Nonprofit Public Relations: The Do’s and Don’ts

Screen Shot 2013-02-11 at 9.41.45 AMThe more I delve into the world of nonprofit and environmental organizations, the more I notice how the field all too often puts public relations on the back burner. What should nonprofits be doing to keep their PR alive? I did a bit of digging in Nonprofit Management & Leadership for a public relations class and stumbled across the following article:

Kelly, K. (2000). Managing public relations for nonprofits. Nonprofit Management & Leadership, 11 (1), 87-95.

Noticing how nonprofits fail to pay enough attention to PR, Kelly compares two different texts, Jason Salzman’s Making the news: A Guide for Nonprofits and Activists and Janel M. Radtke’s Strategic Communications for Nonprofit Organizations, to find the do’s and don’ts of nonprofit PR.

Do use the media to get people’s attention. Getting people to notice your nonprofit doesn’t distract from your work – it highlights it. No one ever looked at an organization and said it has too good of a relationship with the public.

Don’t blindly try and get the media’s attention. Whoever said there’s no such thing as bad publicity was certainly mistaken. Journalists can make or break your nonprofit, so think strategically (and ethically) before giving them a call.

Do set objectives. This is emphasized over and over again…for good reason.  If you don’t know what you want out of a campaign, then you’ll have no way of tailoring it for those specific needs; without knowing where you want to end up, how are you supposed to know how to get there?

Don’t set objectives that you can’t follow up on. In PR we love talking numbers, and your objectives are no exception ­– objectives should be verifiable and based on product not process. Being vague might be easy and appealing, but when it comes to objectives specificity is key.

Do maintain your nonprofit’s integrity. One of the main reasons nonprofits don’t pay attention to PR is for fear of distracting from “doing the real work” – but that doesn’t have to be the case. Inform the public of who you are and what you’re doing…without being a sellout.

Kelly uses the article to highlight key factors in both the theory and practice of nonprofit public relations, and I hope to use all of her do’s and don’ts in my own future in the public relations field.

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