Content marketing has gone way beyond buzzword status and is now a core part of almost any well-known brand’s marketing strategy. 

As Graham Charlton mentioned in his post about ecommerce content marketing last month, it can help with anything from SEO to social reach. It can even improve sales in the long run.

I wanted to focus on charities for this post. Charities are particularly interesting when it comes to content because they can use it for two key purposes:

Firstly, and most obviously, it can be used to increase awareness and encourage more or larger donations or subscriptions.

Secondly, it’s a great opportunity to show people where their donations are going.

1. Charity: water

This six-minute piece by Charity: water kicked off its campaign last September to bring clean water to 100,000 people in the Sahel region of West Africa.

This video works because it tells a simple story that resonates with people. It’s hard to watch it and not feel some kind of emotional connection with the cause.

2. National Trust

In a bid to attract more kids to its parks, National Trust created a series of videos around the theme ’50 things to do before you’re 11¾.’

In each video one of the children from the ‘kids council’ (a panel of 10 children recruited by National Trust to advise on how to get more of Britain’s kids outdoors) presents a ‘how-to’ video such as ‘Cook on a campfire’ or ‘Go on a really long bike ride.’

Here’s one of the ‘how-to’ videos:

3. Cancer Research UK

Cancer Research UK is not known for pulling punches. Its approach is to shock people into action and make them think, and this results in some pretty interesting content.

The example below is particularly effective, combining experiential marketing with a very powerful message (which was clearly lost on the people in the video).

In the next video, part of a campaign for plain cigarette packaging, a child basically says a pack of Camel Lights makes him feel like he’s ‘in a world of happiness.’ Well worth a watch.

4. Cancer Research UK

I know we’ve already covered this charity, but I felt this one deserved a separate mention, partly because I love a good game but also because the concept is absolutely brilliant.

Play to Cure: Genes in Space is a mobile game with a difference. By playing the game you actually take part in cancer research, helping scientists spot patterns in enormous piles of data.

If it all seems slightly baffling (it certainly does to me), this guy on YouTube provided a better explanation than I’d ever be able to. Alternatively read this blog post for more detail.

Play to Cure: Genes in Space explanation

5. Arts Council England

In its #culturematters campaign (which seems to have been largely hijacked by HR types on Twitter), Arts Council England created a bank of content called the ‘advocacy toolkit’ to help people make the case for arts funding.

In this video, the charity’s chair Sir Peter Bazalgette introduces the toolkit.

Then there is a nice little visual guide describing how to use the toolkit.

Advocacy toolkit guide
Advocacy toolkit guide

6. Refuge UK

In another example of shock tactics used effectively, domestic violence charity Refuge worked with popular YouTube makeup artist Lauren Luke to create a piece around covering up facial cuts and bruises.

The campaign was hugely successful and a great example of influencer marketing, enabling Refuge to reach a very large and very targeted audience through an already established YouTube channel.

7. Save the Children

I’m sure almost everyone will have seen this one already because it went viral when it came out last year (nearly 48m views as of today).

The video plays on the ‘one second a day’ video format that was popular at the time, and imagines what an ordinary English girl’s life would look like if London experienced conflict comparable to Syria.

It’s a great video because it doesn’t just shock for the sake of it. It puts the message forward in a way ordinary UK residents can relate to.

I’d also be amazed if all those views didn’t translate into a significant increase in donations.

8. Dollar Shave Club/Colon Cancer Alliance

It may not be a charity, but that didn’t stop Dollar Shave Club putting out an excellent content marketing campaign in the name of the Colon Cancer Alliance.

After learning his family had a history of colon cancer, Dollar Shave Club co-founder Mike Dubdin streamed his own colonoscopy live on YouTube. The result? $10,000 in donations to the charity.

9. Wateraid

Using the hashtag #WHPfromwhereiwalk on Instagram, Wateraid uploaded a video of a Ghanaian woman walking to collect unsafe water from a lake.

Using a hashtag mostly populated by videos of people going about their normal, easy days was a clever move. It highlighted the stark difference between the everyday lives of the average Instagram user and those in the third world.

The move also had a very positive outcome for Wateraid, gaining thousands of extra followers for its Instagram account and drawing a huge amount of attention to its cause.

10. Dogs Trust

For its campaign to help people better understand dogs’ behaviour, Dogs Trust created a microsite called ‘Learn With Dogs Trust.’

Learn With Dogs Trust

The site features various types of educational content, from how-to guides to printable posters. There’s even a game where you have to pick up poo in a park (as a dog, bizarrely).

Dogs Trust game

Conclusion: aim for the heart (or the tear ducts)

To be honest this post could have gone on forever. Charities seem to put a lot of thought and effort into their content strategies. I suppose it helps that many of them have interesting stories to tell.

It’s clear from the above examples that the most successful pieces of content from charities have some kind of emotional impact on the viewer.

Then again, it’s not just charities that should be aiming to evoke emotion with their content. I’m sure other industries could learn a lot by looking at the content strategies of some of the above organisations.

Econsultancy and Marketing Week are hosting the Content Strategy Conference 2.0 on 30 June 2015. At this one-day event you can hear about the latest tools and techniques to maximise the effectiveness of your content marketing strategy. Book your place today.