Sunday, June 13, 2010

Getting clear on your outreach campaigns

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One of the challenges non-profits and associations come across when considering either a government relations or public relations campaign is identifying the parametres around which it will operate. For example, what will the budget be? What will be the measures of success? What challenges will be encountered that might hinder success?

Regrettably, this is a situation I come across from time to time when approached from non-profit executives. They are intrigued by the opportunity to make a better name for their organization but all too little informed on what is involved in undertaking an outreach campaign. As consultant however, I can say that if you don't really know what you want, my job becomes rather difficult in helping you!

So, as such, it dawned on on me that a few pointers might be useful in helping non-profit and association executives better get a grasp on their own public relations, outreach and lobbying needs. Before going out to a call for proposals or RFP, you can help both your organization and a prospective consultant by undertaking the following:

  1. Get clear on your budget! How much can you reasonably spend? The worst thing you can do is state, "send us a figure and we'll consider whether we wish to move forward". That can mean many things! As a consultant, I can offer you a program or campaign worth anywhere from $500 to $100,000 and more! It all depends on scale and as a consultant, I can be of more help to you if you are truly honest with me on how much you can afford.
  2. Do your research. In relation to your budget, it's natural for your organization to want the value of a $1 million campaign but if you only have $50,000, be reasonable in your expectations. Further on research, if you are looking for a particular tactic or strategy to be undertaking, be clear as to why you want it. Is it something you have clearly seen work for another organization or are you really sure that this will reach your audience?
  3. Understand your audience or at least be willing to allow the consultant to conduct that research for you. The best awareness and outreach strategies are those that make a clear effort based on research. Communicating without a plan means putting out a flood of messages that could be unrelated, disconnected, contradictory, unfocused, with no clear purpose or direction. Sadly, many nonprofits get so wrapped up in their daily activities that they can lose site of the forest for the trees. At Action Strategies, we cut through the clutter to ensure your communications and public relations lead to more donations, more memberships, greater member retention, support and awareness for your cause from whomever is your audience (click for more info).
  4. Be clear about your brand. No matter what strategy you choose, your brand is the essence of your campaign. If you don't know who you are, don't expect your audience to figure it out.

Sadly, I believe that it's the lack of up front thinking through the issues before engaging the idea of outside help that creates frustration on the consultant's side. It also presents the potential for misunderstandings and disappointment on the non-profit's side in the end when results might not measure up to expectations. There are at least some of my experiences. What are yours?


Mark A. Buzan, APR

Principal & Chief Magnifying Officer

Action Strategies

#3, 270 rue Champlain

Gatineau, Quebec J8X 3S1

819.770.2899 phone

http://www.actionstrategies.ca (Action Strategies website)

LinkedIn Profile: http://ca.linkedin.com/in/markbuzan

LinkedIn Group for Public Relations: http://tinyurl.com/nonprofitideas

LinkedIn Group for Government Relations: http://tinyurl.com/nonprofitlobbying

Please take a look at my just released book: Online PR and Social Media for Associations and Not-for-Profits - http://www.onlineprsocialmedia.com/associations