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Putting your best content forward: part 2– discovering the details.

By Caitlin Ewing

Avatar for Caitlin Ewing

Hello again, awesome reader. In my previous post, I explained why focusing primarily on your new website’s content, while having great supporting design and functionality, will lead to the most successful project outcome. Your organization’s story is the most important asset when connecting with your community – make sure you tell it in the most effective way!

In this article, we’ll talk about the first step to making great content happen: discovering the details. What important information can you establish at the base of your project to make it a smashing success?

Strategy for starters

At Imagebox, we kick off new website projects by going through a discovery process with our clients. We sit down in a room (typically with a whiteboard), while our chief strategist guides our new friends through a series of questions. These simple questions not only help us get to know their organization better, but they often shed that new light on familiar subjects. We help our clients find their “a-ha” moments.

If you’re not currently working with us, don’t fret. Working with a partner can make the process easier, but this doesn’t mean you can’t use the same basic methodology with an internal team.

A word to the wise

If you want to go it alone, the key will be to write your findings down and keep them organized. Seriously, that’s huge. At the end of your discovery exercise, you should have compiled a neat document, brimming with useful information to refer back to throughout your project. It will help you stay on track, especially when tackling the toughest and most important part of the project: content writing.

Getting to know you

A good way to start the conversation is by giving an abbreviated elevator pitch for your organization – say the most complete, concise description of your organization in 10 words or less. And don’t think too much about it, just keep it simple and blurt it out. This exercise can be tricky, but may come in handy later. When you have such a small amount of time to grab someone’s attention on the web, a short statement like this can be a powerful tool in your belt.

Here’s an example I wrote for Imagebox:
A strategic branding and web development partner for Pittsburgh Nonprofits.

It doesn’t tell the whole story – but if you land on the Imagebox website, and that’s the first thing you see, you’ll have a decent idea of whether or not you’re in the right place.

Once that’s out of the way, go into more detail. When and why were you founded? What is your current state of operations? What is your mission and vision for the future? These talking points may seem like common knowledge – but asking 10 different people in your organization, you might get 10 different answers.

whoMore to discover

Who is your audience?

Identify some general demographics: age, occupation, locations, and what problems or concerns might they have. In most cases, there are multiple groups to speak to: donors, volunteers, the general public – just to name a few. And each group may need spoken to in a slightly different way, or pointed to a different area of your site.

What can you offer them?

If you’re a nonprofit, your most important “offering” is most likely fulfilling your mission. And by gaining support from your community, you are aided in doing so. But what else can you offer as a “product” or “service”? Maybe you offer educational programs or perks for different levels of membership. The important thing is to identify what you can do, what they can do, and what impact their support will have.

What makes you special?

What things can you say about your organization that no one else can say? Here’s a little advice for later – this is the topic that can draw out the most inspiration when writing compelling headlines for your website. You may think you need to be marketing wiz to come up with powerful statements, but truthfully, we’ve noticed that the best headlines come directly from our clients. They may not be written down anywhere, but when they start talking about their passion and what makes their organization special, magic happens.

mountainSet obtainable goals…

for your organization and the project.

Wrap up the discussion by defining what “success” looks like. This will help you set a list of goals. Often times, the goal of a new website is to get more customers, clients, donors, members, volunteers, advocates, etc. – but there’s always more to it. In gaining more support, you’ll be growing. What does that future look like for your organization, and what will you need to get there? The new path forward might look a lot different than what you’ve done in the past. How will you motivate yourself to do things differently this time?

If you determined that you have multiple audiences, define goals for each group. What interactions do you want them to have with your website? It could be signing up for a membership, making a donation, taking a pledge, or simply learning more.

What goals can you set to help your audiences get it, believe it, and get behind it? There’s a lot more to making a connection with people than simply telling them that you’re great and they should support you. For many nonprofit’s, the power is in the proof. Set goals to communicate your story, but also the stories of the people, places, animals, etc. that you serve.


Well, now that we’ve started down the path to an awesomely successful website project, let’s keep the content ball rolling!

In the next article, “Planning and Doing”, I’ll go through how to take what you learned in discovery, turn it into an action plan, and get it done. Because, even with solid groundwork already down, the hardest part is getting it done.

Read the first article in this series, here.