What Should a PR Strategy for a Charity Contain?

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Most charities’ PR and Marketing spend is limited, and there is only that much budget they can allocate to bringing specialised support on board to help them.

However, what most charities should have is a structure of a PR Strategy on which they can build and feed into according to the various activities they undertake.

Below, tried and tested with several charities I worked in the past, is the structure I would recommend be followed:

1. Strategy Rationale:

Here, you need to explain what this strategy is all about and, mostly, what it is you are trying to achieve. For instance, and this is just an example, you should say that while there are several (or not) charities dealing with ABC, there are very few who deal with A1B1C1 because of XYZ. However, do not lie; every charity has a Unique Selling Proposition – find what yours is. Keep it simple.

2. Strategy Components:

Below is a non-exhaustive list of what one of the charities I worked for needed. Your charity may need them, too or it may need different ones:

a) Increase its public visibility

b) Build upon its social enterprise model

c) Attract more volunteers

d) Reach out to a significant number of XXX / at risk of becoming XXX

e) Expand its donors’ pool

f) Improve its relation with the authorities – local councils and Boroughs

g) Build an increasing number of partnerships – reciprocal representation with other charities

h) Attract free media coverage

i) Improve its stakeholder communication: donors, charities, governmental authorities, volunteers, general public, media

j) Identifying a relevant slogan / motto and embedding it in all its communication

k) Issuing meaningful and news containing “Newsletters”

3. Strategy Steps/Tactics

Here, you have to do just that. Where do you start and what do you start with? What are your first steps?

You need to identify first your target groups, research their engagement pattern carefully, then you need to refine your target groups’ messages and identify the channels and tools/techniques you should use in targeting them. Start small and end big – measure your impact and activity every step of the way, then refine what didn’t go as well as you expected, and make it better. Remember, a PR Workplan is a work in progress from the moment it starts, and it needs constant revisiting.

4. Outputs and Outcomes

The outputs and outcomes of your strategy should always be dictated by your objective, never the other way round. What is it that you want to achieve and why? The “want to achieve” will provide you with a clear target, the “why to achieve it” will be the actual organisational impact that your strategy should have (providing, of course, that they are both realistic).

Below, again, is a very small sample of an actual strategy and its outputs and outcomes – yours may be very different:

Positive feedback from donors • Increase in number of XX / at risk of becoming XX using YYY services • Increase in the number of volunteers • Increase in the number of YYY’s paying customers • Increase in the number of partner charities • Increase in the number of donors • Establishing YYY as the no. 1 success story of a public / private / third sector partnership

5. Public Visibility / Awareness

Given that the PR campaign funds available to charities do not always take priority and are, in most cases, substantially scarce, your charity’s public awareness and visibility steps may choose to focus on:

a) Use of social media b) “Word of mouth” c) Testimonials d) Newsletters e) Events f) Designated “ambassadors” g) Stakeholders h) Constant website updates i) Blogs j) Press releases k) Volunteers l) Dedicated mailing list (know your GDPR very well) m) Partnerships with other charities.

Each charity has its own engagement style, one that has to be very carefully chosen (if it hasn’t already). How you would use the a)-m) above is entirely up to you. Only you know what shape your content will have and how powerful and meaningful it can be.

If there are any of these points you want me to delve deeper into, just drop me an email, a tweet or a comment.

6. Stakeholder Communication

Apart from the detailed steps referenced in the “Public Visibility/Awareness” section above, there are several other key aspects to be considered when seeking to improve or expand the stakeholder communication, such as “the brand”.

A strong brand is invaluable as the battle for charity sponsors intensifies day by day. It’s important to spend time investing in researching, defining and building your charity’s brand. The brand is the source of a promise to the stakeholder and it is a foundation of stakeholder communication:

  • Is YYY’s image portraying what it should?
  • What is YYY’s image conveying to its stakeholders?
  • Is YYY maximising upon its value to the society?
  • Is YYY highlighting its contribution to issues of social, public, educational and national interest?

Stakeholders are different, their interests – vested or not – are different, their drivers are different and their perception is different. As such, each category of stakeholders, as mentioned before, needs to be assessed and dealt with after having carefully performed their:

  • Identification – who they actually are
  • Classification – are they small, medium or big?
  • Analysis – how important they are for YYY
  • Impact – how can they impact YYY and its activity ?
  • Engagement – how they can be engaged with YYY
  • Motivation – what would motivate them to engage with YYY
  • Resilience – what makes them resilient to engagement and how this can be overcome

Many of the suggestions above apply to a variety of organisational PR strategies, not just to charities. These simple steps should help you, regardless of your experience in PR or Communication to have a solid starting point in what it is you are trying to achieve.

My only advice is to never start any actions (steps/tactics) before you do your research properly. And learn from every step you take.

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