Diane Greenhalgh

Diane Greenhalgh

I have talked before about how your entire staff should be part of your marketing team no matter their job description. Diane Greenhalgh, director of web services of the Pulmonary Hypertension Association, was featured in my book, Content Marketing for Nonprofits, and recently appeared as a panelist for one of our book club discussion webinars. She shares how she was able to get more people at her organization involved with creating content. ~Kivi

Guest Post by Diane Greenhalgh of the Pulmonary Hypertension Association

With the advent of social media, video and interactive tools, the communities we serve have different expectations of us. They expect to be engaged with interesting content and conversation on a regular basis. And try as we might, we cannot do it alone.

In a nonprofit we are accustomed to wearing many hats to get things done with our limited resources. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy to convince your overworked coworkers that they should take time out of their already jam-packed day to contribute content. They are going to make you work for it.

Here are 6 steps to get you on your way toward developing a group of staff writers you can rely on.

1.      Ask
Start by identifying who in the organization is interested in writing, and it may not be someone obvious. You may find a database analyst who wants to write some pieces about exciting trends showing up in the data, or a president who likes to experiment with new tools and thinks that vlogging could be fun.

You can also identify contributors by always being on the lookout for good stories shared by your colleagues. If they thought it was interesting enough to share with staff or the board, they may be invested enough to write a piece to share it with the entire community.

2.     Demonstrate how contributing content can help with their goals
People are much more likely to want to contribute if it’s going to help them, but they are unlikely to take your word for it. You’ll need to demonstrate through data and success stories. Work with a willing colleague on a campaign or story arc and use analytics and her testimonial to recruit more staff writers.

3.     Make it easy
Just as you work to move your constituents up the ladder of engagement, so it goes with recruiting staff writers. Start with asking them to supply details about something that happened with the community they work with so you can write a story. Then ask them to submit a piece that’s as simple as a paragraph and a few photos with captions from an event. Move them into writing a short piece that you can convert to your various channels.

4.     Make it routine
The next step on the ladder of engagement is working with them to integrate their contributions into their regular routines so they can plan for it and don’t see it as something extra. Schedule staff contributions well in advance, and as much as possible give them a regular slot at the same time each week or month. Set a consistent deadline, send reminders, and offer assistance. The staff writers at my organization know their pieces are due close of business Monday for our social media channels. I also make the calendar easily accessible and send them a reminder the week before.

5.     Train & mentor
No one wants to go it alone, especially someone who isn’t comfortable writing, or maybe is just intimidated by the writing style for that channel. Offer yourself as a resource as someone who can help them with their brainstorming and content development. Mentor them through the process and make sure they know you are there as a partner to help them achieve their goals.

Provide training in the fundamentals during orientation so all staff members are on the same basic level. As staff progress, offer trainings and suggest webinars to help them develop their skills. Provide cheat sheets and recordings they can refer to.

It is important that you continually encourage staff writers, make learning fun, congratulate them on their successes, and offer assistance when things don’t go as planned.

6.     Work as a team
We could all just stick to our own work in our own little silos, but uniting a team of staff writers not only will help you with producing your content, it could serve the needs of the entire team and organization and foster staff writers who are enthusiastic participants.

For the past year or two those of us who manage our various channels have been striving toward working together more as a team. It has become a creative process, one that has opened up opportunities to brainstorm new ideas and leverage the knowledge and skills that we all bring to the table. Not only has it lightened the burden for those responsible for each publication, it also gives each of us the opportunity to write for a variety of channels and audiences. Where this has been most effective has been with our major initiatives because they are obvious opportunities for the organization to work together as a whole. These initiatives then laid the groundwork for us to team in smaller ways.

Bonus: Give interns the opportunity

They are chomping at the bit for the experience and samples for their portfolio. Not to mention they were raised on exactly the type of engaging content you are looking to produce. Win-win!

What do you do at your organization to recruit staff writers? Share your tips.

Diane Greenhalgh manages the PHA website and web services. She directs PHA’s efforts to make PHAssociation.org an even more effective tool for PH patients, families, and medical professionals to connect and share resources. Diane spearheaded PHA’s website redesign.