Are you leading with great content or following a calendar?

content vs calendar
Does this scenario sound familiar?

Every single department in you organization decides that they need to send an email to “THE LIST” about important issue x, y or z.

One department, usually the development team or the advocacy or marketing team, wants to control the amount and type of emails sent to “THE LIST.”

Epic battles ensue. Who gets to decide what goes to the list when and what gets prioritized? Everyone feels their message is critical and has to go out to supporters.

In the end, you come up with a solution that is often wrapped around a calendar – one that gives everyone a glimpse into what is being sent out to a file or segments of the file – so that the organization doesn’t overwhelm its constituents, keeps everyone happy internally and hits all their fundraising and advocacy goals.

But the problem is that the calendar becomes a bit of a ball and chain. This is especially true when it comes to communications designed to engage and inform (rather than generate a direct response from a supporter). The team looks at the calendar, realizes they have a newsletter scheduled in two days and scrambles to create a whole bunch of content in order to feed the calendar.

Newsletter goes out and, phew! No deadlines were missed.

But rarely are organizations able to step back and ask, “Do we really need the newsletter this month? If we’re struggling to come up with interesting content, what makes us think our constituents are going to find it interesting?”

While the solution is probably never going to be to ditch the calendar completely, there is real value, for your constituents especially, in shifting your thinking about what is critical to communicate – and to recognize that it may or may not be scheduled or planned or align with your internal priorities.

Here’s a quick gut check exercise to consider before sending a message you’re not sure you should be sending. I call it the 5 whys.

Think about your upcoming planned email, – can you effectively and convincingly answer the 5 whys? tweet-graphic

  • Why send it now?
  • Why should they (the list, a segment, a small group) receive this message?
  • Why this particular content?
  • Why should they take time out of their day to care?
  • Why should they act?

If you can’t answer at least three of these with a good solid reason, then it may not be an email you need to send. (By the way, answering, “why send it now” shouldn’t be “because it’s on the calendar”).

Good and relevant content always trumps calendar. Personal, interesting, and dynamic content is what will inspire, engage and convert your audiences – not the newsletter that appeases your internal staff.

It’s tough, but shifting how and why you communicate with your supporters to put the emphasis on your content is one of the most important things you can do to improve your direct response results and foster longer-term loyalty with your organization.

Jenn Smith

About Jenn Smith

As an executive for Donordigital and the Watershed Company, and a Senior Social Strategy Consultant for Adobe, Jenn has helped many organizations. A marketing and fundraising professional with 10+ years experience in lead generation, management and donor acquisition, Jenn’s in-depth strategic planning has developed creative communications and marketing campaigns for mission-driven organizations to help build relationships with clients, community partners, and diverse audiences.

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