Tips to Use PR for Marketing for Your Nonprofit/Association

Public relations can be used effectively to market your association. By way of definition, both PR and marketing are external communications efforts but while PR is the art of managing information between an association and its targeted audiences; marketing focuses on activities tied directly to revenue. Specifically, association marketing refers to increasing membership, producing non-dues revenue, and attracting more participants to your events.

Here are some ways to use PR for marketing. 

Hold a telephone news briefing. With the smaller newsrooms today, reporters are covering more in the same amount of time. Gone are the days when reporters had the luxury of leaving their offices to attend a press conference. That’s why many press conferences are being replaced by telephone news briefings–a press conference held by phone. Telephone news briefings can be held before your annual meeting, when releasing a new report or survey, or in conjunction with your Capitol Hill Day. The benefit is that reporters can call in from anywhere and listen to the briefing and ask questions without leaving their desk. 
Get hometown press. Holding your Capitol Hill Day or announcing your awards recipients are activities that lend themselves to local press for your members. The media outreach for a Capitol Hill Day may be: “Susie Jones was in DC to talk to Sen. Brown about XYZ;” and for awards, “Jim Miller is the recipient of ABC National Award from 123 Association.” This is a very effective way of garnering press and clearly illustrating the value of membership. 
Promote passage/defeat of legislation. When your nonprofit works to pass or defeat a piece of legislation or regulation, make sure you promote your efforts. Let your members know how they can get involved along the way. When the passage or defeat occurs, send out a blast email immediately notifying your members. Consider sending a statement to reporters on your media lists to let them know that your organization had a part in the legislation. 
Draft articles for other related associations. Reach out to another related nonprofit and offer to write an article for one of their publications or their website or blog. You may already have an article or blog that you can dust off and recycle. When the article runs, be sure to let your members know. 
Create a Speakers’ Bureau. A Speakers’ Bureau can provide visibility for your association among its targeted audiences. A simple way to create a Speakers’ Bureau is to tap your current association leaders as experts and ask them for recommendations of good speakers on a variety of key topics. The Bureau members can serve as speakers for your association, presenters at related meetings, and media spokespersons.  
Draft messages/train spokespersons. Use your nonprofit’s mission statement to write key media messages that accurately represent your association. Once the messages have been drafted, identify association spokespersons–board members, association staff, other leaders and train them on how to effectively deliver your messages. This training ensures that all your spokespersons are on message, that your message and brand are consistent and that the spokespersons are representing your nonprofit effectively. 
Determine the digital media appropriate for you. To figure out what digital media tools are appropriate for your nonprofit, conduct a digital media audit. An audit looks at the digital media options available to your association such as a Facebook, your website, blogs, Twitter, etc. After conducting the audit, draft a report to make recommendations on what would work for you given your financial and human resources, and your association’s needs and goals. Use the report findings to author a digital media strategic plan that can be incorporated it into your overall communications strategy. 
Draft op-eds and letters to the editor. When appropriate, your association can respond to news articles by writing and placing op-eds–a 700-word opinion piece that comments on the news of the day; or a letter to the editor–a 200-word letter that comments on a specific article that appeared in a print or online publication. Don’t forget to comment on blogs related to your industry.
Track and monitor your efforts. Since PR is not an exact science and marketing professionals are often asked to track their successes, we recommend using an Excel spreadsheet to track media requests, and Google Alerts (a free media monitoring service through Google) to monitor your association’s mentions in the media. Promote your successes to your members. 

Following these tips will help you use PR tools to market your nonprofit to your target audiences.

Sheri L. Singer, President, Singer Communications
PRSA-NCC Board Liaison to the Nonprofit/Association Committee

About Sheri Singer

After 20 years of award-winning PR, communications and marketing experience, Sheri L. Singer launched Singer Communications (SC) in 2002. SC include nonprofits such as the Lance Armstrong Foundation, corporations such as Citigroup and government agencies such as U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. Before starting SC, she was a senior executive at top PR agencies (Ketchum PR) managing Fortune 500 and association clients. She started her career as the Director of Communications for associations where she was responsible for the nonprofit’s internal and external communications efforts.

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