PR Realities All Charities Must Face

PR Realities All Charities Must Face

There’s a reason many nonprofits consistently fail to meet fundraising goals, see falling membership in volunteer teams and feel like they’re constantly, desperately trying to get attention and commitment from potential donors. They simply don’t understand how to connect. They don’t “get” public relations, and they interact with people from a position of need and want, rather than a shared message of collective success.

But how do you communicate that message once you develop it? In many cases, charities spend a ton of time, effort, and cash trying to hit the ball out of the park. They want the “big” mention in the “big” story on the national news. That’s awesome when you can get it, of course, but it should not be the consistent goal or the ultimate goal. That should be a byproduct of a more nuanced and developed media plan.

In all the media stories printed or aired in 2015, the big orgs only earned 93 mentions in the national news and prominent pubs and multimedia outlets such as NPR, the New York Times and Bloomberg (source: Mediamarks). Think about that, only 93 mentions. Now consider the amount of cash and time it took to earn those mentions and think about the actual return they generate.

Worse the vast majority of those mentions were only to fluff out a piece or give it more gravitas or meaning. The stories weren’t about the orgs, they were only cursory content next to the “real” story.

That’s not to say landing those mentions isn’t good. It’s amazing, and it’s something that should be worked toward, but expect about a ten percent success rate, and don’t put all your eggs in this basket.

So let’s stop talking about that plan and take a look at an example of how to spread it around. Remember, this is just a thumbnail sketch, not the ideal program for your organization. For that, you need to sit down with a nonprofit PR pro and set that up.

Most media exposure for charities still comes in the newspaper, believe it or not. It’s true. Nearly half of those previous media mentions came in print, with a strong showing also from wire services such as the Associated Press.

Online media is gaining ground, and it’s gaining ground quickly. To date, though, most of the online mentions are found in and around social media, and most of these are not original content, they are “shares” of original content from another online or print source. That’s not to say original content for social media and the ‘net is a “bad” idea. Far from it, actually, but you need to count the cost and budget for ROI.

In the end, the big mistake in all of this is a combination of wrong approach and baseless assumption. They do what they see other people doing, or they try what’s worked in the past. These choices do not replace effective research and planning. In the long run, it’s always better to spend up front for good information than it is to guess and then invest.