What is "self-publishing" and why should you do it?

Just as the digital revolution is changing the news business, it is transforming how companies and nonprofits communicate. These organizations need to tell their stories in order to increase awareness, develop relationships, sell or serve, and retain constituencies. 

Communications professionals are increasingly considering an old idea – to self-publish. More organizations are strategically creating their own content vs. relying on favorable press or traditional advertising. Alice Litscher, a fashion communications specialist, asked, “Why spend $40,000 to advertise in Vogue, when for the same amount of money, you can publish an entire magazine?”

Self-publishing is now called content marketing in business circles. The term is being advanced by Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute. He calls himself a content evangelist. He coined that term to describe himself as an advocate of content marketing. At FAITH Catholic, we are promoting use of the term content evangelization, based on Joe’s approach, which he defines as the following: 

"Content marketing is the practice of creating relevant and compelling content in a consistent fashion to a targeted buyer, focusing on all stages of the buying process, from brand awareness through to brand evangelism. Content marketing, unlike inbound marketing, has been around for hundreds of years, most notably starting in 1895 by John Deere with The Furrow magazine (although I argue that the cave people were drawing stories on walls to sell product)."

Joe should consider including the Church as an example. For centuries, the Church has been engaging in content creation – stained-glass windows, frescoes, statues – to tell a story. Many dioceses were publishing newspapers decades before the John Deere company started The Furrow.

The question is this: How should the Church communicate now? According to Patrick O’Brien, president and CEO of FAITH Catholic, “We are inspired by the way content marketers are successfully creating content that achieves an organization’s goals. If these strategies work for businesses and other nonprofits, they can and do work for the Church. 

“The Church’s primary goal is to evangelize,” O’Brien says. As communications professionals, we need to create content to advance our mission. Dioceses must create a large volume and rich diversity of content – timely news, witness stories, spiritual inspiration, catechetical content, faith formation – all with an eye toward inviting people to engage fully in the life of the Church. “This is content evangelization – creating content that connects the Church’s message with people and makes it easy for them to use it to evangelize.” 

The question facing us today is: What forms of media do we use now to best tell our story? Are we paying attention to media trends? News is moving to websites. Print magazines are still the most effective way to reach all ages with depth of content. 

  • 2014 Content Marketing trends for Nonprofits (Content Marketing Institute)

    • 92% use content marketing
    • 86% use social media
    • 68% publish print annual reports
    • 33% publish print magazines
    • 4: Average number of social media sites used
  • Content Marketing functions that nonprofit professionals outsource

    • 70% design
    • 27% writing
    • 15% content planning and strategy
  • The most effective nonprofit communicators get outside help

    • 69% of nonprofit communications professionals say they are creating more content
    • 57% of the most effective nonprofit professionals outsource some aspect of the content creation compared with 40% of the last effective nonprofit professionals
    • 49% mix in-house content creation and outsourcing