public relations for non profit organizations

I was recently asked to help a non profit organization create a public relations action plan that they could implement on their own without the use of a PR firm.

Here’s what we did.

There are 2 distinct stages to creating a public relations action plan

  1. setting the groundwork and
  2. executing the plan

 

Stage 1 – Setting the Groundwork

There are 7 steps to building the foundation to your public relations action plan. Do not skip any step or do it only halfway. All of the organization’s leaders need to be involved in this stage in order to come to an unambiguous foundation to build on. I suggest a meeting dedicated to this one task.

1.Who Are You Talking To?
First, define who your end audience is, that is to say who the press will be talking to on your behalf. This will help guide the way you personalize your message. In the case of the non profit organization that I developed the plan for it was two fold: (a) the current members and (b) the members of the general public. The messages they send out to both groups isn’t always the same.

2. What’s Your Message?
Establish the message that you’re trying to disseminate. I know it sounds counter intuitive but don’t talk about your non profit organization, talk about what it does for the community. Your message should serve the needs of your audience…not your non profit organization.

3.Define Your Goal
Define the goal for your public relations efforts. What are you expecting to happen, what will your organization gain? New members? Stronger community ties?

4.Define Your Method
How will you connect with your audience? Press releases aren’t enough, you need to also consider (a) holding open houses for the press to let them meet your organization members and learn more about you, (b) press conferences to make major announcements, maybe even (c) set-up a YouTube channel and start creating video content to get your message out. Plus, it goes without saying that you’ll need to have a website.

5.Assemble Your Press Kit
It doesn’t matter what kind of public relations you’re doing you must have a digital press kit, with high resolution photographs (300dpi) of the leaders of your group and/or your group doing their activity along with documents that explain your organization and its mission. This will need to be on hand to give out at a moments notice. I would also suggest having hard copies of your press kit to hand out but in todays digital age you will use them less often.

6.Who Are Your Media Contacts
Create a list of all the media contacts relevant to your message (print, TV and radio), in your geographic region. These can be purchased. Keep this list updated and refined. For example, if your non profit organization is dedicated to classic cars, don’t include a contact for a local cooking TV show. Also, if one of your media contacts leaves find out who has replaced them and if phone numbers or email addresses change update your info. There’s nothing worse than a list that’s gone “stale” when you have something to announce. Keep your list fresh.

7.Assign A Contact Person
Once you have established the above you’ll need to assign someone responsible for directly interacting with the media. They will need to be available for any media inquiries especially after a press release has been sent out, to co-ordinate interviews between the media and your group’s spokesperson and to set-up and host a press conference. When they are not available a back-up contact person should be assigned. Always keep the back-up contact person up to date.

 

Stage 2 – Putting the Action in your Action Plan

Once all of the above is in place, your contact person will need to reach out to everybody on the list to introduce themselves and your non profit organization in as brief a way as possible. Depending on the size of your list it may take a few weeks of phone calls and/or face-to-face meetings. Remember, first impressions are the lasting impressions when it comes to public relations.

Create a 12-month schedule of important dates for your organization that you want your audience to be aware of and plan events and/or announcements around those times. Do you do an annual oyster party…food drive? Put it on the calendar. Are you planning an open house? Put it on the calendar. Note: don’t put more on your calendar than your contact person will have time to dedicate to especially if they’re a volunteer or do this part time.

You’ll know your public relations action plan is working when the press call you for a quote on something going on in the news.

Plan a meeting to re-examine your public relations action plan and make any necessary adjustments once every 12-months.

Bottom Line
Before you can ask the media to do something for you, you need to be able to provide something for them…to become a resource for information relevant to their readers, viewers and listeners.

Be useful, be timely, be professional and you will receive the attention that your non profit organization deserves.

I look forward to answering your questions and comments below.

 

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