They exist solely to serve the public good by providing a service, but without products to sell and a blistering recession, non-profits have been hit hard. For those large enough to have public relations staffs, workers might have been cut and budgets slashed. For those run on shoestring budgets, gone might be the money for an occasional advertisement.
The recession has forced non-profits to be creative to tell their stories — their missions. Luckily, as the economy failed, a communications option — social media — exploded in popularity. It has become another example that while non-profit public relations does not just happen, it doesn’t need a large budget.
These social media are the current “It Girl” in public relations and marketing, but they might not be right for every organization. It is not a stand-alone solution to get your message out, but just one of many tactics to use in a smart and deliberate plan.
Social media can be incorporated into most public relations programs and offer a low cost or no-cost way for non-profits to publish and share text, video and audio. Major outlets include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and wikis, as well as blog host sites like Blogger and WordPress. Registration is free for all.
But it takes a well-thought-out plan infused with passion for the mission to be successful with these media.
There are four basic steps in developing a plan.
■ Start with a need or opportunity within the organization.
■ Based on research and analysis, form a strategy to address the need or capitalize on the opportunity. In Kentucky, there are more than 25,000 non-profits providing key services to those in need, from meals for seniors to safe activities for youth, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics. And they’ve begun to harness the power of social media like Facebook and Twitter.
■ Take action and start communicating with the public using various tactics like social media.
■ Evaluate what worked.
Take, for example, an event held recently by The Social Media Club of Lexington. Called a Tweetup or Twestival, the event invited people using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and was open to anyone. The organizers partnered with Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky to raise awareness and funds.
The power of these sorts of gatherings is that there were groups of people who normally would never interact on a social level, but social media brought them together for a cause. The demographics were diverse by age and profession, from information-technology pros to musicians to graphic artists. The non-profit interacted directly with 50 new donors and raised $500. The attendees were made aware of the cause while having a nice social interaction. It was a win-win situation for everyone involved.
In the case of Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky, the organization’s plan was to raise awareness and funds, and it formed a strategy to partner with the Social Media Club, which wanted to be involved in doing good. Using the Social Media Club’s contacts through Facebook and Twitter, news of the event spread, and the rest is history.
Keep in mind, though, that social media need to be used according to just such a plan to be most effective for a non-profit.
If you have a Facebook account, you recently might have noticed status updates by women with one word, usually a color. It started out as a chain letter, with women asked to post the color of their bras in connection with breast cancer awareness. From there, it went viral. While it was catchy, did it raise awareness? Was it a call to action? The action was unclear:
Report on the color of your bra or learn more about breast cancer?
While the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation along with other breast cancer organizations reported some increased interest in their mission, there really isn’t any data to show whether it truly made a difference. Though it was a great viral public relations concept, it could have been so much more.
What does this all mean? Solid public relations is key to a successful non-profit. It is about educating; connecting; raising voices for good; and influencing habits, views and choices.
Why was the Social Media Club of Lexington and Prevent Child Abuse partnership so successful? The public relations program was mission-driven and well-thought-out with a purpose.
Public relations is the vehicle that moves the mission of a non-profit from the garage to the driveway for all to see. The vehicle doesn’t have to be high-end, but well-built and suited for the cause. Invest in a good mechanic who understands the vehicle, someone who in this case understands and can leverage social media. Invest in the right tools for the job, such as using Twitter to drive traffic to your site or a blog to provide rich information.
With those in place, the vehicle will get the non-profit to where it needs to go.
This post was originally published on January 25, 2010 in the Lexington Herald Leader.
NOTE: I recently realized that this column was not on my blog when I went to share this with someone. I know the events mentioned are stale at this point, but the points are still valid.
breach crisis communications

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Cyber moves fast. Keep updated. Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team to keep you cyber safe.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Share This