In this age of information clutter, the concept of marketing communications for nonprofits seems all too sales-centric and too fuelled by money. Many nonprofits struggle with this concept, asking themselves “Is it too slimy to apply?”
Branding for nonprofits can be a challenge. All we want to do is focus on “doing good” and the last thing we want to worry about is our brand and voice. We are not selling anything so why worry about it?
As much as we would like to deny, the nonprofit market is saturated. With today’s superbly competitive fundraising environment, nonprofits are selling something. They are selling their mission, convincing those with resources to choose them over another deserving nonprofit. It is precisely this that makes communications all the more important to help you to effectively promote your cause.
Naturally, we, as a sector, don’t like talking about competition and certainly not about fundraising as sales. But, if we are going to survive the challenges facing the nonprofit sector, we have to admit that marketing and sales are essentially the same as communications and fundraising. We’re operating our business in a tough world, folks and we’ve got to prepare for the battle.
Brand Building for your Nonprofit
The onslaught of the digital age has put us all on a new footing. As the media environment buckles and shifts, as new forms of technology emerge and mutate, the business, ethical and creative challenges in communications are formidable. How do we connect with audiences who feel there is too much to take in and do anything about when everyone can have a channel with tools that are readily available, cheap and easy to use?
The fact remains: nonprofits have valuable assets to deploy in the digital environment – knowledge and content, trust and brand. They are becoming news and information providers, linking directly to their audiences, building social networks and partnering with different stakeholders.
The Key to Winning
If we continue to get smart together and reinvent our nonprofit organizations to that of communicating organizations, then each of us, in our own way, can help determine the shape of things to come. The key to success is thinking strategically and communicating clearly to stay ahead of your competition.
1. The Early Days of Battle – build your identity and spread your story
Fortify your brand image, communicate who you are and what you stand for, to stand out from the crowd; inspire people and connect with them to amplify your journey towards success.
Update your website and social media pages regularly, convey your BIG Story at community events; send thank you letters; and weave aspects of your BIG Story into your appeal tactics to remind people why they love your organisation.
2. Create a Strong Web of Alliances – focus on your targets
Each organization is fighting for its share of donors and supporters. You must find out what is really important to them. Success stories must connect emotionally and the call to action must be distinct.
Put a face to the problem. Use succinct and compelling messages to highlight your cause, stress the urgency of giving now, why they matter and why you need them. Always keep them engaged and be consistent but different!
3. Tactical Manoeuvring – explore all outlets of communication
Now that you know what you want to say and why, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to broadcast your message. No matter the outlet, there should be a common thread or theme that pulls all of your communication efforts together that embeds itself at the heart of your cause.
Utilize traditional and social media to communicate with your stakeholders. Once you’ve exhausted traditional media, focus on a select few by planning media-free communication activities, such as wall magazines, social dramas and targeted awareness drives.
Just like a battlefield, nonprofit communications should be about achieving change with minimal resources employed. But with the aim of creating social change, at the heart of nonprofit communications lie transparency, consistency and sincerity. So, never plan for a single shot; think of a series of continuous communication activities which should be tied together as part of a comprehensive strategy. That’s the formula to winning the hearts and minds of millions all over the world.
Posted by Stephanie Robert, Advocate(PR), CorpMedia
We’ve found there are six main reasons why PR practitioners and businesses avoid using images as part of their communications.
We thought we’d suggest solutions to these problems so you can start creating more vibrantly eye-catching and interesting content.
“Our product is boring. I don’t think it would be a good subject for an interesting picture.”
All the more reason you should use creative images to enliven your communications. Think of Innocent Drinks. Their product is not unique, but their social media content is awash with images that are unrelated to their product but fit with the quirky image they’re trying to give their brand’s personality.
However, if you don’t think this would work for your brand then you should consider thinking about how you can create an emotive or humorous image in some way connected to your product. Look at this humorous example for Webroot Internet Security.
Another tip is to write down your headline. What first comes to your mind when you read it? Have you used a metaphor? It’s often easier to match a picture to a headline than the whole story.
“Professional photographers are too expensive; I can’t afford to pay for photographs to accompany every press release I send out.”
Professional photographers might not be as expensive as you think. If you plan wisely, you can get a lot for your money.
Rather than hiring a photographer on an individual campaign basis, consider making a list of all the campaign activities you will have in upcoming months so you can think about the images you might like to accompany your documents.
It is much cheaper to hire a photographer for a whole day and take a wide range of shots to build your photo library. This collection of photographs can then be shared with your whole team so they can have easy access to photographs when they’re creating documents and presentations.
“We’re a small company we can’t afford fancy digital cameras, never mind a photographer.”
Don’t underestimate the power of your smartphone or tablet. The number of megapixels on these devices is equivalent to the digital cameras people were investing in only a few years ago. Also the quality of apps, such as Instagram, is continually improving.
Though the images these devices produce might not be of high enough quality for printed materials, they can certainly be used across social media and in blog posts.
“I take terrible photographs; they really wouldn’t be publishable.”
There are two websites worth checking out if you would like to improve your photography.
Writer and designer Adam Dachis has put together a comprehensive guide on Lifehacker that includes a number of lessons for use with digital cameras.
Expert Photography provides a thorough Beginner’s Guide to Photography and more than 250 other articles to help you improve your skills whether you are shooting with a camera or a phone. It’s definitely worth a read.
“I can never get my photographs the way I like them. I would have to buy expensive and complicated editing software or pay someone to edit them for me.”
Photoshop is the undisputed king of photo editing. However, it’s notoriously complicated and expensive. If you don’t want to fork out a whole heap of cash there are great free alternatives.
According to PCMag.com: “Paint.net lives in an interesting space between very basic image manipulation applications like Microsoft Paint and robust big guys like Photoshop.”
Gimp.org is a credible competitor to Photoshop, and it’s free. You can combine it with Photoshop plug-ins should you feel the package is not extensive enough. Read Brighthub.com’s review for details.
If you’d still rather use Photoshop but don’t want to pay for the full package, try Photoshop Elements. It’s a basic version of the full package at a fraction of the price.
“I am unsure of copyright laws so I would rather avoid using other people’s images.”
The Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act of 1988 is notoriously complicated and extends to more than 300 sections. Therefore, you should avoid using other people’s photographs unless you are absolutely certain you are not infringing any copyrights.
When you need an image in a hurry, it’s tempting to jump onto Google Images, do a few searches, and see what catches your eye. Of course, many images will be copyrighted. To find images you can freely use, use the advanced search and tick the use rights option that says, “free to use or share, even commercially.” Even then, please credit the original photographer.
The same applies with Flickr, the world’s largest photo-sharing site. Go to the advanced search and select “Creative Commons: find content to use commercially.”
“I find the photographs on these online stock sites are often very cheesy.”
Generally, it’s worth paying for stock photography, although it’s true you have to look hard to find shots that aren’t bland, generic, or cheesy.
There’s a knack to searching on these sites. Try to think of conceptual search terms that go beyond the obvious. You might, for instance, look for metaphors from nature or perhaps the arts.
As with most things, you tend to get what you pay for. Take a look at sites such as Alamy, Shutterstock, iStockphoto, and 123RF, and find the cost/quality ratio you are comfortable with. If you want to buy photos and use them without restrictions, make sure you search for “royalty free.”
So, these are just some solutions. What do you think? Perhaps you have some of your own tricks to add. Please let us know in the comments below.
A well thought out and executed PR campaign is critical to successfully launching a product or business. Do it well and a PR program can help create awareness, drive initial sales and create lasting excitement. Do it wrong and you waste a whole lot of money, and risk damaging a product’s reputation for success.
Case in Point: Abercrombie & Fitch made the mistake of insulting their market when they attacked Jersey Shore’s “The Situation.” What’s even worse – they wanted the star of the hit reality series to stop wearing their clothes! Really! If you’ve ever walked past an A&F store, then there is no mistaking as to who shops there – cool cats and party girls, aka the MTV generation. While A&F thought they were being clever by insulting the beloved TV star, it turned out to be a huge PR disaster. A&F’s stock fell 15% as a result of the PR stunt, proving that biting off the hands that feed you is not very smart.
We all know that publicity is what a company receives when something notable happens. When the event is good, the publicity usually attracts new clients and gives the company something to brag about. On the other hand, there’s also the dreaded negative publicity. Unlike the positive feeling brought about by good publicity, negative publicity can leave the company and the public feeling badly.
Most of the time, bad publicity is unintentional. A company does something they think is positive and end up getting a bad reaction. Other times, the negative publicity comes from a competitor who makes an effort to create bad news about you or your business. When that happens, don’t fret. Take a deep breath. Know that like everything else in our lives, there are ways to turn the negativity around.
Create a response strategy
Turn a bad customer review into something positive by creating a response strategy. Whenever possible, reach out to the customer first, address the issue, and work towards an amicable solution. A bad review is a great opportunity to internalize important customer feedback and develop your business.
Tackle negative press head-on
Stay on top! Look out for trends in the bad press, so that you’re always prepared should (touch wood!), something bad happen to you or your business. Where possible, address the bad press and share your sincere attempts to remedy the issue. We all make mistakes – so own up and take responsibility. It’s what you do after the mistake that matters. Businesses that project an image of integrity and honesty are usually businesses consumers want to support.
Respond quickly but thoughtfully
When things go wrong, a day is too long. Be aware of the phenomenal speed at which information spreads, especially via social networking sites, and take quick action to counter bad publicity. For example, if there’s a glitch in the software you’re launching, don’t wait for user complaints to spread virally. Instead use online forums to alert them and explain what you are doing to address the problem. It shows customers, suppliers and other stakeholders that you are taking your responsibilities seriously and it also helps to defuse a situation before it gets too out of hand.
Don’t be afraid to counteract inaccuracies. For example, if you are aware of a Twitter campaign against you, tweet your version of the story. Contact editors if incorrect information has been published, and use your own website and social media presence to dispel misconceptions.
Easier said than done, you might say. But as PR practitioners, we know that it is essential to keep a level head in the face of a firestorm. In case of a bad online review, sometimes we need to take a step back and remind ourselves that we can’t please everyone all of the time. Take the opportunity instead to fix something that may be wrong with the business.
Launch a positive campaign
Bad PR doesn’t have to stick in everyone’s minds; it can be replaced by positive thoughts of an organization. Take action and go on a positive press campaign. Issue a press release about the good things your company is doing, for example, supporting a charitable cause. Go a step further – get your happy customers to go online and write reviews and before you know it, people will start thinking positively about your company again.
While it may seem impossible to get over negative publicity, there are ways to turn things around and manage the situation. The first step is not to panic. Figure out the source of the negativity and see if you can diffuse the situation. If it’s serious enough, you may need to consult with your legal team. Once you’ve started to quell the flames, it’s time to rebuild your image and get the public to forget. Eventually, a new scandal or interesting story will emerge that makes your bad publicity old news. Once that happens, focus on moving forward and preventing negative publicity in the future.
Posted by Irene Gomez, CIO, Corporate Media
The benefits of incorporating market research into communications strategies have been well documented, but market research deployed without well-defined goals produces little result. Fewer areas of communications have more clearly defined targets than PR: we are looking specifically for the number of press hits, positive mentions, and people influenced. With the evolving market conditions as of late, throw in customer engagement into the mix as well!
No matter the case or time in space, PR and market research are a perfect fit. Properly conducted market research can provide invaluable insights into the behaviour, knowledge, and perception of consumers, stakeholders, and external elements that influence our target markets. The results of market research, if used smartly, can be instrumental in defining new communication approaches, writing messaging and strengthening a business’ public relations.
Gathering your Crowd
Choose your target market intelligently and don’t make the mistake of merely taking a stab in the dark and aiming for quantity over quality. By conducting well thought out research into consumer lifestyles, preferences, habits and behaviours (this list is not exhaustive and can be even more detailed or meticulous – the more refined, the better) to ascertain the right target market for your service or product, a good portion of your battle is won.
Once this first step is accomplished, it would then be easier to suss out customer sensitivities as well. With the business arena being the global place that it is today, more thought and attention has to be given to cultural and societal preferences. This has to be taken note of even within the same country, and even more so if the country is a boiling pot of cultures which is pretty much the most nations in the world these days! To be mindful of your customers, both as individuals and as a community at large, would be to assure the effectiveness and stronghold of your PR campaign.
Manipulating your Market
Just as important is to study what the market you intend to dabble in is missing. Identify businesses similar to your own and investigate the strategies they have implemented. This would not be an easy step because, needless to say, competitors would not readily dish out their secrets! So a lot of independent analysis, observation and in depth studies would be involved. Even so, information you have gathered may not be the most accurate! However, this step should still not be taken for granted. Based on the market needs and what you have learnt from this form of research, you can now consider how you can fill the missing links – providing a formative step on determining the basis of your own PR campaign.
Thereafter, you can finally lay out your market research plan. Based on the information you found in the previous endeavours, plan organized activities that are designed to get more specific information that you would require to make your PR campaign as effective and engaging as possible. Read up on existing published information, interview current customers or analyze consumer behaviour in relation to the market you are going to pursue. For instance, if you have discovered that customers are missing a sense of personal relationships and finesse in your industry, you might organize a focus group or survey, or perhaps even both in tandem for a more thorough analysis, to learn more.
It is important to remember that research is cyclical and required not just before launching a PR campaign. It is just as crucial to follow up. Given the power shift from the media being transferred onto the customers, privy is now placed on customer engagement. Research has to be done to gauge and determine audience reception, through means of evaluating responses via surveys or interviews or market returns, and the inherent effectiveness of the PR campaign’s intended outcome. This form of research could be one of the hardest as effectiveness has many variables and seeking response from your audience could prove difficult as well. However, it is worth putting in effort at this stage just when it seems all your hard work is done because from there, the necessary steps can be taken to ensure that the PR campaign is working as intended. And if not, amendments or improvements can be made to achieve the desired outcome and reach greater heights.
By Yasmin Md Basir, PR Associate @ Corporate Media Services
When I first started working in this office 3 months ago, I barely understood what the term “public relations” meant. I had no background in communications and only had a slight idea it involved writing – eg, press releases and articles. I knew that unlike advertising, public relations isn’t “selling” anything.
So what is PR, exactly? According to Wikipedia, it is “the practice of managing the flow of information between an individual or an organization and the public”. Essentially, public relations is a management tool – for building credibility and allowing companies to evaluate public attitudes, identifying the public’s interest or concern. In times of crisis, PR is used to explain, defend, promote or reveal corporate policies to specific audiences so that these audiences can fully understand what the organisation has to say.
With the internet today, just like everything else – public relations is constantly evolving. Traditional media is being replaced in favour of social media, and why not? It really is having the world at your fingertips, provided your mobile data plan allows for it.
Advertising and public relations are both forms of communications. But there are several key differences between them.
|The company pays for ad space and time.||Coverage in media is not paid for.|
|Complete control of what goes into the ad.||Little or no control over your information is presented, if the media decides to use your info at all.|
|Since you pay for the space, you can run your ads over and over for as long as your budget allows.||You can only submit a press release about a new product/news conference once.|
|These days, consumers know when they’re reading an advertisement they’re trying to be sold a product or service.||When a consumer reads a third-party article written about your product or views coverage of your event on TV, they’re seeing something you didn’t pay for with ad dollars and view it differently than they do paid advertising.|
|Often appears less credible because viewers, readers and listeners are aware if it comes from an unbiased source.||Public relations-based publicity is usually more credible with an audience as it comes via independent media.|
Additionally, public relations costs less than advertising. PR involves a mix of promoting specific products, services and events, and promoting the overall brand of an organization, which is an ongoing task. Individual advertisements are sometimes based on a brand but are more often based on a specific promotional message such as a price cut or the launch of a new product.
Do you work in advertising or public relations? Let us know what you think – leave a comment!
By Natasha Samat, PR Associate @ Corporate Media Services
Advertising and public relations are important marketing tools; knowing the difference can help businesses reach their target market and achieve their objectives.
Advertising and public relations can be exceptionally good at reaching the masses and helping a brand or organisation get the word out. However, before you dive into any advertising or PR campaign, make sure you know enough of each industry’s strengths and weaknesses. Often times, these two industries, although entirely different, are commonly confused as being one and the same.
Considering all the time and energy that has gone into pitching everything under the sun from razor blades, washing detergent and even medical supplies, you would think someone would have answered the age-old question by now – Which is better, advertising or public relations? The answer is entirely dependent on what you want to achieve. Advertising and PR have decidedly different benefits, and each contributes differently to your company’s communication goals.
Some useful tips to help you which way to go:
1. Review your Budget: A large portion of the budget for an advertising campaign will be spent on ad space. Ad agencies also charge for concept development, copywriting and creative work such as graphic design, filming and editing. On the other hand, a PR agency works to gain free publicity for its client. A PR campaign budget usually goes towards the creation of a compelling story through media pitches, press releases and events and ongoing media liaison.
2. Creative Control: Ad space is paid for and with the help of an ad agency, companies can take the wheel to maintain full control of an ad’s content and exactly when and where it will appear. With public relations, once a media release or pitch is distributed, PR agencies are limited in the amount of control they have over the way media outlets use the information or if they choose to use it at all. Even the best media release can be bumped off for a bigger story. However, a PR professional can help you navigate through the white noise of news and get your story heard.
3. Media Exposure: Big budgets allow companies to run ads for as long as they wish. The downside is that seeing the same ad can become repetitive and ineffective, as consumers do not stand to gain any new information. A media release, on the other hand, can be distributed to many different media outlets. Although news has a relatively short shelf life, it is possible for a media release to sit an editor’s file until it can form part of a bigger story. The key takeaway is that consumers may see the same product or service in different context over a period of time.
4. Reaching your target audience: Consumers know when they’re reading an ad that they are being sold a product or service. It’s very rare for people to actively seek out ads unless they are looking for something in particular. From a PR standpoint, a story covered about a service or product carries more credibility. If presented correctly and in an informative medium, people are more likely to take notice of a company’s key messages, even if it’s only on a subconscious level.
5. Content Style: Advertising campaigns rely heavily on creativity, catchy slogans and eye catching graphics to attract consumers’ attention while PR campaigns require a nose for news. With a comprehensive understanding of the media, PR agencies exercise creativity by crafting captivating, factually correct stories that educate readers about a product, service or company.
Executing Your Campaign
Compared to advertising, public relations is a more subtle, disciplined approach with the aim of influencing public opinion and behaviour. It is the foundation that builds name recognition and brand trust. With it, future advertising can succeed to greater heights. Think of your promotional campaign as a pyramid:
Making that Sale!
Raising Brand Awareness
Advertising and Promotion Campaign
Public Relations Public Relations Public Relations
An advertising or public relations campaign doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive. They can and should be used in conjunction with one another to help spread the word about your product or service further.
With proper planning and precise execution, you’ll have no problem in achieving sustained media presence, building credibility and making that sale!
Cecelia Haddad, Evoke PR Network
In the world of news there are a multitude of sins that can have an adverse effect on the person being interviewed and/or the organisation they represent. Some sins are worse than others but regardless they will all lead to a bad experience that could leave a reputation in tatters.
Below are seven of the most deadly of all sins when it comes to television interviews.
1. Sloth – The avoidance of any work
Going into an interview without any research on the journalist, the program or who watches it. It’s like kicking a goal and having no idea where the post is. We’ve seen it before unfortunately… The interviewee says little of interest to the audience or has lost them through jargon and irrelevant information.
Penance: Do (or delegate someone else to) research past programs, watch a few, get an idea of the host’s tone and that of the program, then formulate your messages accordingly.
2. Gluttony – Overindulgence
This takes the form of going on and on about yourself and/or your organisation without consideration for what the audience might be interested in.
Penance: Find a medium between what you want to say and how it is relevant to the audience watching. Give the audience something over and above product/service information that will leave them feeling informed.
3. Wrath – Anger and/or uncontrolled feelings of hatred
Getting heated in an interview – no matter how hostile the question – is a really bad look – it says ‘guilty’, ‘defensive’ and nothing good about your personality for the audience to relate to.
Penance: Develop and practice answers to the questions you don’t want to be asked. If you are prepared well enough, then you will be in control when the tough questions are asked.
4. Envy – Resentment of what others have
This is slamming the competition and being negative about what others are doing. Penance: Practice talking about your strengths and how you are different from others without the need to point out their flaws.
5. Lust – An inordinate craving for the pleasures of the body
You want your 15 minutes of fame and you don’t care how you get it – so you call yourself an expert when the truth is you aren’t an expert at all. You get asked a question you have no idea about but you answer it anyway.
Penance: Only agree to speak about what you know and let the journalist know your areas of expertise in advance. If during an interview, you are asked something you don’t know, then be honest and tell the journalist exactly that.
6. Greed – Desire for material wealth
You have just forgotten the rule of PR, which is to ‘make aware or inform’ not sell. You are so caught up with your sales spiel you didn’t realise that the journalist and the audience has just switched off and you will most likely never be invited back to be a guest.
Penance: Develop a conversational language style which allows you to talk with your audience not at them.
7. Pride – Excessive belief in one’s own abilities
The original and most serious sin of all. It is the belief that you are so good at what you do that you don’t need any help. You may know your topic but if you have not had extensive experience or training in being interviewed you could do irreparable damage to yourself and your organisation.
Penance: Get professional media training. Don’t ask your work colleagues to do it they will be too scared to tell you the truth. Get outside help and do it BEFORE you do the interview.
About our Guest Blogger, Cecelia Haddad, Evoke PR Network
Cecelia is a partner of the Evoke PR Network. She has been in PR and Marketing for over 20 years. Cecelia has worked with some of the most recognized brands in Australia and her expertise lies in developing a long term vision and strategy for clients with an inherent consideration to meeting overarching business objectives. She is currently Chair of the Registered Consultancies Group (NSW) which is part of the Public Relations Institute of Australia. For more information, check out www.evokepr.com. *This article first appeared on www.evokepr.com/blog