By Sarah Cooper
Marketing initiatives are essential for all companies and associations in the promotion of a message: whether it is to attract new members, fundraise or promote an event. Traditionally, there have been two segments of marketing, Business to Consumer (B2C) and Business to Business (B2B), however there is now a third segment, Human to Human[i], that considers the tenets of Content Marketing.
Traditional Marketing vs Content Marketing
Traditional marketing methods involve placing ads in newspapers, magazines or commercials with a very clear sales proposition or promotion. This type of marketing is typically more effective towards people who are already aware of the association or product and may need a reminder to donate or renew their membership. This is also called interruption marketing, as the message interrupts what your audience is doing for the tactic, like receiving a cold call or watching a television commercial during a favourite show.
Content marketing, on the other hand, puts forth a story or an idea about your association, which demonstrates the key attributes of the association and has an emotional hook for the audience. With this tactic you’re not actively selling anything per se, but instead relies on the strength of the information you’re sharing. This can also be called non-interruption marketing, you’re putting information in the path of the viewer in a format that your audience responds to, like a blog post, picture or a video[ii]. We call this Human to Human marketing because you’re presenting stories, ideas and emotion from one human to another, and giving the opportunity to empathize.
Tell Stories to Connect with Your Audience
The March of Dimes is a good example of a not for profit organization using Content Marketing. Established in 1937 by President Roosevelt, The March of Dimes works to improve the health of mothers and babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.[iii] Every year they appoint an Ambassador, a past patient of March of Dimes, to act as a spokesperson. For that year, the child and family are the face and story of the organization, showing the success stories of how donations are put to work. In 2012, they named Kieran Wittstruck their National Ambassador to the organization. They used a content strategy to illustrate what The March of Dimes does, how Kieran’s life was saved by their care, and that he is now thriving. Their strategy was multi-faceted, they started with a blog post, explaining Kieran’s situation and the importance of the care he received. From there, they shared the story on Facebook, created videos on his health and progress that were posted on YouTube, and then shared on various social media platforms[iv]. This led to other promotional opportunities for The March of Dimes, the Wittstruck family gave interviews to major news outlets and also visited the White House[v]. What this effort did was demonstrate what The March of Dimes does, who it helps and the long term effects of donating to the not for profit.
The Sick Kids Foundation also has a very strong content marketing strategy, developed by Toronto’s Cossette agency in 2016 and 2017. This emotionally striking campaign, titled “VS”, positioned real-life patients as super heroes, fighting against the villain that is their illness. Like the March of Dimes campaign, it’s multi-faceted and the stories of the superhero kids are seeded across social media channels, but also used in print campaigns, TV, YouTube campaigns, and also playing alongside trailers of at movie theatres. Their video about children being in the hospital over Christmas is cresting just under one million views on Facebook. And most recently, the latest instalment of the campaign, MomStrong, was released in time for Mother’s Day. The campaign features five real-life moms of SickKids’ patients and highlights their strength with their children, and their heart-breaking, private moments. At the end of each video, there’s a call to action to donate. As the mom of a toddler, I really empathized with the moms featured and donated after watching. The video did several things right: it gave me information, it told a story that I could relate to, and it instructed me how to act. I didn’t feel like I was donating to a charity, I felt like I was donating to help moms and their children.
Make Your Content Go the Extra Mile
Content marketing is perfectly compatible with social media, it naturally engages with an audience and can be shared with reposts and likes. However, often social media has the appearance of having little cost associated with it but it is most successful when there is a paid component to it. Even a small amount of funds, under $50, to boost a Facebook or YouTube video will extend your reach and spread your story to untapped audiences. A small spend with sharp targeting can make the difference in your campaign.
Why Would an Association Use Content Marketing?
By adding the stories and the emotional hook, we strip away the layers of business and formality and are left with people feeling for others, and being able to relate to causes and situations. Your association is able to attract new members if you can show why they would want to join. You can fundraise more effectively by showing the faces or telling the stories of how donations change lives. Content marketing goes beyond a traditional ad buy and instead shines on the core values of your people and your mission.
Sarah Cooper is a Senior Account Coordinator at Managing Matters and focuses on providing clients with strategic, unique and insightful PR strategies as part of their focused PR & Marketing division specifically tailored to associations. Managing Matters is Canada’s premier association and event management company. Please let us know if there’s a topic you’d like us to write about, [email protected].