Tips for Building Not For Profit Organizations Through Strategic Public Relations

1 Aug

A guest post by our very own Melinda Jolley
Sustainability Specialist and Corporate Communications Manager
The Tartan Group

As I get ready to embark on my next adventure of doing my masters in Leadership and Sustainability in Karlskrona Sweden, I have been looking back on the past three years working with the Tartan Group and with our many clients and community partners.

One of the highlights was being asked to present to three groups of not for profit organizations in Victoria, Burnaby and Kelowna as part of Accent Inn’s Charity in Changing Times community seminars.

Here are a few strategies and tips I offered them about how to effectively tell their stories and connect with key stakeholders using Public Relations.

We started by talking about the importance of taking the time to pull together a strategic communication plan before you start going gang-busters with your media relations, digitial strategy or community relations.

Many of the participants only had a few hours a day or week to dedicate to Public Relations, so I suggested that they take one of these seven planning steps each day instead of tackling their plan all at once.

Step 1: One tip I offered was to break your year up into campaigns or seasons to keep your messages targeted and clear. Once you’ve done this, decide what your organizational objectives for this campaign are and how  communications help to achieve these objectives.  In other words, what do you want to achieve by telling these stories?  Do you want to raise awareness about a new program, have 100 people attend a special event or raise $100,000 dollars for your program?

Step 2: The next step is to do a quick environmental analysis.  What is happening in your organization and in your community that could affect your objectives?  This could include the reputation of your organization, a recent high profile event or the economy at the time.  These factors can all be taken into account when creating your communications tactics.

Step 3: The next step is to think about your target audience.  Media relations and social media will often get your story out to a broad cross-section of the community, but who do you really want to engage with?  Is this your donors, special interest groups, business leaders or local government?  Also think about the best way to communicate with each of these groups.

Step 4: Next think about the three to five things that you want your target audiences to remember.  Write out your key messages that you will then use in all communications as the campaign unfolds.  Coming out with consistent messages over time is very important.

Step 5: Identifying a key spokesperson is important so your target audience gets used to hearing from or seeing the same person. Then when, for example, a stakeholder receives a letter asking for support, it is coming from the same recognizable person.

Step 6: The last step in your communications plan is to choose your communications tools.  With the objectives, messages, and target audience that you have identified, what is the best way of achieving your goal?  Media relations, telling your stories through TV interviews, stories in the local paper or radio interviews, may be the tool you need if you are looking to get your story out to the wider community.  Being active with social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, yelp and creating a blog and website with up to date information targeted at your audience with your key messages may also be the right fit.  Sometimes working directly with key individuals in the community or with select groups might be the most direct route to achieving your objectives.  Holding community events is one more tool in this tool box.

Step 7: Outline what success will look like, so you know what you are working towards and what you will measure your success against when complete.  Are you looking for 1,000 people to attend a community event, three articles in regional papers, are you looking for four bloggers to post about your organization or are you looking to attract 100 new friends on Facebook.

Once an organization has these elements identified, then the time spent communicating will be much better spent and will take you to your desired outcome much faster- something that is important for any organization, but even more important when you have limited resources and time.

These steps can be applied to a digital campaign, a media relations campaign or a stakeholder relations plan- so as an organization’s needs change and the communications tools available continue to develop, you can keep coming back to these steps in order to be as effective and strategic as possible, whether an organization is working to get more kids to camp, raise funds to conserve more ecologically sensitive land or raise awareness about new community composting programs or educational events.


One Response to “Tips for Building Not For Profit Organizations Through Strategic Public Relations”


  1. 100 PR and Marketing Articles You've Probably Missed in 2010 - September 14, 2010

    […] Tips for Building Not For Profit Organizations Through Strategic Public Relations […]

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