About Milieudefensie…

Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands) is a Dutch non-profit organisation that actively fights for climate-justice. Their main goal is to fairly distribute the benefits and burdens of climate change, so citizens should be carrying the lowest weight, while the biggest polluters must bear the greatest burden.

Their audience consists of everybody who has some sort of affinity with climate change. They basically focus on two products, namely giving money (for lawsuits or concrete actions) or giving time (for signing petitions, joining protests or helping as a volunteer). Their biggest challenge is to convince people to transform Milieudefensie’s vision into concrete action in their own living environment.

Milieudefensie has used smartocto for just over a year. For this client case we've asked Mélisande van Engelenburg (marketeer at Milieudefensie) and Donato Ranzato (webmaster at Milieudefensie) how a data tool like ours helped them optimise their content strategy.

So why did you (Milieudefensie) start working with our data analytics tool?

Mélisande: I expected smartocto to teach us more about the needs of our users, so that we could respond to these needs more effectively. What really appealed to us when introduced to your tool were the smart notifications. They give really precise information about which action to take.

Donato: Yes, and we already had a lot of data (from Google Analytics for example), but the data we had always gave insights about stuff that already happened weeks ago. So, our campaign teams pulled us on our sleeves, and asked us what to do based on that historical data. We felt like smartocto could answer that really important question: How do we transform this historical data into action?

"The smart notifications give really precise information about which action to take"

Which features of our tool did you use?

Mélisande: Well, we used the real time data feature, which we mostly used for the smart notifications and to check in real time how our articles were performing. At the beginning we also looked a lot at the forecasting function.

Donato: Yes, that was interesting, because then the tool would say for example: “this article now gets a 10 (index score), but some similar articles score 30”. This clearly indicated the potential of a story. Although sometimes, we were a little in the blue about how to reach that potential.

Which smart notifications were most useful?

Mélisande: We especially liked the notifications about how a certain topic was performing and if it needed a follow-up, for example:

  • “This story has a lot of comments, write a follow-up?” was a really good one.

But also the notifications about our social activity were great reminders of opportunities we would otherwise have missed:

  • “Hey you haven't tweeted this yet, but you did put it on Facebook, so post to Twitter!”

Sometimes, we received a notification that suggested we were already giving away too much in the headline of the post. That was definitely a really good one:

  • “Great piece, but you don't get enough link clicks from it”

Finally, the notification that indicated that an old story spiked again was very interesting for us, because it's a concrete suggestion that something news-related happened concerning the topic:

  • “We see this article live-up again, maybe another post or a follow-up?”

The only problem we faced, concerning these notifications, was that we often didn’t have the capacity to follow up on these tips. Besides, we obviously produce a lot less content than publishers, so we noticed that that led to a lower amount of smart notifications coming in. The tips that we received did really help, especially as a reminder to produce more content and to try different strategies.

In what inbox did you receive our smart notifications?

Mélisande: The tips were sent directly to our Trello board, which worked really well. We work with a content calendar in Trello, so all the tips automatically popped up on that board. This made it really easy for everyone to access them, which helped to integrate them in our workflow.

What happened when you followed-up on a notification?

Donato: Well, basically a list of notifications automatically formed in Trello. It was sort of the idea that if someone had the time and motivation, they could implement the tip. Mélisande always made a first selection of the tips, to exclude those that we found less relevant. For example, there was a notification indicating that our newsletter generated a lot of traffic, but because we send out a newsletter only once in a while, this was a logical result of sending it out, so that tip was removed from the board during the first selection. By doing so, the really useful tips remained for our content team.

And what about our historical data feature smartocto Insights?

Mélisande: We used insights for the reporting function. I enabled two reports by default, one was about the very best article of that week and the corresponding data, and the other was for a specific campaign to see what went well. I always had clear insights on what needed a little more attention.

We also have articles that run for a long time, so I constantly wanted to know how they were doing and which ones popped up every now and then. We already got that information from the everlasting notifications (which by the way, is a super interesting notification for NGOs). Obviously we produce a lot less content than for example publishers, so it's nice to be able to fall back on content that revives.

How can smartocto become relevant for non-profit organisations?

After just over a year of working with our tool, Milieudefensie has decided to end the collaboration. Let’s see what the learnings are for both us and Milieudefensie:

Mélisande: What we realised when working with smartocto, is that we really struggled with creating content and how much effort it took to really benefit from it. We often lacked the time and urgency to follow up on the tips, even though they were very accurate.

Donato: I agree. The biggest problem wasn’t monitoring smartocto, but rather adjusting our workflow in such a way that we could deal with the incoming notifications and insights. The tool is very user-friendly, both interface and service wise. The smartocto product is a great product, absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s great at measuring reach, page depth and other very interesting metrics, but I feel like for a conversion orientated company like ourselves, it is more valuable to know more about conversions, time and money.

So, it would help if the notifications would be more concrete, for example: ‘If you share this post on Twitter, there's a chance that conversions to the petition page will increase by 2%’. With that kind of advice smartocto would become even more interesting for an organisation like ours. Smartocto in its current form is very much focused on exposure, which we think is important, but it’s not our main focus. It would help a lot if a concrete success is attached to a notification.

Mélisande: Yes, for us the most important thing is to be able to track the amount of donations that a certain campaign brings in. On the other hand, like I said, we produce a very small amount of content for the smart notifications to really work. Because of course, the more content you produce, the more notifications will come in and the more accurate these notifications become. So, we would definitely need to produce a lot more content to benefit from the smart notifications.

"Smartocto really pushed me in that direction: to think more about how to really connect our audiences’ needs with our stories"

What have you learned from working with smartocto?

Donato: My main insight is that Milieudefensie needs more of a ‘newsroom’ approach, because there is enough happening in the world every day that we could respond to, or tap into, but we simply don’t have the capacity and time to respond or act upon it.

Mélisande: Yes, indeed, we would benefit a lot from a newsroom setting within our organisation, because we would simply have much more time to make content.

Personally, smartocto taught me to look much more at people's needs. To really ask yourself: What kind of needs does our audience have in terms of information? We now mainly serve informative needs, but we have to look more at other needs too. Smartocto really pushed me in that direction. We need to think about how to really connect our audiences’ needs to our stories. It’s just a matter of getting the whole organisation involved on this user needs model!

So, what’s next?

Our CMO, Rutger Verhoeven: We knew when we started the pilot with Milieudefensie that it would be a challenge to let them react to all the notifications the smart system would calculate. But we both believed that it was worth the challenge. I guess Milieudefensie as well as we learned a lot from this. We now know that having the main focus of the tool on story performance isn’t the most beneficial approach for an organisation like Milieudefensie. As they mentioned themselves they prefer to get more insights on the impact a particular notification will have.

This is one of the reasons we started to develop smartify. We designed a smarter way of presenting all the stories that can benefit from a particular editorial action (ie. 'put it on Facebook' or 'write a follow up'), but also learn about the predicted impact the action will have. The first version of smartify is active and some newsrooms are now working with it in a pilot-environment. Smartify is expected to be available for everyone in September 2022.

Dashboard smartify - choose an editorial action
Smartify dashboard - Choose a channel

Another feature that has been highlighted on the roadmap is Goals. This - together with the use of smartify - is probably a very good solution to the challenges Milieudefensie is facing. Goals will help marketing teams, newsrooms and storytellers by visualising two things.

The first is the specific goal someone is aiming to achieve. For example ‘increase the amount of donations with 10.000 euros’, ‘write 5 follow up stories’ or ‘collect 1000 signatures for campaign X’. And the second is the time that you have for realising the goal. Smartocto Goals will show you how close you are to reaching your specific goal and how much time is left for the overall campaign. Of course, smartocto will show all the stories that contribute to the campaign and will show all the notifications that you can follow up in order to become more effective.

So, using this experience of working with a non-journalistic company, we are developing our tools to fit content-strategy minded businesses even better.

Curious to see what we can do for you?