Creative & Content

What are the right social networks for my business?

What are the right social networks for my business?

It’s easy to be cynical when you’ve worked with the technology industry for any length of time. The next big thing is always going to change the world. The next big upgrade is the ultimate change that’s going to deliver the ultimate user experience. Everything that went before is always obsolete. And so it goes.

Sometime it’s true. Once we can see beyond the hype, once we have the benefit of experience, once expectations meet reality we can see the trends that really made a difference to the world and how and we can see those that we just, well, hype.

To question the value of the latest technology trend is tantamount to sacrilege – especially for the technology industry. It’s an article of faith for many in technology that the latest thing must be better than what went before. It’s logical, after all, because if technology businesses don’t believer in the true faith then who will? After all, technology is a vested interest too. It is in the interest of all technology companies to promote the new over the old. It’s what they are in business to sell and given that so much new technology is, essentially, unproven in terms of its real delivery of bottom line or social benefits then its purveyors stand to lose from any evidence-based discussion of its real worth – because, by definition, at the leading edge we cannot really know.

All this sounds a bit Luddite – but far from it, I’m a real believer that technology can create a better world. It’s about sorting the C5s from the iPhones and then deciding what the new thing does for me. The best technology helps us do things of which we could previously only dream, the next best technology enables us to do things better than before with a great deal less effort. Questionable technology enables us to do thing we’ve always done – we just feel smarter.

We know a lot more now about social networks than we did, say five years back. I remember explaining, as communications professional to a tech enthusiast, that there was a massive potential down side to carelessly managed social networking in terms of reputation and brand management. He found this difficult to grasp – I dare say he wouldn’t today. Nonetheless, I still see businesses running social media in way that lacks direction or any sign of strategy. I also see businesses that have either given up or have not even addressed social media as a potential channel. The worst thing about social media is that it is largely free at the point of use. That’s been the curse of the Internet in so many ways. The unthinking social media user believes that ‘free at the point of use’ means there is no cost, ask if their time and their marketing section’s time was free too. It’s often the same people who fail to ask the question ‘what are we getting here?’

One of the most successful social media campaigns Public Impact has organised delivered a return on investment of 15,400% – or 154:1, which includes time and opportunity cost. This was an easily quantified campaign with a very direct bottom line outcome. It doesn’t mean that the same level of business couldn’t have been won by other means, but we do know that the ‘other means’ would have cost at least 6.5 times as much. We also know that in this case we were engaging with exactly the right people through Twitter while email and surface mail were considerable less targeted. The point here is not to suggest that we can get the same return for another client using the same methods, quite the reverse in fact – we couldn’t and wouldn’t make such a promise. The real point is that choosing the right media, or even if the medium is right at all, is different for every business and every product.

So if you haven’t asked the challenging questions about what your social media efforts are producing then it’s about time you did. Maybe start with:

  • How much is this social media thing really costing us?
  • What are we getting back and what do we really want?
  • Will social media bring in business and if not, what can it do for us?
  • Where does our audience live and which channels reach them?

You would be surprised at how many businesses have not considered these questions. I was, but not anymore. These questions come before anything like; ‘how do we make this work better?’, ‘how do we resource this?’ or ‘do we want to be here at all?’ and certainly long before ‘what is the competition doing?’ or ‘should I be on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or what?’. But now that we know so much more can there be any longer any excuse?

While I would never promise a 154:1 ROI, I can commit Public Impact to help you challenge assumptions, to quantify what is really involved or what it’s really returning and, if you’ve not even gone there, to understand what really is involved. Then you will be able to look at your options and have confidence asking ‘what are the right social networks for my business?’ knowing you can come up with an answer based on evidence not just somebody else’s hype.


If you would like to take advantage of Public Impact’s experience of social media communications and start measuring what you are doing then click this link to get in touch.

Posted by John Howarth in Business, Creative & Content, Web & Digital
Rewards follow clear web strategy

Rewards follow clear web strategy

Working with the public and private sectors over an extended period during which web and digital technology has developed rapidly has given us an insight into the implications of strategic decision making.

In large organisations achieving any sort of agility in web presence is a rare thing. It seems to us that it has most often been achieved when the organisation in question breaks the web function down into components and has the vision to ensure that the different elements of the organisation genuinely take responsibility for the development and deployment of their own content. This approach runs against the grain in organisations where centralised decision making is the norm.

One of the fatal mistakes made by businesses of all types, but especially public sector bodies, is seeing websites are primarily a technology responsibility. In fact the web stopped being primarily about technology way back, yet for far longer technicians retained control, often with a level of responsibility for content and influence over its presentation way beyond their skill set.  Meanwhile those organisations with broader vision can still struggle with the real potential for devolved content management, their vision becoming hidebound by centralised administration and a lack of enabling skills and the failure to deal with imperial office politics.

Very few print rooms are asked by their clients to oversee the content of publications or to pass opinions on whether it’s appropriate to use imagery. Of course not, it’s a ridiculous notion – but that’s what organisations do with their web presence as a matter of routine.

In the local government sector the results are even worse. The adoption of standards based on futile attempts to anticipate the market and a false premise of ‘equal access’ has driven presentation toward the lowest common denominator and stifled innovation. The continued perception of the web as a ‘one off’ capital item, rather than a constantly developing revenue budget has also mitigated against progress. UK Government websites have reached a new low in presenting public information while ticking a myriad of boxes already out-of-date at first deployment. There are some signs of hope where the public authority is not the legal carrier, but it will take a major change of mindset to address the stasis.

Where organisations have moved with the market and adapted their web presence to available technology they have put themselves ahead of the game. The rapid take up of open source CMS, WordPress, led to an expansion in the after-market offering tools, templates, themes and serious tools for online business. Now the market leader at a canter, WordPress may lack the security features to create comfort for the carriers of large scale personal information databases, but the range of tools now available now permit the combination of horses-for-course CMS technology to address different elements of the web presence of a large organisation. Of course being the market leader will itself make WordPress more and more of a target for attack – something their future releases will need to address.

Crucially for SMEs, web platforms can now deliver rapid deployment without large capital outlay and can deliver ‘mobile-first’, SEO-optimised solutions with minimal technical involvement. This should make it more obvious that the essential ingredients of success are: an understanding of the audience, engaging content, a clear set of aims and the roles the site must fulfil and, most importantly, a strategy. Everything else – online brand guidelines, the platform, the content plan, house style guides, resourcing, budgets, technology decisions and tools flow from strategy. Understanding that addressing the website every couple of years just won’t do anymore is a good start.


Public Impact helps all kinds of business develop and implement strategic plans for web and digital communications. Contact us here to find out more.

Posted by John Howarth in Business, Communications, Creative & Content, Web & Digital
When can I use a picture? 8 answers on image rights

When can I use a picture? 8 answers on image rights

Public Impact Creative Director Jane Coney has cleared many thousands of images for use by major publishers such as Macmillan, Dorling Kindersley and BBC Worldwide. Here she sets out the basics that every marketing professional should know about using images in printed and digital communications. Here Jane provides answers to the 8 most important questions over image use that it’s dangerous to ignore.

When can I use a Picture? What are the rules on copyright? 

There are all sorts of pitfalls for the unaware in choosing photos and images for use in promotional leaflets and digital marketing. Photo copyright, permissions and personal consent are all elephant traps that can cause unnecessary problems from businesses. The availability of images from the web has made it easy to capture images and easier than ever to sleepwalk into problems that your competitors can use to damage your reputation. It’s your responsibility to ensure that you have the right to use the images in your marketing materials and if you follow the steps set out in this article you should avoid being caught out when using photographs – especially if you place them on a social network like Instagram.

Who owns Copyright?

Normally the rights to a photograph belong to the photographer (or to their employer). Photographers sell on or grant image rights to photo libraries and usage rights to media organisations, agencies and businesses. Rights can be bought and sold outright, for a limited duration or specific uses. It doesn’t matter who commissions or sets the shot up – the rights still belong to the photographer. These days a lot of photographers don’t bother where non-commercial organisations are concerned, but it is still wise to get an acknowledgement – an email will do – that you can use the shots as you intend.

Does it matter where the picture is taken?

Yes – and it can be complicated. The basic rule is that photographs taken in the public realm are owned by the photographer and need no permission. An image taken on privately owned land (which would include property owned publicly such as schools, hospitals and places with free public access such as shopping malls and railway platforms) requires the permission of the landowner – this is normally called a building permission/release. However common sense can be applied here – a head and shoulders portrait that is taken against a plain background will be OK – as the building cannot be identified it isn’t an issue. Also, where a location is hired for an event the building permission will become a matter for the hirer rather than the building owner – but it is always worth checking the hire agreement (not least so you can control the images at your own events).

Does it matter what is in the picture?

Yes and no. A picture that is taken in or from the public realm is generally free of restrictions – so items that may be subject to copyright, for example a company logo on a building, can be in the picture and legitimately used. So for example there is no problem with a photo call outside, for example, an energy company premises, so long as both the photographer AND the people in the photograph remain on the public highway. Beware of car parks and forecourts. In commercial situations this arises rarely but it is frequently an issue for not-for-profit charities and organisations with an advocacy or other public role.

Does it matter who is in the picture?

Again, the rights to a picture taken in the public realm belong to the photographer. Strictly speaking there is no need to gain the permission of anyone who happens to be in the picture. However if you are using an image to promote your company, products or services then you need a release from anyone involved and identifiable. This is because their presence is or could be taken as an endorsement of the product, company or service. When a picture is taken in a building you may need both a building permission and personal releases from those in the image. Crowd shots or illustrations of the public realm that clearly don’t imply endorsement may be slightly different, but many well-known media organisations will err on the side or caution, so you really ask if it is worth the risk.

Can we include children in our pictures?

Yes you can and they CAN be identifiable, but parental permission MUST always be obtained – and it should always be in writing. Get a model release and use it.

Can we use pictures from Newspapers?

Photos from newspapers are often the best ones to use because they are normally professional, well compose and lit – which means they look better when printed. It may seem obvious, but photos from newspapers or magazines of any sort always require the formal permission of the publication – and just because you, your boss or a member of your staff appears in the photo it doesn’t mean you can use it. Whether or not a newspaper will grant permission will depend on their corporate policy and on the attitude of the editor. If you do get permission, which for commercial organisations will probably include paying a fee, you may be required to give the paper or the photographer a credit alongside the image – it doesn’t need to be large, but don’t forget or it could come back to bite you. One good way of getting a free release from a local paper or trade journal is to do a charitable event – in that case they will usually provide a copy rather than look mean!

Can we use images from the Internet?

The Internet has changed everything – except copyright law (though it is trying pretty hard). Grabbing images from the internet is easy. It is also an easy way to get into hot water over the rights. We are not just talking about photographs here. Charts, drawings and logos all carry creative or commercial rights and it is an infringement of copyright to use those images without permission (in print OR on the web). This, again, applies to all kinds of images including portraits and, again, it doesn’t matter who is in the photograph. So just because the picture is of your Client’s CEO it’s not OK just to use it on their website – you may find the image belongs to a national newspaper or to one of their photographers, which wouldn’t be good. You should also be aware that things are changing. Social networks, through their terms and conditions may lay claim to image rights – very little of this has yet been tested in Court.

What’s the worst that could happen?

There is always a great difference between theory and practice and copyright law is civil rather than criminal. In practice you could grab an image, use it without permission and get away with it. You could find that the magazine lets you off with a private apology or you could end up with a substantial bill that you have no choice but to pay. You may end up with a bad story in the digital media that hangs around, damages your reputation and takes up loads of time. The worst case is having to recall a product because the packaging infringes copyright – it happens.

So to sum up:

  • Know the basic rules
  • Don’t use images when you don’t know their origin
  • Get permissions in writing – make a model release
  • Brief your people on from where they can and can’t take pictures
  • If in doubt, get advice.

Follow those rules and you should be alright. Of course there are still questions of the usability of the image, its appropriateness to your message, what’s a legitimate use of Photoshop (other manipulation tools are available) and what makes a good picture – but they are several different blogs!

Posted by John Howarth in Business, Creative & Content, 0 comments
How to write a design brief

How to write a design brief

Ever wondered why the design you get isn’t the design you want? Concerned that the perfect message piece you have envisioned isn’t anything like what you get?

So how to get the design you want?

The answer is to set the design brief properly.

Whether you are a designer or a client, an effective design brief is the single most critical factor in ensuring that a project is successful. You can also save money and make your marketing budgets go further by eliminating unnecessary agency fees on-the-fly modifications and author’s corrections. So how do I write a design brief?

What Is A Design Brief?

A design brief is something that is vital to any design project as it will provide the designer/agency with all the information needed to exceed your expectations.

A design brief:

should primarily focus on the results and outcomes of the design and the business objectives of the design project.

should not attempt to deal with the aesthetics of design;that is the job of the designer – don’t get a dog and bark yourself.

should make these things clear before any work starts on the project.

A good design brief will ensure that you get a high quality design that meets your needs, providing you have chosen the right designer. (see our guide on choosing agency).

How To Write An Effective Design Brief

If you answer these questions below in detail, your design brief will be 90% done… the other 10% will come from further questions from the designer after you submit your brief.

What does your business do?

Tip: Never assume that the designer will know anything about your company. Be clear and concise and avoid the jargon of your business sector.

  • What does your company / organisation do?
  • What is your company’s history?

What are the goals? Why?

  • What is the ultimate goal of the project/campaign?
  • What are you trying to communicate and why?
  • Are you trying to sell more products or get awareness of your product / service?
  • How do you differ from your competitors?
  • Do you want to completely reinvent yourself or are you simply updating your promotional material?

Tip: You should also provide old promotional material to assist the designer.

Who is the target market?

  • What are your target market’s demographics? ie. the age, gender, income, tastes, views, attitudes, employment, geography, lifestyle of those you want to reach.
  • Who are your target customers, what do they read, what do they like – if you have typical customer ‘personas’ all the better.

Tip: If you have multiple audiences, rank them in terms of importance.

What copy (text) and pictures are needed?

  • What copy needs to be included in the design? Who is providing the copy?
  • What pictures / photographs / diagrams etc need to be used? Who is providing these?

Tip: This is one of the biggest problems designers face. If they are any good they will be able to help with some of it – but expect to pay for the service. Either way, best to plan in time for this.

What are the specifications?

  • Where is it going to be printed / used? The web, business cards, stationery, on your car, along the side of a waggon?
  • What size is the reproduction going to be?
  • What other information should the designer know in regards to specifications?

Have you got a benchmark in mind?

  • You should provide the designer with some examples of what you consider to be effective or relevant design even if it is from your main competitors. This will set a benchmark for your designer.
  • Provide the designer with things not to do, and styles that you do not like or wish to see in your design. This will give the designer an idea of what to avoid and will avoid disappointment on your behalf.

What are the brand guidelines

The designer MUST be told of any requirements for presenting you corporate or product brand(s)

You should have a manual to hand over – or at least some logo specifications and high quality files. If you don’t have this click here to see how we can help with brand development and brand guidelines.

Tip: Without guidelines any designer will struggle to know what’s on brand and what isn’t – so if you don’t have this then best to address the problem.

What Is Your Budget?

  • Providing a budget prevents designers wasting valuable time and resources when trying to maximise your budget.
  • Providing the budget upfront also allows designers to know if the project is going to be worthwhile to complete. Make sure you are worth their time.

Tip: Designers ten to charge by the hour – so be aware of that and check the cost of any ‘extras’.

What is the time scale / deadline?

  • Give the designer a realistic deadline for the completion of the work. You should take into account the various stages of the design project such as consultation, concept development, production and delivery.

Tip: Rushing design jobs helps no one and mistakes can be made if a complex job is pushed through without time to review, however, there are times when a rush job is needed, and in these cases you should be honest and upfront about it.

When you think about this is all common sense. Telling people what you want is the first step to getting what you want. If you don’t say what you want you tend to get what you deserve.


Revised from the Public Impact blog – Aug 2014.

Posted by John Howarth in Creative & Content, 0 comments
Would you work for nothing?

Would you work for nothing?

Would you work for nothing? We just love this video by Canadian agency Zulu Alpha Kilo. It’s funny and it sums up the kind of nonesense that we folks in the creative industries have to put up with all the time.

Watch it here:

I’ve often asked people who ask things like, “if you do some examples for us and we change our mind will we still have to pay”, this question:

“If you got in a taxi and decided to turn round and go back do you think you would have to pay the fare?”, or
“If you went to Sainsbury’s and bought a pie do you think they would give you your money back once you had eaten it?”

Sadly creative industries, who base their models on time, spend real money creating pitches – you’ve seen Mad Men, haven’t you? OK maybe you haven’t, but the point is Big Advertising with money to burn create this stiuation and it suits them because it keeps everyone else out of the market.

Complaining? I guess we are. But, ok then, tell us. Would YOU work for nothing?

Thought not!

Public Impact is a Digital Marketing Agency based in Newcastle upon Tyne. We provide solutions for marketing managers and business owners want to grow their business by helping to generate more sales leads and contact through better web and social media content.

Posted by John Howarth in Creative & Content, 0 comments
Content marketing distributors confirm trend to visual media

Content marketing distributors confirm trend to visual media

Digital marketing trends for 2016 look set to continue the long-predicted shift toward visual and audio/visual media. Figures for 2015 compiled by Lionbridge for the Content Marketing Institute and eMarketer show a significant increase in the use of visually-based social media for the distribution and promotion of content.

In particular the survey indicates that the proportion of content marketers using Instagram has almost doubled from 2013 – by far the biggest proportional increase. While some of this reflects consolidation within social media the bulk of the increase, as this blog predicted some time ago, is also because of the major brands now regarding Instagram as a serious and effective channel for brand promotion alongside the growth of the network under the ownership of Facebook since 2012. Go behind the figures, however, and an even more fundamental trend is pushing these figures. Instagram has always been primarily a mobile medium. It’s no surprise then that it should grow and be seen as more important by marketers as mobile devices account for an ever larger share of internet access.


The continued growth in the use of YouTube and, to a lesser extent Vimeo is in line with the desire to engage through video content. However, while more people are using video there remain serious questions about how well they are using the medium. The overwhelming majority of self-produced video content deployed on the internet remains virtually unwatchable. Webinars have the same problem. The significant growth in SlideShare – acquired by LinkedIn some time ago is hardly surprising. Sticking to the devil you know, the PowerPoint deck, offers an achievable means of distributing content with a minimal learning curve. Pinterest, where the user really needs to search and seek out content rather than have it offered on a feed, offers a more haphazard channel an one that seems altogether more difficult to measure – as marketers seem to be discovering. Pinterest seems set to remain ‘niche’.

As for the other networks, the level of use of Twitter and Facebook means there is only one way to go – and we should expect a decline at some point as marketers, still experimenting with social media refine their mix of channels. Google plus, however, continues to grow despite its change in direction, its usefulness in assisting search being central to its appeal. However Public Impact’s experience talking to businesses using social media in Newcastle upon Tyne and in Berkshire suggests that there is a long way to go before UK businesses and not for profit organisations use content marketing and social media marketing to their full potential.

Posted by John Howarth in Creative & Content, Web & Digital, 0 comments
5 simple points from 2015 infographics

5 simple points from 2015 infographics

Digital marketing is nothing if it isn’t visual. Getting better results from social media posts and ensuring that web site content produces sales leads are projects considerably aided by effective visuals. We’ve been looking at the simple points make by standout 2015 infographics.

Looking around visuals in 2015 a few have stuck in my mind and illustrate nicely some of the key points about more effective infographics (all copyrights acknowledged – in praise of the work of others – see links as appropriate).

Unity Makes a Point

A little cruel this one but it gets the point across nicely – it takes longer to get digital marketing up to speed than you think. The strong, unified single image and strong headline makes an instant point that draws you toward the detail. Not sure the five year timescale is valid, but the main point stands.


Just the facts?

This image from The UK Government Department for International Development (DfID) spells out the facts of aid from the UK to Syria since the crisis began in 2012 in a series of stark images. The image presents as simple and truthful without making judgements. Like all facts they have a context – and they are the starting point of discussion. So much easier when there is clarity and a logical reading order. Have a look at the points we make here about not-for-profit infographics.


Doing a lot

Local Authority budgets are the stuff of sleepless nights for some and for the rest a cure to insomnia. Councils do a lot and deliver a lot – and it’s hard to take in. Plymouth City Council produced a excellent series of infographics to put across the scope of their budget using simple graphics on a clean background. Make a dry subject come alive with vibrant colour.


Fantastically complex but still fun

The Oscars have a reputation for playing safe and ‘The Academy’ is often dreadfully predictable. Apparently this is how to win an Oscar if you are a lead actor. Simples. The hard part, of course, is becoming the lead actor in the first place. The detail is impossible to see but that’s not the point – it’s the aggregation that’s important – an if you are really interested you can find the full size version on the link here.


Challenging assumptions  

This one is interesting. Who thinks listening to music helps their driving. I see a lot of virtual hands in the cyber air there. Wrong, probably. This one give some of the facts, seeks to educate, conveys lots of complex information but leaves out some essential facts. Like how on earth could it be that listening to Coldplay could possibly help anyone do anything?


Posted by John Howarth in Creative & Content, Web & Digital, 0 comments
10 Easy Ways to Write Better Not-for-profit Blogs

10 Easy Ways to Write Better Not-for-profit Blogs

Blogging is a fantastic tool for NGOs, charities and not-for-profit organisations. So why are so few UK not-for-profit organisations using it effectively? Analysis of the UK’s top charities reveals that only a small minority are using their blogs to maximum effect.

Blogging is an excellent way for NGOs, charities and not for profit organisations to engage new supporters and to raise the profile of the organisation on the web. Blogs get found by search engines and though the largest non-profits will be found easily through name recognition and direct search their home page won’t necessarily hold the information that the viewer is looking for.

Small and medium sized non-profits have most to gain from blogging

So even for the largest NGOs not to have a blog that engages supporters is a missed opportunity. But true as that is how much more important is that to the next tier? Small and medium sized not-for-profits have the most to gain from writing a better blog. Non-profit SMEs don’t have the pull of a household name, a massive research cause or a big TV ad campaign to support them – so they need to be found online and a well written, well promoted blog is one of the most cost-effective ways to get found.

BUT REMEMBER – running a blog take time and resources – most of all IT ISN’T FREE. So think it through before you start.


Here are ten easy ways to write better not-for-profit blogs and to use blogging to get more supporters and donors for your charity.

Use Lists

People love lists, the web loves lists but most important of all people search for lists. So ‘ten things you must know about your cause’ is always a great starting point for a blog post.

Titles and Headlines

Spend time thinking about headlines and titles. Because they matter – a lot. Ask yourself:

  • Will they include search keywords?
  • Will they capture attention?
  • Will they get a message across that the article matters?
  • Do they accurately describe what the article is about?

Structure and Layout

Design at every level is about providing an effective solution to a problem – not just looking good. Typographical design and blog structure matters because people read differently online to on paper. So use:

  • sub heads that describe content effectively
  • bullet points that make information easy to read.
  • hyperlinks to other content and useful information (that also helps SEO)
  • emphasis to get the most important point over

Short paragraphs, concise sentences

Online articles need pace and space. As well as a structure that makes it easy to scan your article quickly keep your sentences short. Think carefully about how you use paragraphs. While it may not be entirely correct to use three short paragraphs when you might use one in print it will make the piece more readable.

Not just words

Blogs are not just words. They can be infographics, collections of images, animations, sound files or video. All these things help the mix and keep it interesting for your readers. Remember too that every blog should have an image because images are found by search engines too.

Plain English is for people

Every profession has its lingua franca and every organisation has its jargon. Do yourself a favour and drop it – or at least keep it out of your blog. Why? Because it’s not about YOU. It’s about your potential supporters and they speak English! (or they speak French, or Spanish – but the same point holds – they don’t speak your jargon).

Current makes it matter

Writing about something that’s in the news right now is great – but it’s not always possible. Even so taking a peg of some sort from the news and hanging older content onto it is an excellent way to produce new blogs from old, making work that you have already done relevant to a new audience. Also not for profit websites are stacked full of information that can easily be turned into a blog and hung on news or current events.

Anecdotes make it real

Dry content that presents facts is all very well but especially in non-profit writing it is good to make blog stories about the real world. So include examples, user stories and anecdotes. In fact they are sometimesthe anecdote can be the inspiration for the whole blog.

The mission matters most

Non-profit blogs need to be varied and present their information in many different ways but remember that viewers become supporters, supporters become members and sympathisers become donors because they understand exactly what you do and the difference that their contribution can make to something they care about. That’s why your mission has to be part of what your blog is all about.

Now ask the reader to DO something

This is where most non-profit blogs fail. They tell an interesting story, they point out how important it all is and then they fail to ask the reader to do anything – whether it is to donate, join or sign a petition. A blog without a call to action is not worthless but it belongs in the academic world or the media – In non-profit it is a missed opportunity.

Posted by John Howarth in Creative & Content, Not for Profit, 0 comments
5 reasons why not for profit blogs fail

5 reasons why not for profit blogs fail

An audit of the blogging efforts of the UK’s leading charities reveals that more than half are either dormant, poorly updated, unfocussed and, inevitably, failing to deliver the potential that blogging can offer not for profit organisation. If you think this is a questionable assertion then go look for yourself. You will find blogs that are hidden away in the depths of websites, blogs that have no obvious purpose, blogs that masquerade as ‘news’ pages and, worst, blogs that are not there at all.

Of course there are excellent examples of good blogging practice for not-for-profits but it is worth asking yourself how did so many otherwise excellent organisations get to this pass? What are the worst reasons for not-for-profit blogging? Why does a not-for-profit blog become out-of-date? Why don’t people know what to write in a not-for-profit blog? So often this goes back to why the blog was set up in the first place and, as with much in marketing and communications, a consequential failure of strategy.

Only Following Orders

The uncomfortable fact is quite a number of organisations haven’t any real idea how they ended up with a blog in the first place. The reality is when they last renewed or refreshed their website they were told by theweb designers that having a blog was a good idea and they ‘threw it in’ with the rest of the job or it was justanother of the bells and whistles in the webco’s sales pitch. There may even have been a justification of the benefits a having a blog are for a not for profit bring, but no idea of where it meshed with the organisation’s strategy or how they would manage a blog.

Our Blog is a Hostess Trolley

When I was younger my late mother desperately wanted a hostess trolley. She didn’t entertain and there were only the three of us – so she had no ‘core business requirement’ for a hostess trolley. The only reason she wanted one is because “everyone else is getting one” – or so she thought. Fashion is a powerful thing. And so it was with blogs, ‘they’ve got one, so we should get one’, though the purpose was less than clear. My mother used her hostess trolley about twice in 30 plus years. Is your blog a hostess trolley?

Work Experience

I never cease to be amazed by managers who are prepared to hand over emerging communications trends to interns. It’s usually because they can’t be bothered to learn themselves. One manager told me ‘we didn’t know anything about it, so we gave it to the intern and when she left nobody kept it up’. It’s more common than you think. Managers and leaders are busy people but part of leadership is understanding the importance of emerging trends and where they fit into a strategy.

The Income Opportunity

“We heard you could sell advertising on a blog, but it didn’t produce anything”, is something else I was told. Of course this not-for-profit leader was quite right – a well-run, popular blog with the right amount of traffic can carry advertising – but if that is the prime motivation then failure awaits. It takes a lot of work to establish a level of traffic that will produce significant advertising income and that’s before you consider the complications that carrying advertising presents for not-for-profits. Don’t dismiss the possibility of advertising income but it has to be viewed as a bonus.

The Quick Win

Effective blogging for not-for-profit can improve engagement with supporters, produce more donations and provide a means through which new clients can find your organisation. But blogging is a medium to long term strategy through which results will be produced over months and years rather than in days and weeks.Seeing the process as a ‘quick win’ is a mistake – it will lead to disillusionment and to another neglected or abandoned blog. Go into the process with the right expectations and you are more likely to succeed.

So what about the good reasons for non-profit blogging

Blogging is an essential part of a not-for-profit content marketing or inbound marketing strategy. Through an effective and well-managed blog NGOs, charities and nonprofit businesses can improve engagement:

  • Develop better lines of communication with your customers,
  • Be found online by the people who need the services you offer, and
  • Tell your stories that show how you make a difference.

Supporters, volunteers and donors want to make a difference and your blog gives you a productive and interactive means of not only broadcasting but receiving, learning more about your audience and in doing so establishing your authority in your chosen segment as well as building better search engine results in the areas your audience cares about.

All of these things will only come about if the blog is at the heart of your digital strategy and becomes part of your communications plan. If it isn’t there right now, it’s time to revisit.



revised from the Public Impact Blog, 30.10.14

Posted by John Howarth in Creative & Content, Not for Profit, 0 comments
10 content marketing trends for 2015

10 content marketing trends for 2015

Content marketing is a powerful and growing trend for all kinds of businesses on the web. Forward looking marketing professionals are getting a great return on investment from their efforts.

The key trend is toward greater creativity in the propositions that engage your audience over the web, build the personality of your organisation and meet the customer, supporter or collaborator in the online space they frequent.

Here are 10 content marketing trends for 2015 to consider when planning the year ahead.

1. Make Customers Smile with Tongue in Cheek Narratives

Branded sketch video content and comic animation has been an increasing trend in TV advertising for many years – some of it quite strange, some of it not actually funny but some of it stella. In the modern world it’s not beyond you. Key Tip – follow the genre rules and remember the script is everything. It doesn’t matter how serious your subject there is an alternative angle that grabs attention.

2. Guest Content

Open up. Bring in your partners to write for you, host your suppliers work – you’re bringing business their way after all. Show you are part of something bigger. Open the opportunities to yourself to return the favour. It’s good SEO too.

3. Micro Content

Content that is easily and quickly shared through social media, in particular through Twitter and Linkedin but also through Instagram and other networks not so typically associated with business and brands but where customers nonetheless live online.

4. Video, Video, Video

Clips, vlogs, stories, interview. If it moves it’s growing massively across the web. You don’t need to be left out. Follow the most important rules of the genre: keep it short, open with impact, learn how to do a soundbite, get the light right, edit and remember it’s the sound that let’s you down.

5. Personalised Content

The bigger brands continue to develop their web experiences (in which we include for the sake of space/time and pedantry mobile apps) to fit the customer/viewer. Being able to return to where you left off, to be able to input your sizes and push-notify possible products was once the stuff of only the biggest, but as ever technology trends put personalisation in reach of smaller players.

6. Find Niche Publishers

As traditional news media implode and paper publishers panic the barrier to entry inhibiting niche media are lowered. There’s a niche publisher out there presenting the stories you value. Interacting with them can bring you traffic, interest and credibility.

7. Tell Stories with Visuals

Showing people how to use the products you produce, showing potential customers how users have got a return on their investment or building an episodic marketing campaign that build awareness and web traffic – it’s all stronger when it is visual and cross-media. It’s becoming more practical than ever to punch above your weight with smart use of cost-effective technology.

8. Your Brand as a Publisher

All you have to do to start is to see yourself that way. You have expertise so be an expert and connect with your customers by providing something useful – less hard-sell, more value-added and credible.

9. Interactive Content

People like quizzes. People like surveys. People love games. OK, not everybody, but most of us who live online will admit to enjoying at least some of this stuff. The tools to create interactive content are more accessible than ever.

10. There’s a Blog Community for Your Business

Find like-minded bloggers, exchange direct links and create a larger audience. It’s been around for a long time but it still works and enhances both your credibility and your SEO efforts.

Maybe you can’t do all of these things, but you can certainly do some. Public Impact can advise on what tactics are best for you, what it should cost and how to best manage your content programmes. On global trend that is sure to continue is the move toward mobile computing through smartphone, tablets and phablets, so as well as checking out the trends above get the basics right and maker sure your website performs well on multiple platforms by implementing responsive web design.

Posted by John Howarth in Creative & Content, 0 comments