BY SUZANNE BOYS
Every semester, my public relations students and I work with numerous local organizations. Sometimes, those organizations are start-ups or small businesses. Most of the time, however, they are local non-profit organizations. The non-profits, without fail, have inspiring goals. They serve the homeless, the hungry, the impoverished, and the vulnerable. As I speak with the leaders of those local agencies, I am awed by their missions. They are passionate about doing good. They invest countless hours and all their resources in their mission.
However, no matter how inspired their mission, no matter how ceaseless their efforts, these organizations share a common struggle. This is a common challenge, faced by every cause-driven organization, and it boils down to two key questions. How do we inspire people to care? And once we inspire them to care, how do we inspire them to act?
Because I hear these questions frequently, I created a simple infographic (attached) to help organizations think through their connection and communication needs. If your organization is considering how to motivate the community, read on.
The first step is to assess how aware people are of your organization. Creating a positive and widely recognizable brand is key here. The second step is to strengthen your organization’s reputation. Here, it is important to assess what people think about your organization, and to communicate your organization’s unique value to the community.
Once the larger community knows about your organization and you have established a strong reputation, consider your message. Consider how clear and persuasive your message is. You might also consider if you are leveraging the right mix of communication platforms to spread your message. You might also consider extending clear invitations to act (i.e., donate, volunteer, share).
Then, after you have given the community a moving invitation to act, you should assess any impact this appeal has had on your goals. A public relations strategy is only as good as the impact it has on your primary goals. Do more people recognize your brand? Have you seen an increase in volunteers? Did you meet your fund-raising goals?
Although this is just a skim of what is involved in a strategic communication plan, I hope it gives you some idea of the process. If your start-up, small business, or non-profit organization would like to work with a group of senior public relations students to create a strategic communication plan, let me know. I would be happy to speak with you about this free community service offered by the University of Cincinnati!