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June 26, 2016
By Jamie Finney
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Dear Jamie: Balancing Public Education vs. Content Marketing

We, Strength in Members, are agents for nonprofits to grow their audience and their cause.  The nonprofits that we get to work with are agents for advocacy and change.  We never want to step on an organization's mission, but we do want to help them build the member and donor audiences that they need to grow.  Content marketing can put these two in conflict if you're not careful.  Allow me to explain.

Many organizations serve as the thought leaders in their respective fields, and therefore sit on tons of helpful information for their constituents.  As entities for public benefit, organizations often feel obliged to make this information publicly available.  And rightfully so. But, this presents a tension for many organizations. The question I've gotten 20 times sounds like this:

Dear Jamie -

We (the marketing team) want to make people give us their email addresses before we share the new guide to stargazing with with your kids.  The program team, though, doesn't want us to gate content.  Is there some way we can do both?

 - Wondering in Witchita Falls

Well, content marketing doesn't help build an audience if it doesn't gather the leads' names.  As content marketers, we see these information products as treasure troves of material that can attract lots of leads.

Here's how you can find the balance between content marketing and public information.  Our approach is to achieve both, carefully.

  • Get it Consolidated: Start by converting the information you want to share into a readable, shareable piece of content.  This should be the shining example of your organization's publications, as you are going to use it for lead generation. 

    That's right, you will ask users to offer their email addresses in exchange for this content and its information.  This is a fair trade for high-quality content that actually solves the audience's problems.

  • Break it Into Pieces: Then, break this bright and shiny content piece, and separate it, subject-by-subject, into multiple smaller offerings.  That information product you created should generate at least five blog articles and 20 social posts.  

    Edit them so they can stand on their own, and make sure they provide a link to retrieve the larger content piece (and gather their email in the process).

  • Then Share, Share, Share: Finally, drip these smaller content pieces out through your blog, email, and whatever medium you like to use.  Each blog article or social post should offer a link back to the place where people can enter their info to receive the whole thing.  

    Now, you have successfully shared that valuable information with the public AND grown your direct response audience at the same time. 

Using this method, you get to leverage your information as content for leads while remaining true to public education obligations.

Do you have any critiques? Another approach to offer? Let us know!

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