We recently shared best practices and strategies for nonprofit organizations and associations to better leverage their technology stack and ensure that they have mission-critical technology in place. (Get caught up if you missed this post.) Your organization’s technology stack serves as the foundation for a good communications strategy. But, once you have the right technology in place, which channels should you use to deliver targeted messaging to the right audience?

Channel selection without strategy is akin to picking a restaurant for dinner without knowing what the other person likes. So, let’s start with the strategy. The tenet for targeting is to understand the why, the how and the what of your organization to drive desired results. As Simon Sinek shares in his Ted Talk on how Great Leaders Inspire Action, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” While this is true for brands, it is especially relevant for nonprofits and associations.

  • Start with a solid strategy: It’s crucial to understand your market, your members and constituents and your unique selling proposition (USP) for each segment you serve.
  • Create crisp, compelling messages that resonate with your targets. Address an immediate need or issue, develop clear benefit statements (not just features) aligned to your brand value—the “why behind the message.”
  • Meet your members where they are: Build a presence on the communication channels that your members go to for their information. Focus on those venues and vehicles where your groups gather for solutions to their problems.

This PESO convergence model is helpful in grouping tactics across types of media, including Paid channels, those you Own, those you Earn and those you Share.

Organizations should leverage the tactics that make the most sense for their audience and goals.

Paid Media: Essentially, paid media is advertising. It is a vehicle for promoting content and driving exposure. If you’re paying to promote your message, it lives in this category:

  • Print publications (advertising, content syndication)
  • Conferences and tradeshows
  • Outdoor Display (billboards, transit, airport)
  • Digital Advertising: Pay per Click (PPC), display and retargeting ads, paid social ads.

Earned Media: Exposure you’ve earned through word-of-mouth or third parties; this is commonly referred to as public relations or reputation management. Earned media is a crucial part of your strategy. In fact, a Nielsen study found that it’s seen as the most trusted source of information globally and is the channel most likely to elicit action. It includes:

  • Press releases and other media relations materials
  • Certification partners
  • Speaking engagements and presentations
  • External forums
  • Organic search

Shared Media: To drive your mission forward, you need your target audience to see your content and share it. Social media has allowed us to shift how we engage with our audiences and allowed us to amplify our owned content and find new audiences. Here are a few shared media channels:

  • Organic social (Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube and more)
  • Influencer engagement (engagement where influential partners and brand ambassadors share your story with their followers)
  • Alliance partnerships (referrals, co-branding, etc.)

Owned Media: This is the content that you fully control. Owned media allows you, the thought leader for your organization, to share your perspectives, ideas and to connect with your constituents.  Driving all paid, earned and shared media to your earned channels amplifies search engine optimization and position your organization as the authority in the market. This includes:

  • Website
  • Blogs
  • Webinars
  • Online communities
  • Email marketing
  • Direct mail (postcards, newsletters)
  • Partner/affiliate network (your chapters, suppliers, partners)

Collectively, these channels help provide exposure and amplify messages to your audience. Every organization has limited resources and budget, so focus on the communication channels that will reach and resonate with your ideal targets. Ideally, any message you create should be distributed across multiple mediums to effectively reach your members. Like the old adage that a person needs to hear your message seven times before it sticks, develop strategies that allow for multiple touchpoints with your audience.

Putting PESO into Practice
Here’s an example of this approach. Our client, the American Optometric Association (AOA), shifted their content strategy to focus solely on producing smart content, which they define as content that is what members need, when they need it and how they need it. AOA engages in behavior-based outreach and implemented an email preference center that allows members to self-identify what content they’d like.

As you build your approach, make sure to track and measure what is working well and what is not. That way, you can test and adjust your content and channel delivery as you evolve your target segments and align goals and benchmarks for the organization.