being helped by the efforts of our donors." The technical active-voice version of that would be, "Our donors' efforts help our nonprofit." Better, just by virtue of being written in the active voice. But better yet would be to punch it up and say, "Our donors are kicking butt and raising lots of money for our work!" It's active not only in the grammatical sense, but in the general sense of the word, as well. Even unembellished, active voice is direct and powerful, and makes your prose clearer.