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PR for Nonprofits: Four Tips for Driving Value from Public Relations

At NST, we’ve had an opportunity to work with a number of nonprofit and community organizations throughout our more than 47 years in business. Our agency has been fortunate enough to support several leading mission-driven organizations, including the American Red Cross, the California Association of Food Banks, Challenged Athletes Foundation, Community HousingWorks, Ronald McDonald House Charities of San Diego, the San Diego Human Society, and the United Way of San Diego County, to name a few.

I’ve had a chance to connect with leaders of several outstanding organizations throughout my career on behalf of my clients, at networking and industry events, and, most recently, as a member of the LEAD Impact Class of 2021. I’m often asked by those working in the nonprofit sector how a firm like NST can help or when it’s the right time to consider a PR strategy. It’s in these conversations that we usually hear about the desire for more press coverage and how media is viewed as a magic bullet.

Sure, a feature in The San Diego Union-Tribune or a segment on the evening news can help increase awareness of your organization and the good work you’re doing, but media relations is just one tool in the toolbox and should support a broader strategy to reach your target audiences and share your key messages.

Here are four key elements of a successful PR strategy that can help move the needle for your organization and won’t break the bank in the process:

  1. Identify your audiences – The first step of any public relations, communications or marketing strategy is to identify your target audiences. If you haven’t clearly defined who it is you’re trying to reach, chances are you won’t be very successful in getting in front of them. Take the time to identify the ideal stakeholder or supporter for your organization and, just as importantly, where they are. Hint… ‘everyone’ and ‘everywhere’ is too broad – get specific.
  2. Assess your competitors – Whether you’re feeding the food insecure or working to get homeless youth off the streets, chances are there are other organizations with a similar mission competing for the attention and donations of your potential supporters. It’s important to have a strong understanding of who your competitors are and what they do so you can take steps to differentiate your organization from the rest or identify opportunities for collaboration toward shared objectives.
  3. Tell your story, strategically – Now that you’ve identified your target audiences and have a handle on what your competitors are doing, it’s time to find your voice and tell your story. What makes your organization different? How have you made an impact in the community? Who can help showcase those results? It’s also critically important to consider what motivates people to give their time, talent and treasure in support of mission driven organizations. Large philanthropic gifts rarely happen because of a single news story or article. Impactful gifts like that are a result of thoughtful relationship building and mining for individual donors’ passions and purpose. So, consider who you’re targeting and what their motivations are so you can use storytelling across the proper channels to share your story and solicit the type of support you’re seeking.
  4. Build meaningful connections – It’s not what you know, but who you know, right? Don’t underestimate the power of your personal and professional network when seeking to share your story with the community. A hallmark of a great PR strategy is built around making connections with the right people, be it donors, stakeholders, prospective board members, elected officials or reporters. Having the right people in your corner can go a long way.

Regardless of the organization’s mission or value proposition, nonprofit leaders face one critical question every day: how do I maximize time and resources in a way that will have the most impact and help me make the world a better place? The right PR and relationship building strategies can help highlight your mission, the important work you’re doing and build relationships with the individuals who will help fuel your success.

Interested in what a PR strategy might look like for your organization? Questions on the steps outlined above? The NST team is here to help. Give us a call today.

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