PR top trends discussed at the 4th Annual “Public Relations Issues of the Day for Nonprofits and Associations”

by Liliana Pettenkofer

PR Issues of the Day for Nonprofits and AssociationsNothing beats a power morning with thought-leaders in the PR Industry. You immerse yourself in the latest issues, share best practices and leave with so much information, you could create content for an entire year.

On Wednesday, November 5, The PRSA National Capital Chapter hosted the 4th Annual “Public Relations Issues of the Day for Nonprofits and Associations at the Pepco Edison Place Gallery in Washington, D.C. The event brought together DC-area communicators for interactive roundtable discussions about the latest trends, challenges and opportunities for nonprofits and associations.

The program presented eight topics and allowed for three half-hour sessions in which attendees engaged in active conversations on subjects ranging from branding, social media measurement and storytelling to video, the value of PR, and producing big ideas with a small team.

Larry Parnell, Associate Professor & Program Director at the George Washington University, opened the event with remarks about the impact of this month’s elections to the nonprofit world:

“The principal lesson from the 2014 midterm elections is the importance of making sure you have the right message – one that the voters will respond to vs one that you think is on target.” Mr. Parnell also referenced Senator Warner’s close victory as an example of this very lesson, “research and test your message – even if you are sure it is on target, even if it has worked in the past. Public opinion is not static- it’s dynamic and unpredictable.”

In addition to Mr. Parnell, the event highlighted nine industry experts, including Katie McBreen, VP, Communications & Public Affairs, National Retail Federation; Ray Van Hilst, Director, Client Strategy & Marketing, Vanguard Technology Group; Henry Chamberlain, APR, FASAE, CAE, President & COO, Building Owners and Managers Association; Charlene Sarmiento, Public Relations Manager & Spokesperson, Goodwill Industries International; Leigh George, PhD, VP, social@Ogilvy, Ogilvy & Mather; Charlie Raphael, Vice President of Marketing and Communications, ITPG; Vicki Robb, APR, Principal, Vicki Robb Communications; Ami Neiberger-Miller, APR, MA, Principal, Steppingstone, LLC.; and Myra Oppel, APR, Regional Communications Vice President, Pepco Holdings Inc.

Here are the key takeaways of the event:

Integrating Storytelling into Your Communications
Roundtable with Katie McBreen, VP, Communications & Public Affairs, National Retail Federation

  • Do your research.
  • Have a content distribution strategy.
  • Leverage your resources and your network.

Five Steps to Improve Your Website
Roundtable with Ray Van Hilst, Director, Client Strategy & Marketing, Vanguard Technology Group

  • You have a very short amount of time – 2 minutes – to make an impression. Write good, brief content that is focused on the user and is SEO friendly as people will only read 28% of the words on a page.
  • Create a visual hierarchy. Create engagement and drive users toward action. If you don’t have clear defined actions you want your audience to take, write them down now.
  • Use good visuals and images of real members and people – no stock photo.

What Do CEOs Think about the Value of PR
Roundtable with Henry Chamberlain, APR, FASAE, CAE, President & COO, Building Owners and Managers Association

  • Communications is a core function valued by CEOs building their association’s brand and awareness.
  • Be concise. Keep in mind that your audiences are not only bombarded by information but they don’t have a lot of time. Think about what is important and communicate that.
  • Build relationships with CEOs and senior managers by sharing information, insights and experiences.

PR Issues of the Day for Nonprofits and AssociationsHow to Use Video Effectively
Roundtable with Charlene Sarmiento, Public Relations Manager & Spokesperson, Goodwill Industries International

  • Video is excellent at putting a human face on an issue and helps people emotionally connect with your brand.
  • Identify goals, objectives and audiences before diving into production.
  • Get the most bang for your buck, find ways to repurpose your videos, such as creating long and short versions.

Social Media Measurement
Roundtable with Leigh George, PhD, VP, social@Ogilvy, Ogilvy & Mather

  • Start with a clear sense of your goal(s) and audience and use that to build a measurement plan and strategy before you do anything tactical.
  • Organic reach on social media platforms is rapidly evaporating and those platforms are becoming pay to play. Given this, as an organization with limited resources you need to think about who you’re trying to reach and the best way to reach them within your budget. Social media may not be the right answer if you don’t have a healthy media budget. Read more here.
  • Social media metrics are self-referential. They only reflect back on the platform. To measure the success of your efforts against business goals, you need to develop key performance indicators (KPIs) that are business-focused, ie. # of people exposed to my message, # of actions taken, etc. Social metrics (# of likes, retweets, etc.) can be used as diagnostic indicators that impact your KPIs.

Producing Big Ideas with a Small Team
Roundtable with Charlie Raphael, Vice President of Marketing and Communications, ITPG

  • Strategic partnerships can help increase marketing reach, offset venue costs and leverage (reciprocal) “human capital” to achieve greater successes with events and marketing campaigns.
  • Educational programs are key to increase member knowledge and provide member benefits that attract potential members, grow your organization’s visibility and increase revenue. All educational content can be developed within the association membership body for little to no cost.
  • Focus on keeping your current members. Member retention is simple and cost effective. Start by asking them what they want and expect out of the membership.

How to Get on the Today Show
Roundtable with Vicki Robb, APR, Principal, Vicki Robb Communications & Ami Neiberger-Miller, APR, MA, Principal, Steppingstone, LLC.

  • Have a well-developed story. Have all your sources, characters, talking points, and statistics before you pitch.
  • Include great visuals. There must be something visual about your story. Be prepared to provide photos and b-roll.
  • Timeliness is a huge advantage in pitching, so watch calendars and be early!
  • Have a solid spokesperson – this is the major leagues – it’s expected for live national television.

Rebranding
Roundtable with Myra Oppel, APR, Regional Communications Vice President, Pepco Holdings Inc.

  • Be consistent. Integrate communications and align key initiatives to reach customers on multiple channels.
  • Give stakeholders an inside view. Increased transparency is a key strategy and helps build credibility.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of strategic, integrated communications. A focused, aggressive approach – aimed at the most severely damaged parts of a brand but also mindful of the positive influences on the brand – can turn around even the worst reputation.

 

Enjoy the handouts from the event:

5 Steps to Improve your Website

7 Big Ideas For a Small Team

How to Use Video Effectively

Integrating Storytelling into your Communications

Measuring Social Media ROI

Rebranding

What do CEOs think about the Value of PR

 

Liliana Pettenkofer is Senior Manager of Marketing & Events at Lutheran Services in America and serves in the PRSA-NCC Associations & Nonprofit Committee. She can be reached at lilianapettenkofer@gmail.com. You can also follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/lpettenkofer or connect with her on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/lpettenkofer.

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