Inside the Profession

Friday Five: Giving the Gift of Public Relations

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If your holiday season was anything like mine, after Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday, your bank account is currently at an all-time low. Luckily, money isn’t the only way you can give back to groups that are near and dear to your heart. In 2016, consider giving the very valuable gift of public relations.

Nonprofits and charities face many obstacles, including:

Tiny Budgets

Think about the budgets of your campaigns at your agency or corporation, and the restrictions you face due to budgetary constraints. Throughout the year, you may have the opportunity to work with a spokesperson or well-known physician. Nonprofits rarely have the budget to do this, and if they are able to do so, it’s through a volunteer or in-kind agreement.

Lack of Staffing

While your company may have a full department of communication professionals working toward a common goal, nonprofits likely have a minuscule staff (if any) working on public relations. In the nonprofit world, everyone chips in no matter their title or role. Therefore, employees who likely don’t have any communication experience may be managing social media or writing content for blogs.

Reliance on Free Resources

When you start a new campaign, you probably work with a creative department on digital resources. You log into a media database to find out the contact information for your target journalists, and you measure your campaign success using media clipping services and social media platforms.  You probably take these valuable resources for granted. They aren’t likely in the budget for nonprofit organizations, and therefore, they must rely on free (and less accurate) resources.


Fortunately, you have the power to assist these organizations and it won’t cost you any money; rather, you can give your time and lend your  expertise. For this week’s Friday Five, I’ve outlined five ways you can help:

  1. Offer Expertise during the Planning Process

Toward the end of the year, all organizations begin to plan for the next calendar year. During this time, you can share your thoughts on how public relations can fit into advancing the organization’s mission. You can help develop a reasonable timeline for implementing strategies and give insight into the resources needed to pull it off. This will allow the organization to start the year off on the right foot and keep public relations in mind throughout the year.

  1. Share Your Resources

Remember that expensive database of journalists you take for granted? From time to time, offer to look something up when your charity of choice needs it (with your company’s approval, of course.) Better yet, if you have an established relationship with the company, reach out and ask if they’d be willing to provide their services at a discount.

  1. Act as an Agency

What’s one of the best ways to help? Act as a public relations agency for your favorite charity. Do preliminary research. Offer to write press releases, website and blog content, and compose social media posts. Handle media relations for the organization’s signature event each year. Volunteer at events and meet journalists covering that particular area. Help measure success along the way. Remember, your time is valuable.

  1. Train Staff and Other Volunteers

As the old parable wisely states, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Offer to teach staff and volunteers the basics of public relations in person or through Skype. The more they know and understand about communications, the more likely they will think with a strategic mindset.

  1. Measure & Evaluate

All good PR professionals understand the value of measurement. While a nonprofit organization’s goal may simply come down to the dollars and cents of donations, you have the ability to measure the result of communication efforts and help shape future programs.

For the past few years, I’ve had the honor of volunteering on the Communications Committee of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America’s New York Chapter. Throughout the year, several communication professionals in various roles throughout the city come together for the betterment of the organization. As a person living with ulcerative colitis, I strongly believe in the mission of the Foundation. By helping them out, I am able to give back without reaching into my wallet.

The gift of public relations cannot be measured in dollars and cents. This year, consider seeking out ways you can share your gift.

About the author

Rosanne Mottola, APR

Rosanne Mottola, APR, is public relations manager for the Public Relations Society of America. She is an adjunct professor of public relations at St. John’s University, Staten Island. Mottola obtained a master’s degree in public relations and corporate communications from New York University in 2010. You can connect with her on Twitter @RoeMoPR or on LinkedIn.

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