Category Archives: Nonprofit PR
September is ethics month for PRSA and fittingly BUPRSSA’s first speaker of the year presented on corporate social responsibility. Last Thursday, September 18, 2014, BUPRSSA welcomed Simon Bowers, senior account supervisor at CONE Communications. Bowers gave an engaging presentation on the history of CSR in America. He explains how CSR has its beginnings in the environmental movement of the 1960s and has evolved into an important part of ethical business practices and a specialized division of the communication industry.
People want to feel good about the companies with which they do business. It’s up to businesses to implement practices that people want to support and often times it is up to communication professionals to convince businesses of the importance of CSR. From a traditional business perspective, corporate social responsibility isn’t just about pleasing customers and helping society. CSR also contributes to a company’s bottom line. Bowers referenced a study that found that people are not only more likely to trust and view positively a company that has good CSR but they are also more likely to buy from a company with good CSR. Ethical business practices not only enhance a company’s reputation but also help attract more customers.
It is up to communication professionals to help companies see the importance of building CSR into the brand and mission of a company from the beginning. It is too late to respond to a crisis after it happens and a company’s image can be tarnished forever by one incident. It will be many years before a consumer can think of BP Oil without thinking of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Images of collapsed factories in Bangladesh and injured employees are seared into consumers’ minds. Companies need to be proactive and implement sustainable, ethical practices on every level of operation to avoid crises and negative attention. Corporate social responsibility is essential to all areas of a business. CSR means transparency from management, fair wages for employees, healthy working conditions for factory workers halfway around the world and ensuring that products are safe not only for consumers but also for the environment.
The importance of CSR in today’s marketplace cannot be overestimated. Today, consumers and society itself hold businesses to a higher standard than ever before. It is time for corporations to embrace this change and take full advantage of the opportunity to do good while doing good business.
As a first year PR student I, like many others, had a pretty tough time figuring out all the different types of PR jobs there are out there. Based on the fact that my goal is to do PR for an opera company, I’ve become interested in what it means to do PR for a nonprofit organization. The first step is to understand what a nonprofit organization really is. Basically, it’s a company that puts any extra revenues towards a specific goal or purpose. This doesn’t mean that their staff isn’t paid, but any money that is more than the amount needed to be self-sufficient goes toward a specific goal. Often nonprofit organizations have a really great mission, like health or education, and need a good PR team to get the public involved with their mission.
When getting a message out there, it’s important to make it very clear to the viewer why the organization deserves their attention. Since a lot of nonprofits operate on donations from the public, it’s important to keep the public included in everything that’s going on behind the scenes. This does a few things:
- It captures the public’s attention. If they see you all over social media, you’ve got their attention and are present in their thoughts. You’ll also be increasing the word of mouth about your organization when donators talk to friends and family who could become your next donators.
- It allows the public to see what the organization is actually doing with their money. No one wants to just give away their hard earned money to a organization of empty promises, so show them that they’re making a difference. They’ll really feel that they’re making a difference with the organization’s goal!
Without a great PR team showing the public how the organization is making a difference, it’s less likely that people will donate money to help the organization reach it’s goals. It’s true that when working for a nonprofit organization your income might be less than if you worked at a multimillion dollar agency, but joining the right nonprofit can allow you work with an organization that does work you really care about, and there’s a huge benefit in that.
As I sat and listened to the introduction to our week of service, I was fascinated. For the whole week, we would be working for the Cumberland Trail Conference, and organization in Tennessee building a gigantic nature trail than spanned the width of Tennessee. Not only that, but this trail would eventually link up with other state trails to form what they had decided to name the “Great Eastern Trail”-a trail just as long as and parallel with the Appalaichian Trail.
As we worked through the week, and I spoke with our site leader on the trail, he kept saying the biggest problem the CTC faced was their difficulty in acquiring land for the trail. One factor contributing to this difficulty is very little public awareness of the project. Much of their funds are focused towards equipment and acquiring land and so they have little to no money to spend on publicity efforts.
This is a trend present in a lot of small non-profit organizations, they have little to no money, and very few ways to generate a lot of public support. The trend is cyclical, organizations have no money for publicity, and can’t generate enough public support to increase donations as a result. Large, non-profit organizations have massive donor bases and are able to allocate money specifically to public relations efforts. Most of the funding small non-profits like the CTC allocate most of their money and time towards operations.
One reason for this is these small organizations have a poor utilization of social media, probably the cheapest way to generate publicity. One glance at the Facebook page for the CTC and it is mainly just photos of work being done on the trail. The organization has no twitter handle attached to them, something that can be vital when generating public support over social media. It’s clear when speaking to members of the CTC that no one in the organization knows how to utilize social media and no one really sees the value in using it, when so much of their time is already dedicated to actually working on the trail. In one week, we built a half mile of trail, and the entire trail is hundreds of miles long. With so much time dedicated to working on the trail, who has time to conduct a Twitter campaign?
Yet the relevance of public awareness cannot be lost on these organizations. Sometimes, non-profits get so caught up in their own causes that they lose sight of how much public support can help. However, like the case of the CTC, its not that they don’t value public support, they simply are lost on how to achieve it.
There are a variety of answers to what can be done for organzations like the CTC. Social media is a cost-effective way of generating publicity, and an easy way to access a large audience. More traditional media costs more money and more time, time that could be used to work for their cause.
One simple answer? Everyone should get out and volunteer for these organizations. Not only can you help them work further towards their cause, but these organizations can open your eyes to industries you never even considered working for. I know that as I stood working on the trail, looking out across the mountains and into the valley, I was inspired to speak up for the CTC whenever I could, spreading the word to my friends as soon as I got home. Volunteering with organizations like this one can move people towards new avenues and new career paths and possibly-forgive my horrible cliché-make the world a better place.
As I watch the fast talking CJ Cregg flawlessly maneuver through a white house press conference and jump off the podium only to be bombarded with about 700 issues to deal with, I think, Why aren’t I there right now? Everyone that is reading this is probably thinking I’m crazy. I mean, why would anyone want to subject themselves to that much stress and pressure in their careers? Clearly people are interested, because political consultants and professionals are constantly filtering into Washington D.C, ready to become the next David Axelrod or Karl Rove. Or the next Josh Lyman. Where does this political fever and idealism stem from? Part of is explained by a Vanity Fair article written just about a year ago. It references the television show and speaks about how even though it’s been a good while since Aaron Sorkins political masterpiece was on television-the series finale was in 2006-individuals all around Washington continue to quote, reference, and cite the show as an inspiration of sorts. It’s true that much of the people who were in high school and college when the show was actually on air are now, as the article puts it, “have today matured into the young policy prodigies and press operatives who advise, brief, and excuse the behavior of the most powerful people in the country.”(Vanity Fair)
While I was 8 years old when the show first aired and didn’t watch the show until about a year ago, I can definitely say that it inspired me, and reinforced any doubts I had about going into the fast paced, high stress world of politics. Why? The West Wing shows that people in government PR and communications actually have the ability to make a difference in this country, more so than any other type of PR. What Josh Lyman or Sam Seaborne did in that show had real impacts on their world. What they did effected government policies, which in turn either helped or hurt the American people.
But is Sorkin’s interpretation of politics too positive, or even misleading? The new show House of Cards depicts the darker side of politics which the country seems more in tune with, where individuals deal in back rooms and only have their own self interest at heart rather than the good of the country.
Which should individuals going into politics believe? What makes other people choose to go into the political sphere? For Mike DeFilippis, President of PRSSA-who has not seen the West Wing himself-the draw of government PR comes from the fact that it is “more challenging and difficult because of the impact certain decisions have and because there are myriad groups and stakeholders involved.” He also cites a Sorkin-esque view because, in DeFilippis’ opinion, “political and government PR attracts me because it impacts real people”.
If I reflect on my own desire to get into political PR, I think the attraction comes from a melding of the Sorkin and House of Cards perspectives. I understand that self interest-which is almost present in every field and profession-is almost needed in politics for individuals to advance. But it is that self interest which drives certain individuals who have the ability to make a real impact to positions of power. I want to be the person that helps those individuals who have the ideas and the ability to make an impact advance to those positions of power, and achieve their goals of power.
Articles Referenced: Weiner, Juli. “West Wing Babies.” Vanity Fair. 4 2012: n. page. Web. 20 Feb. 2013. <http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/2012/04/aaron-sorkin-west-wing>.
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What do you think of when you hear the word culture? We are often quick to conjure up memories from our travels and the distinct tastes, smells, and landscapes of a place far from home. Or maybe, just the opposite; culture is every detail that makes your home unique and what makes it yours.
Just as each community has a unique culture, so do organizations. Corporate culture, also referred to as organizational culture, describes the collective behavior of the employees in a given organization. Behavior in the workplace can include values, attitudes, language, and norms. Even policies such as dress code and conduct can be a part of an organization’s culture.
The culture of a company can have a significant impact on your job or internship experience. It is important to learn about an organization’s culture because it will be something you deal with constantly if you chose to work there. The way people conduct their work, interact with others, and present themselves on a daily basis are all factors of corporate culture that will influence your position in an organization. If you want to have a successful and enjoyable work experience, you need to find a company whose culture you can easily adapt to.
Despite being such an influential part of the workplace, it is often an overlooked factor when students are applying for positions. Placing corporate culture among your top priorities when choosing a company to work with will ensure that you end up with a company that’s a right fit for you.
Tips for getting an idea of a company’s culture before accepting a position:
Look at the company’s social media presence.
- Facebook photos, tweets, blog posts, etc. can all be useful for gauging the atmosphere of a company
- Reading comments on these pages can provide a candid view of how the organization interacts with consumers and how they handle external opinions
Analyze the company website.
- These websites can provide important information on topics such as employee benefits, community involvement, and employee diversity.
- When meeting with a recruiter, or even in an interview, asking about the corporate culture of an organization is a great way to get insider feedback.
As you start to compile research on the corporate cultures of various organizations, start to think about what aspects of culture are most important to you. Ask any questions that will narrow down what kind of atmosphere you will work best in. Ask yourself questions such as: do I work better in groups or individually? Do I want to work in a smaller office or a larger one?
Culture is a difficult thing to quantify, but PR News put together a list of the “Top Places to Work in PR 2012.” The map below shows some of the companies with headquarters in the Northeast.