How not-for-profits can make the most of long-form content

How not-for-profits can make the most of long-form content

They might not be selling a packet of biscuits or a forklift truck, but NGOs and not-for-profits still have many of the same comms challenges as any corporate – how do we get our message across to the right audience, and encourage them to think, act or feel in a particular way?

For many charities & NGOs the message is a more emotional one, a more altruistic one, or potentially a more powerful one – and that in itself can help build engagement – but there remains much that corporate comms types can learn from the world of the not-for-profit.

Which organisations are producing great social media content from longer form reports and articles, and what can we learn from them?

Develop original, intelligent content that is shareable


If you’re committed to establishing your organisation as a thought leader you will already be mindful of the need to publish solid research and original reports on your blog, third party sites and social media. As we know, Google loves original content, and penalizes aggregation, copying and basic re-purposing.

Take a look at the chart above from the International Energy Agency – I found this on the IEA Facebook page and it has been liked 54 times and shared 41 times. What’s good about it?

  • Our assumption is that the information is intrinsically interesting, credible and well-researched – it contains real detail
  • It’s the IEA’s graphic and has not been created by another agency
  • it’s a ‘full story on a page’
  • it’s an uploaded image on Facebook so we can click on it to expand & digest the content before sharing

Begin with the end in mind; plan to share from the start

Planning of your content is always vital, not least to ensure it all fits within your broader messaging and communications plan/schedule. What can you do to improve the chances of your longer form content being shared?

  • From the start, consider how the messages within any report or package of material are framed, written or illustrated. This might need to be a request to the originators of the material, or through conversations at the initiation stage of report development.
  • Think about how you can make your content more ‘digestible’ to your broader audience, without dumbing down any of the insight or research.
  • The key to ensuring that you get maximum sharing and engagement is to pull targeted information from reports that will appeal to your various social audiences.

Sampling and distilling your content

You need to develop a high quality sample, a text version of the ‘amuse bouche’ – here are some ideas:-

1) Highlight one key aspect or finding from your report

Rather than an attempt to encapsulate the entire contents of your report, take one line or message and promote that. Here’s an example of a meme/graphic with a strong image and graphic commentary from the FairTrade Facebook page.

2) Upload a JPEG of the front page of your report

We have found that these get shared many times from Facebook and are extremely popular.

You can build boards on Pinterest around these reports, for instance, where users can link straight back to your article, or share the front page themselves. See this board from the World Economic Forum.

3) Images and charts!

If I haven’t mentioned it enough by now, we have found that easily digested images and charts that highlight or illustrate your message or work are popular.

The OECD has some good examples on its Facebook page – although it does not have a huge number of followers currently.

A more popular FB page is that of the World Bank, with a huge number of powerful high res photos, as well as a smattering of charts (most fairly well shared).

4) Use seminal quotes to promote:

Pull quotes from your report that deliver the nuggets or insights from your work in a short, pithy phrase. Like an advertising slogan, a quote can encapsulate the power of your report.

The World Economic Forum creates very powerful examples, as does the World Bank, the OECD and charities such as Amnesty. They’re easy for people to share (a type of ‘frictionless content’ ie. No slowdown when sharing).

Write powerful headlines that truly illustrate your content

Ensure your headlines and posts reflect the nature of your content – keep them engaging, active and pithy where possible.

Facebook’s new algorithm means that ‘teasing’ your audience to think there is something interesting behind a headline – then delivering nothing and thus seeing them bounce back quickly – will decrease your Facebook ranking over time. (For more, read Adam Tinworth’s blog).

The British Council has some great writing on its blog (I brushed up a little on my use of English prepositions in this one) and also on its Facebook page – the social media team on the council are hitting a great level with a lightness of tone, descriptive headlines, strong images, use of memes.

Beautiful images work well to pull people into your story

There’s an avalanche of content out there, and yours needs to make an impact.

Encourage those who talk to community members or who engage directly with the people who are impacted by your work to take photos and share them – bring the company or organisation to life.

Ensure that your images are impactful, not exploitative, are bold, but representative. Ultimately the best images are strong, un-staged photos tied directly to your work.

Good examples of these types of photos can be seen on the Facebook pages of the World Bank, the British Council, the World Economic Forum and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Aspirational photos of success and hope can sometimes be as powerful as those showing damage, death and destruction – and may deliver what you are hoping for if you are seeking charitable giving or donors for a charitable investment fund or cause.

Offer clear, easy to use share buttons

This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s interesting how much content (especially on older websites) does not have this. Back to the idea of frictionless sharing – make it as easy as possible for others to advocate on your behalf.

[Disclosure: the World Economic Forum is our client]

Gay Flashman runs Formative, a UK-based content marketing agency helping businesses tell corporate stories. Formative creates compelling, intelligent, multi-lingual content for clients – everything from long-form insight & thought leadership, to infographics, memes, videos and webinars.

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