Are you looking to find new ways to talk about your charity? In this blog, I share top tips on how to to create fresh and engaging content for your audiences.
Imagine you’re a journalist writing for a local newspaper. You have your specialisms and favourite topics but generally, you can write about whatever you want. As long as the story fits with your paper and is relevant to your audience. You might be covering the opening of a new store one day, looking at support for paramedics the next, then you write environmental pollution in a local river.
Working in the charity sector can feel a long way away from this at times. Your charity has a specific cause, and you need to produce content that aligns with this cause. If you’re working for a prostate cancer charity, for example, you can’t go off start writing about the First World War, or filming a video about a new ice cream shop.
It is easy to feel penned in within your charity’s cause. Yes, there will always be new things to talk about. But when it comes to some topics, you might feel like you’ve said everything you have to say.
What you need are new angles – a fresh approach to the same old topic. And yes, you might even be able to write about that ice cream shop, if it fits.
But we have to only talk about our charity, no?
Before we get into where and how to find new angles, I want to address something important:
You don’t have to talk about your charity all the time.
As a comms person working for a charity, your time is probably paid for by donations from the public. So it’s absolutely right that you should be making sure that your time is spent effectively. And I’ve written before about how most of what comms people do in charities is, in fact, fundraising.
It’s reasonable to make sure that the charity ‘gets a mention’. Yet, sometimes it turns into a dogma that you can’t talk about anything other than what the charity does.
Think about your audiences. If you’re talking about the charity and what it’s doing, then you’ll most likely be appealing to donors and supporters. That’s fine. So what about the other people who are interested in your charity’s cause? Maybe people who aren’t a donor but the issues you work in affect them? Why should they be excluded?
Consuming your charity’s content would be like speaking to someone who is only interested in talking about themselves: people won’t want to listen for very long.
Instead, in my opinion, you have license to broaden out. Your audiences (even your biggest fans) aren’t only interested in your charity. They are interested in (or affected by) your charity’s cause. More than that, they’re interested in themselves – they want to know how they or people they care about might be affected by different issues.
In his book Epic Content Marketing, Joe Pullizi invites businesses to consider the opportunity to become media publishers. He uses the example of John Deere – a farm equipment company – publishing a magazine. It wasn’t a brochure of the company’s products. It was a magazine for farmers – the company’s target audience – with articles about the things they cares about, whether it has anything to do with John Deere or not. The Furrow is now a global magazine published in fourteen languages, with millions of readers.
Imagine if your charity became something similar. Instead of simply publishing stuff about your charity, you became known for being the ‘go-to’ place for anyone interested in your charity’s cause. Imagine the reach you would have, and – more importantly – the impact you could make.
Perhaps that’s a bit too ‘pie in the sky’ for now. Yet, when it comes to thinking of things to say about your charity’s cause, think broader than just what your charity is doing.
What is an angle?
So you’re convinced that you need to find a new angles to use in your charity’s content. And you’re open minded enough to look broader than just what your charity is doing.
Firstly, let’s define what an ‘angle’ is, and how it differs from a ‘topic’.
The topic might be the whole of your charity’s cause: homelessness, prostate cancer, refugees. Or it might be a ‘subtopic’ which is still a big topic: for example, homelessness among ex-offenders, prostate cancer in black men, child refugees.
The angle is a smaller part of it. It’s a smaller focus on the bigger thing. It’s something specific which speaks to a bigger truth about the topic (your charity’s cause). For any one topic, there’s hundreds of different angles you could take.
How to find new angles
The key to finding new angles is this: whatever you’re doing right now to come up with content ideas, do something different.
Broaden out your sources for inspiration. Don’t only think about ‘doing more of what works’. Consider doing things that you haven’t talked about before.
Here’s some specific tips on how to find new content ideas:
- Ask Google. Use tools like Answer The Public or Keywords Everywhere to find out what people are searching for on your topic.
- Enquiries. What questions do people ask you through your charity’s helpline, emails, social media accounts? What are people talking about on online forums?
- People. Talk to people. Experts, professionals, people affected by the issues you work on, and people who work with those people. Anyone who might have something to say about your cause. Ask them about their experiences – look for anything unusual or surprising. Or maybe directly ask them about things which are unexpected about their experience, things that they find difficult to explain, things that aren’t getting enough attention, people who aren’t getting the credit they deserve.
- Current events. What’s making headlines these days? How does it relate to your charity’s cause? How does it affect the people you work with? (for example, charities talking about how COVID-19 affects their work).
- Conferences and meetings. Go to meetings and events that discuss your topic(in person or online) – and use it as an opportunity to gather stories. What new trends are emerging? What’s getting people excited or making people worried?
- Look far and wide. Find new sources – blogs, newsletters, podcasts, YouTube channels, books, magazines, twitter lists. Don’t restrict yourself to those related to your topic – be open to inspiration from anywhere.
How to brainstorm new angles
You might have a few new ideas, but maybe you’d like some more. There’s plenty of ways that you could multiply an idea into multiple different angles:
- National to Local – For example, if you work for a charity in a specific area or town, work out how a big national (or global) story affects local people. Or do the opposite: take a local story, and see how it fits into the bigger national (or global) picture. Is it one example of a wider trend?
- One person’s story or a trend? You could take the chat you had with someone and share their experience. Or you could take a bigger news story and find people it affects (that could be you, if you are affected by the issues your charity works in). Or alternatively, take a person’s story and see who else is it affects. Is it part of a wider trend?
- Niche to broader appeal – take something that you think might only appeal a specialist audience, and see if you could make it appeal to a broader audience. What would they care about?
- Bring two things together – how might you pair up two seemingly unrelated topics? What’s at the intersection?
- Go extreme – What extreme examples are there of your issue? Who does this affect the most? Who is the first person (or the last person) to experience this? What’s the biggest, fastest, smallest or slowest? Who’s spent the most money on solving this issue (or preventing the solution)?
- History – What can history tell us about this issue? Does it have any lessons for today?
- Future – Conversely, what will the situation be in 10 / 50 / 100 years from now? Who’s doing the work to get us there?
How to evaluate new angles
What makes an angle worth pursing? Here’s some ideas.
- Intriguing. Even though your charity’s audiences are likely to be interested in the topic, they still need to be ‘hooked in’ to read your latest blog post or watch your latest video. What makes the story interesting? Is it…
- Surprising or counter-intuitive?
- Completely brand new?
- A colourful character?
- A journey of discovery?
- Timeliness. Why is this important now? What gives this story urgency or momentum?
- Self-interest. What would you audience want to know about this topic? What do they need to know? And what actions can they take? How can they take part?
Examples from the charity sector
Here are examples of blog posts of organisations taking interesting and unusual angles on their charity’s topic. (Let me know if you have some of your own!)
- NSPCC reporting on the numbers of children receiving counselling around gender idendity and sexuality (published during Pride Month)
- The (in)famous Barnardo’s blog post helping parents talking to children about white privilege – providing information and practical tips on a wider topic.
- Blood Cancer UK talk a lot about COVID vaccines and blood cancer – it’s not just topical, it’s a matter of life and death for people affected by blood cancers.
- I wrote an article for Yorkshire Cancer Research taking a deeper dive into the intersection of two topics affecting people in Yorkshire: COVID-19 and lung cancer
- Parkinson’s UK speaks to someone taking part in clinical trial of CBD for Parkinsons. CBD and other cannabinoids are an intriguing topic in medicine generally, and this is being applied to Parkinson’s. Also, the article combines the trial description and one participant’s experience of it.
- Shelter looks at the Queen’s Speech and what it means for housing and homelessness – it’s a classic angle of ‘What this government announcement means for our cause’.
- Alcohol Change UK did something similar for the Government Autumn Budget. The charity always produces some really interesting angles on alcohol by working with guest bloggers, such as this one about an alcohol-free hen-do. And another about alcohol-free LGBTQ+ spaces.
- Cancer Research UK share one scientists’ story about the challenges they faced in their research during the pandemic.
- Stonewall looks at the unique challenges of LGBTQ+ refugees (and how the charity is helping).
- Cats Protection share tips on how to keep cats safe at Halloween. You’ll notice there’s lots of tips relevant year round. It’s a great way to tie into a popular annual event and share some useful advice.
- Age UK look at poverty and low income among black older people – taking an important wider issue and applying it to the charity’s cause.