Today’s B2B and B2C public relations firms take special pride in projects that allow them to do well and “do good.” This is particularly true when a team works for a nonprofit that is tackling a persistent social problem or seeking the cure for a disease. Most would think this work would be easy; who can say no to a group offering food for the hungry or helping defeat cancer? But the fight for philanthropic share of voice is a fierce one, so smart strategies and tactics are needed.
Numbers tell the story. Just like seasoned corporations and tech start-ups, nonprofits need to illustrate their story with compelling data that demonstrates the results of their efforts. For our client the NHP Foundation, a provider of affordable housing and resident services, this translates into specifics like how many housing units a new acquisition provides or how much money is going into renovating an existing development. These kind of stats can paint an irresistible picture for a journalist looking to tell a great story with social impact.
Partner with like-minded organizations. There are many opportunities to join forces with similarly missioned but non-competitive groups to help spread an organization’s message. For example, on behalf of a wearable pain device client, we sought a partnership with the quasi-medical organization the NY Society For Pain Management and sponsored a successful panel discussion focused on the opiate addiction crisis. We have also formed editorial partnerships with organizations like Kaiser Health, which does in-depth health reporting. Most recently we began exploring a relationship between affordable housing client the NHP Foundation and the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, the nonpartisan nonprofit devoted to immersive journalism about economic struggle, founded by author and social activist Barbara Ehrenreich, who is devoted to creating content to spread awareness about inequality in America.
Work with an exec who “gets it.” Many in the nonprofit world wear several hats and find themselves adding PR liaison to the bottom of a long list of tasks. Work with that individual to make it easy for them to provide story fodder, access to execs, data and simple brainstorming. These individuals often hold the key to great untold stories, if you can find the best way to work with them to facilitate. Crack the code on that and you will find yourself with a wealth of PR opportunities for any nonprofit.
Attract boldfaced names if you can. But don’t count on their involvement as a sure thing or a task they will take on, gratis. Celebrities and influencers are bombarded by requests to speak on behalf of great causes every day. So, while their stamp of approval may go a long way to engage a potential donor base, their impact may also be diluted by having their likeness attached to several different organizations or brands. Often it works best to begin by offering support to a cause that your “dream” celebrity is already involved with and work to seed and nurture a relationship before seeking a formalized spokesperson arrangement.
Leverage leadership expertise. The top nonprofits are run the same way as top for-profit businesses, with smart management and efficient systems, but often much tighter budgets. The CEO of a well-run nonprofit is therefore in an ideal situation to impart thought leadership via bylines, conferences and positions on panels – not just in the philanthropic world, but more importantly, outside of their industry. The creative PR strategist will find these kinds of opportunities for nonprofit leaders opening new doors for potential media, donors and partners.