Content Marketing (Part 1): Act first, think later – a fresh take on boosting social impact online

Non-profit organisations exist to serve people before profit. But competition for funding is getting tighter. To keep helping the people who need you most, you need a sustainable funding base. You need to market your service or cause far more actively than you might have done in the past, if ever.

But how can you attract more people to you, without losing sight of your purpose – or your humanity – in the process? How will you cut through the noise in our information-saturated world? And how do you know where to start?

Attract people, without selling out.

Back in the bad old days of the ‘hard-sell’, it was thought that the best way to generate interest in your product or service was to address the target customer directly, show them enjoying your brand, and clearly list ALL the benefits. If sales were down, you could always create a new application for your product to exploit a new audience.

It’s no wonder that marketing and advertising has a bad reputation, especially among those of us seeking to do good!

These examples from the 1950s look silly now, but they reflect the best practice of their time – the assumption that people make rational buying choices, in a linear manner, moving from initial awareness of a brand, to interest, to a desire to buy, finally taking action to purchase. This is the AIDA model¹, and it’s been around for about a hundred years.

More recently, psychologists working in advertising and marketing have developed some other perspectives on how people make buying decisions. In his book The Advertising Effect², consumer psychologist Adam Ferrier notes that when AIDA was developed, our relationship with media was largely one way and passive – people received messages, thought about it, then made a choice to act or not. Action usually followed thought and feeling, because that was the way media worked.

Now, with the rise of interactive media, a person’s first contact with a brand need not be passive – their very first encounter may be an action. Ferrier points out that the things we do can shape the way we think and feel – thoughts and feelings can follow action. This isn’t new news at ALL.
As Confucius said around two and a half thousand years ago,

“Tell me, I forget. Show me, I remember. Involve me, I understand.”

Interactive media presents non-profits with a golden opportunity to do good while attracting more of the people who need you. By offering informative and inspiring online content that people value, you can build your relationship with potential clients, donors, staff, volunteers and stakeholders without the hard sell. This is content marketing.

If you’ve ever shared a video that inspired you; downloaded a helpful article, fact sheet or guide (like this one); attended a webinar that grew your knowledge; or followed a social media page to keep up with a special interest, you’ve probably interacted with content marketing.

All content marketing offers an easy first action towards a bigger change or decision. Good content marketing trades something that the audience values for the right to start a relationship. Providing content that is genuinely valuable to the people you serve can allow you to start helping people, even before they become clients! Perhaps you have some knowledge you can share to help them make a decision, or an inspiring story that will encourage them to take the next step in helping themselves?

Where to start?

With so many media channels to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start with marketing. The good news about content marketing is that you already have the raw materials to make it happen!

By matching the needs of your audience with the assets you already have – your knowledge, materials, stories and people – you’re off to a great start. From there, you can use freely available channels to get your content to the people who need you, and create pathways for them to take action.

Over the next four months, I’ll share with you our four-step approach to planning content marketing. We call them the 4As:

Audience – find out what they care about, what is helpful to them.

Asset – what do you already have that your audience will value?

Amplification – what are the most cost-effective and helpful ways to deliver content to them?

Action – how will you link the content to a next step so that the people you can help, find it easy to take action?

Next month we’ll be talking about audiences – how to find out what they care about, and where to look for insights on a budget.

If you have any questions about audiences, or experiences in content marketing or you’d like to share please add your comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe here to CBB’s Foreword to receive next month’s article direct to your inbox.

Meg Drechsler
Senior Marketing Consultant
Phone: 1300 284 364


[1] Although it’s not necessarily descriptive of how individual humans make decisions, AIDA is still very useful for measuring the progress of your marketing efforts across a group of customers. More on that in a future article!

[2] Ferrier, A, The Advertising Effect, Oxford University Press 2014, p5-6