Although many charities are increasingly recognising the value of public relations there are still plenty of not-for-profits who see PR as a luxury.
The CharityComms/TPP salary survey in 2014 found one in two comms and marketing professionals felt their role had become more valued in the last 12 months – a distinct improvement on the results of our research several years ago, in which more than a third of PR and communications staff said their skills and work weren’t appreciated by their organisation.
But there’s still work to be done to demonstrate the value of public relations. PR professionals must educate and inform their organisations about what PR is, what it does and how it’s integral to operational success.
You must help colleagues, managers and trustees realise the strategic value of what you do.
PR’s role in managing risk
Setting PR in terms of mitigating risk and managing reputation will help managers see its value.
Credibility and trustworthiness help secure funding and support – and greatly reduce the chances of negative publicity should you, or the sector you operate in, face a reputational crisis.
Managers may have carried out risk assessments to handle the physical aspects of a crisis, but if they haven’t involved public relations as part of the planning, your reputation is vulnerable.
Be proactive and create a reputation management strategy. It will demand the attention and involvement of the senior team and will show how PR fits into their wider organisational risk plans.
When budgets are tight in a crowded charity marketplace, the case for PR strengthens.
Communicating who you are, what you do and what you stand for is crucial in terms of awareness, securing funding, partnership opportunities and ultimately your ability to serve the people who rely on you.
Demonstrate your effectiveness as a communicator and present these implications to your colleagues. Show evidence from a time you were the root of an initial conversation with a partner or major donor. Track where people heard about you and use the data to justify your worth.
Make it real
Facts and figures can only do so much. It’s important to win hearts as well as minds. It’s a PR professional’s job to connect senior management teams and beneficiaries.
You can do this through a face-to-face event or through storytelling. Your senior team may find it easy to overlook what you do day in day out, but they will have a harder job ignoring compelling, engaging stories of struggle and success, both for your internal audiences and for the wider media. Getting them on board can be made simpler by making them part of those stories – by including them as experts and respected spokespeople.
Remember you’re looking for outcomes not outputs – you want to demonstrate the changes your work brought about, not just what you did.