Six ways to write for your charity from a new perspective

Bored of the sound of your (charity’s) own voice? It might be time to use some different ones…

Wait. Yes, I am a copywriter. Of course I’m not suggesting you forget about brand language or ditch your tone of voice guidelines. But seeking alternative viewpoints and adding fresh voices will reinvigorate your communications.

Here are six things to try.

1) Tell your story through unexpected eyes
Could you ask someone your charity has supported to interview the CEO? Or a regular donor to chat to someone who delivers your services? You might want to present the conversation as a Q& A or just pick out some choice quotes. Maybe there’s a wannabe writer in your finance or HR team? Ask them to visit one of your services and get their perspective on what difference your organisation makes.

Think more broadly, too. What about a view from one of your buildings? (Bear with me…) Take a look at what’s going on in each room of your information centre/research lab/animal sanctuary at 3pm on a Monday. It might generate some new story ideas – and introduce you to some new writers. Of course, you can edit copy if you need to, but it’s amazing what you see with fresh eyes.

2) Create a photo story
You don’t need to be a skilled photographer for this exercise – an iPhone would do, or it’s particularly fun with a Polaroid camera. Aim to capture a moment that conveys the difference your organisation is making, right then and there – and then find the right first-person quotes to add.

3) Capture a conversation
Look at the Guardian newspaper’s This much I know series and see if you can work out the questions that may have elicited those comments and stories. This is good practise for asking open questions (a question that can’t be answered with ‘yes’ or ‘no’) and really thinking about the answers you’re given. Try it next time you write a case study. Remember, it’s okay to tweak people’s speech, as long as you don’t change the meaning and you run it past them before you publish it anywhere.

4) Practise telling stories
Sit with colleagues or friends and tell a true story. You could share how you ended up in your current job or something that happened to you at the weekend. Think about the beginning, middle and end. Be structured but emotive. Intersperse feelings and facts. After you’ve all had a go, decide which stories kept everyone engaged – and see if you can pinpoint why that is. Maybe it’s familiarity (they can identify with what’s said) or intrigue (they wanted to know why something happened or what happened next). These are all elements of a good story.

5) Get tactile
Flick through magazines. Cut things out. Get scissors and a glue pen and make some mood boards. Think about colours, textures, smells, as well as words and phrases, that create the atmosphere you want. I know, I know, I sound like an art teacher from the eighties. But sometimes the retro approach can take you somewhere different when you’re used to being stuck in front of a screen all day.

6) Delve into clichés
‘Benefits versus features’. ‘Show don’t tell’. They’ve all become clichés in the marketing communications world. But, as I often like to spout: “a cliché is a cliché for a reason”. It’s amazing how many organisations are still stuck on features and not illustrating their benefits. As a sector, we have the best examples of benefits – the people we’ve supported.

So spend a bit of time with colleagues and Post-it notes. Write down some features of your organisation and find as many ways as you can to turn them into benefits. See if you can find some brand new perspectives on the difference you make – and the reason you go to work each day.

Want a different perspective on what you do? Or some more ideas to kick-start your writing? Get in touch today.

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