Charity volunteers preparing bags of essential items (photo: Joel Muniz/Unsplash)
There are more charities in England and Wales today than ever before – just over 169,000 in fact. Some have an in-house PR team, some just rely on a part-time comms person.
But, whatever the size of your charity you need good public relations as much as you need generous public donations.
Here are three reasons why your charity needs PR expertise:
Charities do good, but they’re not immune to the bad. Every organisation, whether large or small, will have at some time in the past or will in the future face a crisis.
Here are some examples of the types of crises that can hit a charity:
Sexual misconduct or abuse.
Financial misconduct or theft.
Safeguarding issues adults and children.
Staffing issues such as Non-Disclosure Agreements.
Not being prepared is not an option. When a negative story about you is published online can be seen by potentially thousands or millions of people and it can cause great damage.
Ask yourself: do we have a clear, written plan for dealing with communication if a crisis like this develops?
Some people think that a crisis will ride itself out, or by ignoring it’ll go away but that’s never the case and often it just gets worse. However there may be times to be more proactive or reactive or to be restrained and cautious and you need to know how to judge this too.
‘Effective PR is about being in at the take-off and not just at the crash landing.’ Carol Rennard.
Robust PR support can assist you in avoiding being caught on the back foot, advising and supporting you as you identify potential risks and limit the fallout to a crisis. In the long term, a good response to a crisis can be an opportunity to build your brand equity and position your charity more positively in the minds of those you are looking to engage.
During the coronavirus pandemic, many charities have had to scale down their staff and are struggling to deliver services on slashed budgets.
A good PR expert will be your eyes and ears, looking out for potential threats to your charity’s reputation and opportunities for you to speak into the current news agenda, positioning your brand as a thought leader. This will be internally within your organisation (e.g. the substance or nuance of your campaign or product strategies you’re developing, before they go live), as well as externally (e.g. monitoring relevant mainstream press and social media stories and trends).
But even if you only have one person or a very small team covering your PR, you should play to your strengths. It’s likely that you’ll have a smaller hierarchy than bigger charities so use that advantage to make quicker decisions. Look out for opportunities to piggyback on breaking news.
Your marketing and fundraising efforts can be boosted by good PR. In a recent example, Jersey Road PR worked with a client to develop a PR strategy for one of their major campaigns. From the resulting PR-led news coverage, a donor gave £5,000 to the charity.
As well as raising funds, albeit indirectly, PR experts can also help raise positive awareness of your charity’s mission or a campaign or cause. At the heart of this – and the whole of PR – is storytelling.
Telling stories about the positive impact your charity has made on people, with a strong emotional connection to readers and viewers is priceless. But finding and refining the stories, as well as pitching to the right journalists or influencers in the right ways, is a skill which PR experts excel at. It’s what we do.
Written by Andrew Horton, Head of Content, Jersey Road PR.
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