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Salsa Blog

PR for Nonprofits: Back to Basics

by Leah Wilkinson, co-founder, WilkinsonShein (WS)

“If I was down to the last dollar of my marketing budget I’d spend it on PR.” - Bill Gates

Given the challenges that nonprofits face – staffing, budget, resources – it is no wonder that public relations (PR) is often relegated to the back burner or even worse, not leveraged at all. After nearly 20 years in PR, this reality makes me want to cry (and I am not an overly emotional person), as effective PR can accomplish so much with so little. So, this summer I am excited to share my thoughts, ramblings, tips and tricks in a three-part blog series to help nonprofits put PR to work and start reaping the rewards. This first post will cover the basics, a brief primer on PR for newbies and a refresher for the veterans (sometimes we all need to get back to basics). In future posts, I’ll also share some of the resources that can make your life a bit easier when it comes to making the most of PR and in my final post I’ll pontificate on one of my favorite topics…social media.

Let’s get started. Despite what many of us communications folks learned in college (throughout hours and hours of lectures…ugh) most PR is not about crisis communications or promoting a household brand (I still can’t get the case study on promoting Colgate out of my head). At its base, PR is about communicating your message to the people who are most likely to communicate it to the audience you most care about. Pretty straightforward, right? PR isn’t rocket science, but it is knowing what to say, how to say it and to whom you want it said.

So what is PR not? PR is not advertising; it’s not advertorials or direct mail or any outreach that you have to pay to place. One of my favorite axioms pretty clearly sums up the difference between advertising and PR: Advertising is what you pay for. PR is what you pray for.

PR can be an elegant use of messaging and tools all designed to reach your audience. But before you get started communicating, you must first determine who you want to reach. Who is the audience that can most positively impact your organization? Next, develop the message/messaging that will best resonate with that audience (for example: should your messaging be formal, casual, quantifiable data, emotional, etc.). Once you’ve tackled those two – audience and message – the research begins. If you don’t already know the reporters, bloggers, influencers who are writing and talking about your organization and its issues (don’t panic – most people don’t know or only know a few), then you need to put on your research hat to identify and develop a list of them. I’ll address some tools and resources to help make this easier and less time consuming in my next post. Once the list is complete, you can put it to work!

There are a variety of tools and tactics that we PR professionals use to communicate our client’s or organization’s message to the media and the broader target audience. They include:

Press releases
Media Advisories
Social Media Content
Email Pitches Phone Pitches
Issue Statements
Speaking Opportunities
Analyst Reports
Media Training
and more!

So there you go…this is what PR is all about. Message. Audience. Communicate! PR is a great way to get your message out, don’t miss the opportunity to put it to work for you.

Until next time…here is a fun infographic of The Evolution of Public Relations.


Topics: Strategy