Commit to being PR fit!
We’ve received the call many times. A client has a big fundraiser coming up and they want splashy press coverage to maximize their reach and ability to secure key funding for their organization for the coming year.
All well and good, except the organization hasn’t implemented a PR strategy in the past and public awareness for their cause is currently limited to a very small audience of key stakeholders. As PR professionals, we can pitch this important event and will earn some mentions and inclusions. But the max potential for reach and storytelling is severely limited due to the lack of strategy and lack of commitment to PR in the past.
Much like personal fitness, PR is a long-game. We all know we should exercise frequently for both our physical and mental health. Daily exercise is “money in the bank,” so to speak, for our life-long health and wellness and ability to perform at our maximum potential. However, daily exercise is hard work and sometimes we just avoid it because the long-term effects aren’t immediately visible. We know we should do it, but with limited time, resources, and energy, this simple daily action to boost our personal health falls by the wayside. But then, one day, we are invited to join a race with a huge cash prize for the winner. We need this cash prize, it is vital for our livelihood. Now we wish we had been exercising all along because someone else who has been training will win that prize. To equate this example to PR, if you want to win that cash prize for your organization – in the form of donations and public support – you need to do the training. Otherwise, those donations will go to another worthy cause.
Like personal fitness, PR is a “lifestyle” – something you always do. Results do not come without effort or consistency. Maximum potential is not reached without hard work.
So how do I get in good PR shape?
In today’s media landscape, news moves in and out of the cycle as quickly as your finger swipes up the Twitter feed. Though there may be a Tweet with a link to your article and your organization’s big news, people will keep swiping by if this is the first time they’ve heard of you. Further, ask yourself, did they keep swiping because they don’t know who you are? Or do they not know why you exist or what problem you are working to solve? Do they even know this is a cause they should care about? Yikes. So how to remedy this situation? Time to get in good PR shape.
Prioritizing PR as part of your ongoing marketing strategy has many benefits beyond just name recognition when it comes time for that “race for the cash prize” or big event. Purpose-driven companies and nonprofits should look at PR as a means to increase awareness and visibility for their cause, generate recognition for their work, connect with key audiences, and amplify the voice of the organization. Just like your personal fitness journey, these key tenants do not happen overnight, they require thoughtful strategy and ongoing effort.
1. Increase visibility for your cause: Going back to our original example, what if the general public doesn’t realize the big problem you are trying to solve is even a problem? Educating the general public about the struggles of a certain community or global need is a vital step towards earning their support. Remember, we all have to read a fact at least three times to commit it to memory, so your efforts to educate the population must be a constant drumbeat. You must continuously tell the world about your cause – through blogs, newsletters, social media, through earned media. Not sure where to start? Check out our robust guide for producing quality content as a way of educating your audience.
2. Generate recognition for your work: You don’t have to pay for a Super Bowl ad to generate recognition for your organization’s achievements. In addition to educating your stakeholders about your big “why” or problem you are working to solve, you should be telling them what you are doing to solve it. A PR strategy should include awards submissions, use of social media to share accomplishments, and pitching to media outlets when you have those “big win” moments.
3. Connect and engage with key audiences: It is important to educate the general public about your cause, but further, you must continually connect and engage with them. Every day we are bombarded with information about the world’s many problems. It is imperative to provide moments of connection with your audience to keep them engaged and keep your organization top of mind. Be a thought-leader. If you are finding ways to insert yourself in the conversation on a regular and ongoing basis – through editorials, byline articles, social media, newsletters, blogs, podcasts, etc. – you will become and remain known by those key audiences. When your big event comes, they won’t just swipe past you on the Twitter feed, they will click through and donate because of the foundation and rapport you’ve built with them over the years.
4. Amplify your voice – If you have something to say, say it loud. PR is your megaphone. Use the tools afforded by PR strategy to maximize the reach of your message. Look at Greta Thunberg, she was just an average high school student with a belief that she could bring attention to climate change. She used social media to amplify her passion project and people started paying attention. The press took note and suddenly a teenage girl had the attention of the entire world. PR can start as your microphone and become your megaphone.
You owe it to yourself, you owe it to the world
PR for your organization is just as important as a fitness routine for your personal health. You deserve a healthy body, and your organization deserves a healthy communications strategy.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, not only is PR an important part of your organization’s marketing strategy, it should be a critical function of your organization. If you don’t educate the world about your issue or cause and what you’re doing to solve it, who else will? Not only is it important to build clout for your organization, but you also owe it to your constituents as well. Whether you are working toward gender equity in the workplace or are fighting the opioid crisis, the more people you can tell about your important work and those you are serving, the more people will be by your side to help you fight that big fight. So start up that treadmill and run. Get out your megaphone and make your voice and your message heard.
Rhiannon Hendrickson is the founder and CEO of Orapin Marketing + Public Relations, which helps purpose-driven companies share their stories and become a leading voice for their cause. She has worked with organizations of all sizes across myriad sectors to develop memorable and effective communications programs that generate awareness, engagement, and, ultimately, support for those that are making a meaningful impact.