Why Public Relations for Non-Profits?
What comes to mind when you hear the term “public relations?”
I have been a public relations practitioner for over 35 years, yet I’m still surprised that most clients think of public relations in the same outmoded way: merely old-fashioned publicity or, even worse, contrived sham “stunts.” I hear the term misused as a catch-all for anything from marketing and advertising to surveys and free samples. And, folks still think that a public relations campaign requires a big budget agency.
None of these perceptions are even remotely accurate. Yes, public relations does focus on publicity, but it includes community relations, media relations, and government relations. And, it strives to develop good professional corporate citizenship.
These elements of public relations can be particularly effective at local and regional levels. Therefore, they are especially useful to non-profit organizations. However, good public relations is still an art form of sorts and requires some research and planning.
Let’s start with a good, clear definition: public relations is accurate, consistent and timely communications that convey the right message to the right organization.
When beginning a public relations effort, there are three simple steps.
- Identify your audiences. An audience is an individual or group which has any interest or stake in the activities of your organization. Beyond your “customers”, audiences can include but not be limited to your employees, vendors, regulators, legislators, neighbors and local media. Remember, in today’s communications environment, audiences have the ability to get and communicate information about you.
- Create a public relations plan. Identify your goals and decide how you want to be perceived by your audiences. Also, you need to prioritize the most important facts about your organization. Then, you determine a strategy for accomplishing your goals using the available communication tools, such as articles, presentations or special events.
- Develop a good relationship with local media. Local media need to cover local organizations and always need fresh stories. However, they don’t work for you and are not required to cover your organization. Get to know your local media so that they get to know you.
Finally, be enthusiastic and passionate about your cause and organization. Don’t just focus on the how you do public relations but always remember the why.