This is a guest blog by Maura O’Leary at Barefoot PR
Maura O'Leary and Sarah Hogan will be presenting at the Nonprofit Lab in Denver on January 25, 2024. You won't want to miss their workshop, "Writing for Impact: A Nonprofit Professionals Guide to Drafting Content that Inspires!"
They say good content comes to those who wait. Right? Maybe I’m getting the saying wrong. But I still think it works. It takes time to create a great piece of content. The period of listening and learning before putting pen to paper is key to impactful content development for our clients.
But what actually goes into this practice of preparation? I’m taking you behind the content curtain to learn more about the three factors the Barefoot team uses to inform how we write: voice, audience and tone.
Find the voice
Sitting down in front of a blank page is daunting. Finding the voice of the organization, thought leader or community group whose perspective we’re writing from is our first step. The voice is the distinct way an organization communicates its value to a community. It’s the dictionary of terms, phrases and concepts that a writer can pull from to better understand the perspective of the organization – whether that’s through its history, programming or services.
When we’re developing content for our clients, we find the voice through messaging platforms, websites, social media and other forms of existing collateral. Think of it as if you’re getting to know a new friend – what do they like? Dislike? Do on the weekends? Put in their coffee? Listen until the voice is clear.
Get to know the audience
Once we feel comfortable writing in an organization’s voice, we get to know the content’s intended audience. Each audience we write for – whether it’s donors, community partners or program participants – has its own unique set of motivators. To understand these motivators, we often like to take the time and get to know our client’s key stakeholders through community conversations. These conversations are an opportunity for us to connect with our audiences to learn more about their current perceptions of the organization and motivations for engaging with it.
If connecting directly with our audience is not an option, we consider the platform or outlet we’re writing for. Each communications channel has a different audience whose attention span and expertise varies – informing our unique approach to content development.
Pick a tone
When we feel comfortable with the voice and audience we’re writing for, it’s time to select the tone. The tone is the way we use our voice to communicate effectively with an audience, while considering the context of why we’re writing. The tone can be anything from scholarly and serious to funny and friendly. It’s influenced by the motivators of your audience and the social, political and economic factors that inform their decision making. For example, your tone may be more serious following tragedies or natural disasters, while it may be lighter and more casual in times of celebration. Getting the tone right increases the opportunity for connection with your audience.
Once we put these three pieces together, it’s time to write for impact. Being intentional in understanding the voice, audience and tone we’re writing with helps us create content that speaks clearly and encourages connection between the clients we work with and the audiences they’re trying to reach. Compelling content can build trust and encourage action – especially if the voice is strong, the audience is considered and the tone is right.
Next time you find yourself staring at a blank page waiting for inspiration, remember to start your content development process off by reflecting on the voice you’re speaking in, the audience you’re trying to reach, and how you should adjust your tone to engage with them. In the meantime, learn more about how Barefoot PR can help your organization write with impact.