The DOs and DON’Ts of public relation strategies for nonprofits
Google defines public relations as, “the professional maintenance of a favorable public image by a company or other organization or a famous person.” Public relations should be a top priority for your nonprofit organization, as the more positive an image your organization is creating, the more opportunities you will find to accomplish your mission and goals. PR is going to be key for your nonprofit to build awareness and establish credibility behind your fundraising efforts.
Here are the DOs and DON’Ts of a PR strategy for your nonprofit:
DO: Use media to get attention
Pitching a story to your local news or an industry journal is a great opportunity to get your nonprofit's name and cause in front of your audience. Your media strategies should be chosen wisely to help your nonprofit reach a specified communication objective for your target audiences. Establish strong relationships with carefully-selected journalists and news editors, in order to create an ongoing dialogue with news outlets and have them view your organization in a positive manner.
DON’T: Think only in short-term
Nonprofits often perform a variety of loosely connected communication or PR activities to drive immediate goals. Your nonprofit must think in a long-term mindset, creating and executing a communications strategy that maintains a consistent messaging and meets long-term PR objectives. Thinking long-term will help your nonprofit create a long-lasting and positive reputation.
DO: Differentiate with your own story
Is your nonprofit sharing its story? Every organization must define its unique story and let communities know the value they are providing. This story should be built on defined messages that clearly position and differentiate the organization. In turn, this unique story becomes a top message for your communications strategy. Once your story and media messages have been defined, ensure the messages are pulled through all your media communication channels to create consistency.
DON’T: Forget the power of social media
Social media allows organizations to reach people with their own content on a broad scale, cost effectively and in non-traditional ways. Approach social media with the same strategic mindset you would bring to traditional communications, in that your content should be message-driven, useful to your audience and part of your overall communication strategy. Social media is potentially one of your most powerful tools—2.1 billion people are using it worldwide.
DO: Map out your PR strategy
Set PR objectives that are realistic for your nonprofit and make sure your organization knows what results it wants out of the campaign. Create a file which will allow you to track execution, including regular media outreach, follow-ups and surveys. Check off the tasks you have completed and keep track of the goals you are hoping to reach. Communicate with all members of your staff or team the campaign goals and your message to ensure your strategy is consistent. In addition, you can provide your team with a campaign strategy report to allow them to review the goals.
DON’T: Be sloppy with your work
If you are planning to pitch a news story or press release to a local media outlet, do your research beforehand. Determine deadlines for getting your content in media outlets on time and research the correct contact for your pitch within outlets. Most newspapers and news outlets have different writers and editors for each topic. Your pitch may get lost in the mix if you send it to the incorrect editor, and generic email pitches to “whom it may concern” are often ignored.
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