Sunday, January 25, 2009

Are Non-Profits getting the value of Online PR?

Continually finding funding sources for a nonprofit or growing an association's membership base can be the bane of even the most dedicated Executive Directors and Non-Profit (NP) communications, marketing, & fundraising professionals.

It's a constant battle to vie for government and private grants, donor funding, and overall financial support through creative, low-cost yet effective public relations. Enter the unprecedented reach and efficacy of online marketing. Even at its most basic and low-cost level, internet marketing through a variety of methods and mediums will necessarily widen your customer and support base, exponentially. Here are the most easy-to-facilitate and no-to-low-cost online strategies to gaining widespread public recognition and support for your nonprofit:

Maximize Your Website: Hopefully, you already have a website for your nonprofit organization. It is absolutely crucial that you keep an eye on it, updating when necessary, gathering user feedback on maneuverability, and how it may rank for certain generic keywords your potential funder/supporter may use to find you or companies that offer the same services. This doesn’t mean that you need to invest thousands of dollars in an SEO firm but the help of an online PR specialist can offer up some important tools and strategies to place your site in front of those who need to see it. The reasons are twofold as to why this is important. One: nonprofits do not have thousands to invest in advertising typically, and two: competing nonprofit agencies will not either.

Blogs: Once you have a great website, start your own blog. To the internet beginner, this may seem an intimidating task; but it is way easier than you would imagine. Type in blog network, and you’ll find thousands of potential start-your-own-blog network sites, in which they walk you through the entire process of setting up your blog, making it attractive with one of their templates, and updating it with content on a regular basis. Most importantly, it is a free way to get your company’s mission and objectives across, while soft-selling potential supporters on how they can help.

Articles and Press Releases: Same goes for article submission and press release sites; type in one of the previous terms and you’ll find thousands of sites devoted to posting articles and company press releases free. For articles, introduce a short piece on industry advice and programs while providing a link back to your website. For press releases, draft up a quick and informational piece on a new addition to your site or program initiative, and provide a link back to your site. Either way, you are adding new information to a highly trafficked network-the internet-free, and meanwhile remember that you can add as many of either as you like.

E-newsletters and Email Marketing
: While ensuring that you avoid spamming your prospective funders and parties of interest, know that devising a simple e-newsletter to keep your supporters abreast of current company happenings, will increase your pr returns immensely. Whether there is a specific program or event you are inviting them to or a simple thank you for their previous support, you are maintaining a constant connection to them, so they won’t forget you in their busy busy lives.

In all, there are many aspects and a plethora of possibilities an organization can undertake in terms of Web 2.0 outreach. The value then is a well developed strategy that identifies the online communications methods that work best for your non-profit.

Got other means of online marketing or PR that has proven successful to your nonprofit? these Or perhaps, methods that didn’t work so well? Please share with us.
Mark Buzan is Principal and Chief Magnifier in Action Strategies, a full service Strategic Communications, Public Relations and Public Affairs Consultancy for non-profits and associations. Make sure to contact him for advice on reaching audiences you may or may not have yet considered in your marketing communications and PR campaigns. Drop him a line if you are looking for help in developing a public relations campaign. You can view his website at www.actionstrategies.ca.


Waska ASTC Qu├ębec said...

Great! I want a French copy of this on ours blogs! That is superb stuff.

Mark Buzan said...

My pleasure Waska! Drop me an email and I will look into how this can happen.

Daniel said...

Hi Mark,

I'm trying to help, as a volunteer, a local NGO (for children with mental dizabilities)doing this. Yet it's difficult to convince the board, which are all parents of such children of the effeciciency of this endeavour. We started with a site and now I'm investigating some methods to show them some quick wins (always a good help). What could you recommend me on short time? On long term I have considered all the presented methods and I really believe it could work.

Mark Buzan said...

Hi Daniel,

Welcome to the blog! Gaining consensus amongst board members is probably one of the biggest differentiators communicators must face in comparison to working with the private sector. My advice would be to identify what exactly are the common denominators your board would be willing to accept. What are the bottom lines that they are seeking? In all, social media - while a great medium should not be viewed asa panacea. It's a tool amongst many others in a communicator's tool box. Your argument for using it will come when you can make the solid case that the audience you are trying to reach is to be found through that medium.

Drop me an email if you'd like some further ideas.

jacob said...

I have always been curious about functionality in websites and, well, the world in general. I read this article with great interest. It does seem to me that the reason we comment is to speak our minds so why not have the comment field first? However, as others have pointed out, one gets used to the conventions regardless of reason.
online marketing

Mark Buzan said...

Hi Jacob,

I think the greater question to consider is the value of the content. If people don't think of your article as something new, no formatting of a blog will matter. However, more directly to your point, the reason why we have the article first is to give context to a discussion.

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