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Online Content: Back to Basics

Online Content: Back to Basics

How is social media influencing our perceptions?

Trust in social media is low, and Americans have been spending less time on Facebook, partly because so much of what they see online is negative and dubious, a recent article in The Economist says. Globally, users spent around 50 million hours less per day on Facebook in the fourth quarter of 2017, which translates into a 15% drop in the time spent year after year, according to Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement for relying too much on social channels to get your message out. Let’s be clear: social media is nowhere near dead. But it does suffer from a major credibility problem. Many people no longer trust the platform to deliver high-quality content or persuasive messaging because it is simply too easy to manipulate by nefarious actors.

That’s one reason we always advocate for a direct-mail component in every campaign–fundraising or political.

When your organization’s constituents cannot be safe in the certainty that the appeals and ads in front of their eyes are not the work of propagandists or fake news peddlers, then your online campaign will suffer. Donors will close their wallets, not wanting to chance being duped into funding a scam.

A beautifully written personalized appeal letter, on the other hand, addressed to your donor buys you instant credibility in a way social media simply can’t.

Using today’s digital channels—from Facebook to e-mail—is wise to consider when putting together your distribution strategies. But don’t forget to complement those efforts with tactics that offer a contrast, both in where they will be seen, and how people feel about them. Direct mail fits right in here.

It’s time to get back to the basics. Let us show you why high-quality direct mail still delivers.

Using Digital To Connect With Your Members

Savvy association executives know that technology is a key driver in serving membership—from user-friendly websites to apps that help keep members connected and engaged. What may be a surprise, however, is how pivotal technology is at making a member feel like they are part of the community.

A recent study by software provider Community Brands makes strong links between how well associations leverage digital tools to serve members better, and how connected—and satisfied—those members feel.

The study, Examining the Gap Between Member Expectations and Association Technology, surveyed more than 1,000 members of professional associations and 400 staff members in fall 2017. The takeaways show that associations have significant opportunities to drive member loyalty through technology, but many organizations are not taking advantage of them. The ones that are investing in technology to connect members—primarily through personalization of communication and content—are reaping tremendous benefits.

“In our study, we discovered technology and personalization play pivotal roles in driving member loyalty, but there is a growing disconnect between where members believe their organization is delivering the best experiences and what they value,” said Sig VanDamme, membership software evangelist at Community Brands. “The experience gap is especially pronounced with personalization. Members who believe they are receiving personalized content feel significantly more satisfied and connected with their organization.”

The survey shows that most associations—at least 60%–are using four primary digital tools: email marketing, CRM software, events-related tools, and webinar services. Other tools that align with member needs and priorities—such as job boards and learning management systems for training–are less common. Mobile apps are used by only half of the organizations surveyed as well.

A look at the members’ desires shows a disconnect. Among those born from 1965 to 1999—think Generation Xers and Millennials—at least 65% say technology plays a “big role” in their lives. More than 80% use a mobile device every day, and the same number pay for at least one digital subscription, such as Netflix.

Data Mobile Devices

It’s no surprise, then, that among the different ways that members can connect with their associations, the mobile option is the only one where more respondents said they wanted to engage than were actually engaging. This shows a gap between what associations are offering, and what members want.

“Organizations need to take these technology experience gaps seriously and progress to more seamless experiences that align with evolving digital behavior, and meet increasing member expectations for flexibility and personalization in everything they do,” VanDamme said.

What’s the easiest way to begin closing these gaps? Start with personalization. More than 70% of respondents said that personalized content appeals to them and makes them feel more connected with their organization. The type of content can vary—from discounted offers to conferences based on a member’s history or skill set, or specific articles on topics of interest based on a member’s profile.

“A majority of members (69 percent) feel more engaged with an organization after receiving personalized content, based on their past activity, because it shows the organization is interested in meeting their needs,” the study said.

Start small: birthday wishes, congratulatory notes when certain certifications are reached, or even products and services that align with the member’s profile. The key is to ensure the data you have is up to the task.

Grassroot Communications specializes in data analytics—and our team would be happy to help you! And if you’re wondering how to jump-start building a valuable database that stretches beyond your membership, contact us.

Community Brands Study

Taking the “pain” out of your campaign.

As an executive director, team leader, or person in charge of your organization’s campaign, which of the following issues is giving you heartburn?

A. Having to slap together an appeal letter for your fundraising campaign at the very last moment.

B. Dealing with shoddy, incomplete, or otherwise unhelpful donor data that you know could be useful for your organization’s fundraising.

C. Having to coordinate your fundraising campaigns and appeals with too many people – the data scientists, the writer, the agency, the print house, etc. – resulting in missed deadlines, unforeseen costs and a complete lack of quality control and oversight.

D. All of the above

 

If any part of putting together and executing a capital or acquisition campaign sticks in your craw, we have excellent news for you! GRC – now GrassRoot Communication – handles the entire campaign process, from data analytics, to letter writing, to production, to mailing and tracking, all under one roof. And the best part is, all of our departments work together to ensure that your organization’s campaign is as successful and profitable as possible.

First, our data scientists take your existing donor data, clean it up, and append it with additional information. This will help us to better understand your donors and also find brand new donors that are likely to support your organization.

Once we better understand the supporters and prospects your organization attracts, our data team breaks them into groups of like-minded donors and gives that information to our writers, who then analyze each segment and create customized messages and narrative arcs for each one. After developing captivating appeals for each group, we personalize the fields and customize reply devices. Following the formal proofing process, our very own copy editor reviews all final drafts and templates before production begins.

Finally, our production team works with our data team to ensure that all personalization is handled impeccably. Once production is complete, all campaign materials are properly assembled and promptly shipped to your donors. Tracking ensures that every direct mail package reaches its intended destination.

This is but a quick rundown of the average fundraising and acquisition campaign building process for our nonprofit clients. But in reality, some of the projects that we handle are much more complex and involve heavy personalization and customization. So whether your organization is large or small, we have the ability and the capacity to take care of your entire campaign, from start to finish. Eliminate countless hours of stressing about whether or not your campaign will get out on time and on budget, by teaming up with GrassRoot Communication today.

With that said, we would like to officially welcome you to GrassRoot Communication – the new and improved GRC. While we are still the same reliable, customer-centric company that you have come to expect quality work from, we have broadened the scope of our service model.

Put simply, we are not just a printing company. We are also a data analytics company and a content creation company, and we aim to use our decades of experience producing direct mail campaigns for nonprofits and associations to help you design and execute a winning campaign.

We will use this newsletter to discuss effective strategies for winning over your organization’s constituents,
as well as how best to improve your organization’s approach to communication and engagement. But the conversation does not end here! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them on our blog and social media pages.

We hope you enjoy our educational content and trust that you will find our insights helpful to your organization’s outreach efforts!

 

GRASSROOT COMMUNICATIONS. We take the pain out of your campaign.

7 Reasons for Repurposing Your Organization’s Content

As we discuss content planning and continue the conversation about creating content that will allow your association to engage its target audience, it’s important to emphasize the idea of repurposing.
In an age when data, information, and records are amended and updated regularly, content creators are left with a dilemma – due to no fault of their own. Like anything else, content ages. It grows old, and this can be reflected in a few different ways:

• Your content likely has a timestamp.
• Your content might discuss “current” events that are no longer current.
• Your content’s legitimacy might be affected by a recent study or new discovery.

And these are all reasons why you should make time to replenish and improve your archive of aging content. But repurposing – the idea of recycling old content and marketing it as new content – is something entirely different. It doesn’t just
“save” your content from growing old. Instead, repurposing gives you a plethora of marketing advantages.

 

Grassroot Communication | Repurpose Conetent

Let’s take a brief look at several of these benefits.

1. Cover topics more comprehensively over time When you revisit something – whether it’s an article, an ad, or a graphic – you can almost always find ways to improve on it. The same goes for your content. So, next time you rewrite an old article with the intention of publishing it as brand new content, see whether you can dive a little deeper. Elaborate further on a particular point or add a couple of new facts.

2. Improve your SEO ranking by reinforcing keywords and using backlinks In terms of marketing, many would argue that search engine optimization is where repurposing presents its greatest advantage. By covering one topic repeatedly, you’re able to use the same keywords and include backlinks to your original content. This strategy will help you increase your SEO ranking over time.

3. Gain greater credibility on a subject The more you cover a topic, the more authority you’re going to gain on that subject. This becomes especially helpful when a reader is interested in a topic and chooses to reference your content as a constant source. With enough time, you build a specific audience for a niche that you know inside out.

4. Remain current on a subject And you can’t build credibility without being accurate, right? When you revisit a subject repeatedly, you’ll be able to improve your knowledge on that topic but picking up new facts and ideas along the way.

5. Save time spent researching and writing Of all repurposing’s benefits, the time you save might provide the biggest payoff. If the content is yours, why not simply rewrite it? Why not make minor tweaks here and there? You have the ability to use your content over and over again – in ways that allow you to bypass a few steps in the content creation process. Cut down on research. Cut down on writing. Focus on marketing.

6. Increase your creative palette by utilizing different content forms There are so many ways to tell a story. Perhaps you wrote an article, but you know that the same information might be just as effective when presented as a short video. Maybe the information in your short video can also be presented as an infographic. Don’t settle for one creative form when you have a variety of methods at your disposal. Use repurposing to experiment with these different forms.

7. Tailor the same content to different audiences Once you’re knowledgeable about a topic, you have the ability to narrow or broaden your target audience. A short blog post directed to a handful of your association’s members might also be repurposed as a white paper made that you make publicly available in the future.

Are you using the power of repurposing to reap the 7 benefits we mentioned above? If not, why not start today? Dig up one of your old articles or videos and see how you can reuse that information to publish something fresh and exciting!

(The Right) Content Is Still King

Have you ever come across appealing content only to find that you can’t actually access it?
When this happens, you probably spend the next minute or two troubleshooting potential ways to bypass the block, only to confirm that this content is indeed “member-only”.

To the outsider, this can be extremely frustrating; but to the insider, member-only content is an exclusive benefit. As an executive, leader, or marketer within your association, you may have trialed member-only content in the past, and those results may have landed anywhere on the spectrum spanning from “enormous success” to “utter failure”.

But if you’re new to the idea of member-only content, it presents a decision that you and your team will likely need to make at some point. Member-only content or public content? It’s a seemingly binary decision, but there are greater implications that come with the choice you make. So, let’s weigh the pros and cons of member-only and public content so that you can make the right decision for your organization’s content moving forward.

Let’s start with member-only content. If you’re on the fence about producing content that only members are able to access, you should ask a few questions. The very first of these questions is: what is the purpose of my content? Are you looking to inform your readers of a particular issue? Are you trying to drive more traffic to your site? Are you simply issuing content as an incentive for membership? Are you trying to monetize your content by teaming up with other influencers, sponsors, or brands?

Depending on how you use your content, you can start to determine whether your content should be made available to the masses, or to a handful of devoted members. If you’re using content to drive traffic, it would make sense for your content to be published publically; but if your content is a membership benefit, however, then perhaps your association should place restrictions that hide your content from non-members.

But that leads us to a second question: How effective is my member-only content? As a leader of an organization, you know that people give, donate, or sign up for membership for a number of different reasons. Some are actually incentivized by your membership benefits. Others care primarily about your organization’s cause and aren’t as interested in your membership benefits. As you’d imagine, this plays a huge role in whether or not your content should be exclusive. Are you staying current on your content’s data? Most website hosts can provide you with real-time analysis of your content. How many of your members read your emails and announcements? How many click through to your content? Think about it – if your members aren’t paying much attention to your content, is it really a valuable benefit? So, if you’re not finding success with your members, it may be time to open your content up to the public – or better yet, improve your content.

A third basic question to ask is: how relevant is my content? And this is when you have to take a good look in the mirror. If not even your members are clicking through to read what you have to say, you might have to consider whether there’s a greater issue with the content itself . . .

Are you covering subjects that are helpful to people, or are you producing content for the sake of producing content? Does it feel stale? Bland? Uninspired? Gather some feedback by doing any of the following:

• Ask your members what topics they would like to see covered.
• Poll your members on which content type they prefer to consume (i.e. video, graphics, blog posts, etc).
• Issue a survey with a list of potential topics and use that information to plan out future content.

With a little homework, planning, and communication between your organizations and its members, you can prime your content weeks – perhaps even months – in advance. And the best part? You’ll have valuable, relevant content that you can use however you wish. There’s still a market for member-only content, and of course, there will always be room for content that is made public as well. But when you identify your content’s purpose, its effectiveness, and its relevancy, you’ll be able to make adjustments that will improve its influence.

Mind your Mindshare

What is mindshare? Mindshare refers to the collective opinion, belief and perspective of the electorate. In your case, it refers to how people feel and
think about your organization’s cause and the social or political issues related to it.

Advocacy groups, for obvious reasons, must constantly find new ways to influence mindshare. The better they can, the more support those organizations will receive in bringing about the desired social or political change. Crucially, newspaper coverage on these issues has a tremendous effect on citizens’ mindshare. According to a recent study published in Science Magazine, stories on news sites – both small and large (like the Washington Post) – increased discussion of those issues on Twitter by 60%. Additionally, the stories shifted the nature of the views expressed in those tweets closer towards those of the original news pieces.

For advocacy organizations, the conclusion is obvious: inject more content on news sites and social media. The former can be accomplished by writing insightful and captivating guest op-eds, which are usually published daily. With regard to sites like Twitter, organizations should place one of their own influencers online in order to engage users who are actively discussing issues of interest.

Done correctly, this strategy sets up a one-two punch using digital touch points. First, constituents read the editorial on their favorite news outlets; then they share their thoughts on Twitter where they interact with fellow advocates and change agents.

Changing hearts and minds is a process – not a single act. To be successful in nudging people to your side, you must embrace a multi-channel engagement strategy that includes both social and print media. That’s how your mind your mindshare.

Talk to us about writing your next appeal or fundraising letter today!
GrassRoot Communication We take the pain out of your campaign.

Marketing Flashback: McGruff the Crime Fighting Dog

Jack Keil, the advertising executive who created and gave voice to McGruff, the cartoon hound who exhorts Americans to “take a bite out of crime,” died on August 25th at his home in Westminister West, Vermont. He was 94 years old. (The New York Times Obituaries Sunday, September 10, 2017.

Public service announcements are, by their nature, boring. Being told to be careful around strangers, or not to feed the bears in the woods, or to take care not to start a forest fire, is all perfectly sound advice. But it’s not a way to keep top of mind. Moreover, most people don’t like being told what to do; it comes across more like nagging than providing a friendly reminder.

Clever marketers, guys like Mr. Keil, understood this problem and devised a clever way around it. Mr. Keil’s basic insight was recognizing that the most memorable way to present information – any information – is through a story. Taking this idea one step further, Mr. Keil realized that creating an unforgettable character who would act as the spokesman for the cause – in this case, relaying tips and advise on how to reduce neighborhood crime – would give the message the needed “sticky-ness.” And, thus, McGruff, a tall, tough, trench coat wearing dog detective was born. “He wasn’t vicious, not tremendously smart, maybe, but he was no wimp either, “said Mr.Keil about his canine character. “He was a father figure, or possibly an uncle figure.”

Giving the message a mascot and a catchphrase was a stroke of marketing genius. Instead of brushing off warnings to lock your doors and advice to start a neighborhood watch, people would see McGruff the crime-fighting dog, and they would immediately remember it was incumbent upon them to “take a bite out of crime.” In fact, McGruff is so iconic that most people forget (or simply don’t know) that there is an actual nonprofit organization he represents called the National Crime Prevention Council. According to three studies conducted by market research firms on behalf of the NCPC, 8 out of 10 children recognize the crime-fighting dog as do 9 out of 10 adults. And remember, the mascot was created almost 30 years ago. That’s stickiness!!

The point is that associating a cause or message with a loveable mascot endows that cause or message with a provocative narrative element that’s impossible to ignore. As a result, the exhortations to pay attention to something or take action for someone are softened in just the right way for an org’s target audience to process, absorb, and respond to.

Jack Keil understood better than most that the better a story-like element can be woven into an organization’s pitch, the more powerful it’s “ask” would be. He was truly a pioneer or message marketing, and he will no doubt continue to live on through his most beloved creation: McGruff the Crime-Fighting Dog.

See article: ‘Jack Keil, 94, Who Created McGruff, Crime-Fighting Dog’ by Daniel E. Slotnik; The New York Times 9/10/17

How an Appeal is Like a Letter From a Lover

A recent piece in the New York Times Magazine briefly discusses how to write a love letter. Not only did we find the article interesting, we also noticed the striking similarities between the advice the author Malia Wollan (quoting Professor Sonia Cancian) provides for composing the love letter and the techniques used to write an appeal letter to donors and members. Some of the more notable excerpts from the article are reproduced below:

1. “A letter has a remarkable way of transpiring feelings, emotions, honesty, sincerity, and authenticity.”
2. “You have to strike a balance between poetry and descriptions of everyday life.”.
And last but not least.
3. “When you are in love with someone, you want to know what world surrounds them.”

Perhaps the comparison between love letters is a bit contrived. Nevertheless, the goal of establishing a genuine personal connection remains central to both instruments. I use the word “instrument” because I want to emphasize that personal letters are simply tools – tools used by the sender to create an experience for the reader. The experience begins by vividly describing the current state of affairs: the “everyday life” of the reader and the “world that surrounds them “as mentioned above.

But the letter’s true magic lies in its ability to lift the reader out of her everyday humdrum life and whisk her away into a completely novel setting, one on which the pain, suffering and want that characterizes ordinary human life is vanquished all thanks to the reader. In the context of a love letter, this transformative and euphoric state is caused by the writer and the recipient coming together in space and time and loving each other while becoming a spiritual entity. This union leads to the “happily ever after”. In the context of an appeal, however, it is the heroic efforts of the donor that allows the world to flourish.

Thus all successful letters provide a sort of window into an alternate reality, a vision of potential utopia. But whether that utopia becomes reality is left as an open question in the letter. It is presented by the writer as a choice to be made by the reader. In a love letter, the question asked is – “will you reciprocate my love for you?” But in the appeal the donor is asked – “will you love and support our cause and people we help?” The proverbial ball is left in the recipient’s court, and only when she takes action is goodness restored to her world. That’s the genius of a well-written letter; it creates an experience that transcends ordinary life and inspires the reader to make an enlightened choice.

As we have mentioned a few times before, writing effective appeals is as much art as it is science. It also requires constant practice, tinkering, and experimentation. Luckily, we have a team of dedicated writers who are more than happy to help you craft your organization’s appeal letter for any campaign you want to launch. Don’t get stuck at the last minute with the stressful task of writing the appeal letter that your organization’s fundraising campaign depends on to stay afloat. Let us take the pressure off of you so you can get back to doing the job you signed up for without any more distractions.

See Article: “How to write a love letter” by Malia Wollan ‘Tip’; The New York Times magazine P.25, 9/3/17

Find Out More About Our Content Kitchen & Word Science

  • Package Design And Writing
  • Crafting Distinct Message For Each Segment Identified In Step 1
  • Story Telling For Emotional Appeals

Amazon.com Recommends New Products; We Recommend New Donors

Ever wonder how sites like Amazon.com are able to recommend new products to you that they know you will enjoy?
One word: data.

Simply put, the site looks at your past search history, purchasing behavior- even likes on social media in order to predict what you may want to purchase next. Now imagine that very same idea applied to your organization for the purpose of finding new donors. By looking at prospects’ past voting history, giving behavior, even their political ideology, we can predict which citizens in your area are likely to respond to an appeal from your organization.

This is a powerful tool for acquisition campaigns; instead of reaching out to random people or blanketing an entire geographical area with generic campaign materials, we can;
• Target specific groups of prospective donors
• Send them personalized appeal letter
Thus, the same data that helps us track down high-quality prospects gives us hints on how best to approach, engage and convert those prospects.

This type of micro-targeted outreach is ideally suited for non-profits and advocacy organizations trying to increase their visibility, build their base of support, and grow their revenue. And it’s all made possible using predictive analytics.

When you think of donor analytics, think Grass Root Communication.

Exciting News!! We’re Moving!

GRC will be down on Wednesday February 21st as we will be moving to our new location! We will be back up and answering emails and phones on Thursday February 22nd. In the mean time, please feel free to email us and we will get back to you as soon as possible! – GRC Team

 

We’re reaching out to you with some very exciting news: we’re growing!
After nearly 18 years at our current location, we’re moving to a new, expanded location.
Our new address is:
9203 Mike Garcia Drive, Manassas VA 20109

We will have lots of news in the upcoming months on how the move will help us serve you better. For now, however, the most important information we want to convey is how the move will affect you.

Our final day of production in the current location is Wednesday, Feb. 21.
We then move our entire operation to our new facility. We expect to be up and running 100% by March 1 at the latest. Our goal is to minimize the production downtime, but for your planning purposes, please assume that no jobs will be delivered from Feb. 21 – Feb. 28.

If you’re working on projects with us that you need before March 1, we encourage you to reach out to us asap to ensure we can meet your timeline. Simply put, the sooner you get current projects in to us, the better!

Please reach out to us with any questions. We appreciate your patience during this process and are looking forward to serving you from our new location!

Sherene Rapoport
VP of Sales and Marketing
Grassroot Communication

Ph: 540.428.7000 x3032
Fax: 540.428.2000
E: sherene@grassrootcommunication.com