Mining the Mindset of a Publisher
We’re all publishers now, whether we know it or not.
Content publishing—the production of articles, blog items, photos, and features—has become a core activity for organizations of all kinds: non-profits, think tanks, institutions, and expert practitioners with knowledge to share.
These emerging publishers fall into two distinct camps: those who do it, and those who do it really well. What accounts for the difference? It’s a shift in mindset within the organization, toward an ownership of the publishing process. In other words, it means thinking strategically, thinking ahead, and making sure the content you publish creates maximum impact.
The upside to getting it right is huge, from enhanced branding to a surge in fundraising to boundless community engagement. But gone wrong, it can be a missed opportunity, or worse. It can also be a time suck to create token content that is read by few and inspiring to no one.
With such high stakes, it behooves publishers to rethink what they already do—to enhance each step of the publishing cycle in order to become the high-impact publishers they all want to be.
Those steps fall into a three-part framework for digital storytelling: collection, publication, and distribution. That framework makes it easy to strategize and optimize through the process, in line with your organizational goals.
Step 1: Rethink What You Collect
How are you collecting stories? Are you sourcing them from your in-house experts? Should they come from the ground and from the constituents and communities you serve? Does your digital audience generate elements of the story?
Determine where your stories are originating and select the tools and messaging that enhance the collection process. For example, if you are crowdsourcing photos of a campaign or event, focus on ways to effectively solicit that content, i.e., amplifying the “ask” by promoting a particular Twitter hashtag or social media channel. If you have the means, consider hiring an editor to intake and curate the material, overseeing how it fits together. One good editor can make a gaggle of contributors shine.
Step 2: Rethink How You Publish
How are you publishing your stories? You may be building a destination site using open-source, freely available software. Alternatively, you might choose to design your own proprietary system, building customized software from scratch so that it better suits your needs. Your publishing strategy may overlap with your distribution strategy if you’re putting content directly on Facebook or other social platforms.
Once you know where you’re publishing, set a frequency goal with a content schedule that’s tailored to serve your target audience. By embracing your role as a publisher, you can put best practices in play—like regularly soliciting story ideas from your team and setting a content calendar. Those steps will save you time and energy while making the most of the opportunity for your content to shine.
Step 3: Rethink Where You Distribute
Finally, how are you thinking about distribution? Blasting out a link on your social streams is an obvious move, but it’s the least sophisticated approach. More nuanced non-profits have recast “distribution” as “circulation”; instead of building a one-way pipeline of content, they’re casting a wider net of circulating content through partners and key influencers. You can do the same by mapping your community of contacts and asking a set of them to help share your content to their networks. If your goal is visibility, consider offering your stories to mainstream publications, giving away your stories for cross-publishing and extended reach. News sites like The Guardian and The Huffington Post regularly feature partner content from non-profits and advocacy groups. Find people in your organization’s network who can connect you to partnership opportunities with local or global newsrooms.
Moreover, know your audience and what you want your stories to impart. Be strategic in designing your workflow to produce high-value content that leaves an impact on your readers. In doing so, you’ll lift up your audience and your organization, bringing you closer to where and who you want to be.
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