Articles by Rose Thomson


Good public relations leads to engaging your association, nonprofit, charity members and supporters. It’s also critical towards ensuring donors and sponsors of charity organizations are aware of the good but often left unknown work they do. After all and as I often say, “If they don’t know ‘ya, they sure won’t give to ‘ya!”
However, I will recognize that it’s one thing for a non-profit orassociation to say that they will engage their members, supporters or donors in a coming campaign, it’s another to successfully implement such a strategy.  Making sure they support and act upon your call to action, requires solidly planning out what’s in it for them and how you intend on getting the message to them in the form they will relate to and with the communicationsvehicle that will resonate with them.  With this challenge in mind, I’ve recently created a new white paper I help you’ll enjoy.
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Public relations is about building reputations and when it comes to building communications strategies for non-profits and associations, financial resources and staff time need to be maximized for PR Return-on-Investment (ROI).

However, with NGOs facing the many different marketing communications options of social media, media relations, advertizing, event marketing, third party endorsements, etc; How does one ensure real ROI is carried through towards advancing an association agenda?

Good communications strategy should aim towards at least two of the following objectives:

  • Motivating your key audience(s) towards adapting your message and even better, acting upon your call to action
  • Creating a dynamic wherein two-way communication occurs between your organization’s leadership and your audience or stakeholders

Getting to the point however of measuring point for point and dollar for dollar in public relations evaluation strategy does require planning and it can vary depending on marketing communications strategies you integrate into your communications plan.  When I develop a communications plan, some of the evaluation strategies I undertake can include the following:

Social media marketing Goals and Objectives can include:

  • Increasing website visits
  • Increasing the number of blog comments
  • Growing your NGOs number of donor leads
The means of measuring/ evaluating success can include:

  • setting up Google alerts
  • investing in social media monitoring dashboards (contact Action Strategies for setting up your non-profit’s monitoring)
  • Twitter and Facebook searches




Media relations Goals and Objectives can include:

  • Building credibility in the press
  • Positioning your nonprofit organisation as a thought leader
The means of measuring/ evaluating success can include:

  • Measuring tone, quality and quantity in press coverage

One of the best means of measuring media relations coverage is through Media Relations Rating Points (MRRP) – something Action Strategies leverages



Event marketing Goals and Objectives can include:

  • Increased event revenue and attendance
  • Favourable brand experience/ impression after attending the event
  • Degree of participant engagement
The means of measuring/ evaluating success can include:

  • Surveying during and after the event amongst sponsors and attendees
  • Twitter tags are becoming the best way to categorize whatever activity online. Attendees now understand what a tag is and organize their online communication using them. Powerful tags have a catchy message within it and are not too long.





The above is just a sample of what is possible.  What ever your public relations campaign strategy involves, it is critical to consider the finer points of how you will concretely measure and evaluate that which will deliver marketing ROI for your NGO.  What measures is your nonprofit association undertaking?

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A while back, a colleague of mine in one of Action Strategies’partnering firms in association governance, management and strategy – Tecker Consultants wrote something that I think is very profound”: “Just because you have a plan, it might not be strategic”.

In my years of dealing with associations and nonprofit organizations, I have seen my share of strategic plans and strategic communications plans. Unfortunately, many plans that purport to be “strategic” are not.   Plans that are job descriptions for the organization,  “to do” lists for functions or business lines, tactical action plans for programs, menus of interesting projects or collections of unrelated good ideas are not strategy. Scenarios, work plans, dashboards and scorecards can be useful tools in strategic planning if done right and used appropriately – but they are not strategy. And, just using the adjective “strategic” in the title of a planning document does not make it strategic.


In an address to list a serve discussion of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), Glenn Tecker of Tecker Consultants wrote the following:


Just using the adjective “strategic” in the title of a planning document does not make it strategic. The discipline of strategy exhibits a certain logic. Strategy and strategic thinking is a cultural commitment in an association community. It takes place at all levels of the organization and provides a way for us to think about things. It fuels innovation, enables transparency and accountability and informs decisions about appropriate roles and responsibilities.
Essential attributes of that logic include: [1] consideration of current and future conditions relevant to the choices to be made; [2] assessment of the capacity and position of the organization, [3] clarity on the outcome desired and what will constitute success; [4] identification of alternative paths to reaching the desired outcome; and [5] selection of those paths with the highest probability of success based on what we know about the character of the environment and the capabilities of the organization. If planning ignores any one of those essentials, it ain’t “strategic”.
Folks like Tom and Donna who understand strategy also know that good strategic planning has always been a process and not just an event that produces a written product. The process of planning strategically also involves: [a] determining metrics and measures that enable the organization to monitor progress in achieving desired outcomes; [b] linking work, resource allocation and accountability to the outcomes desired; and [c] installing methods for nimbly adjusting the strategy based on changes in the environment or experience in implementation.
When the process of planning is boring, it’s usually because people are not talking about things that really matter. Almost by definition, a conversation about things that don’t really matter is not “strategic”. In mission driven organization’s like associations, if the focus is on the organization rather than its mission, its most likely not thinking strategically. If the organization’s measures of success are all “output” measures [how much and how many we do] and there are no “outcome” measures [value received], its most likely not planning strategically. Absent clarity and consensus on the outcomes to be achieved, it is not possible to rationally determine what work needs be done, who should be doing what, or whether what we are doing is working .
…Detractors of the value of strategic planning in associations usually are defining it wrongly and then criticizing their incorrect definition. Unfortunately, their incorrect definitions are often based on experiences they have had with poorly executed planning that they were told was “strategic”.
Bravo Glenn!  The same especially applies to association and nonprofit communications or even government relations.  I would go one step further though.  It is from these strategic plans that communications and even the very essence of outreach efforts in the NGO sector strive upon.  Too often, the tendency is to put tactics before strategy jumping upon the latest impulse idea of what’s “hot” and how an organization should make a name for itself.  The best practices of communications plans and strategic communications demand nonprofit professionals take leadership with their board and ask the simple question:


“Why are we choosing this communications tactic (or vehicle) and will it reach or overall goal of changing behaviors?”


What are your thoughts?


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Additional changes to Facebook Causes are making engagement in social media all the more critical for charitable organizations (and even for causes looking to advance their advocacy initiatives).  I recently received the below email from Facebook Causes.  What do you think?

Hi Cause Creators and Administrators –

We’re reaching out to give you an update on an important change coming to Causes in the next few days. In the past, many cause creators have told us they would like to have a relationship with the nonprofit they chose to fundraise for and many nonprofits have told us they are eager to work closer with the causes you’ve created.

We want to facilitate that closer relationship, so we’re making it easier for the nonprofit you picked to share content with your cause. The nonprofit you chose will now be able to add fundraising projectsand petitions to the cause, and send bulletins to members. As the cause creator, you’ll keep the ability to change or remove the nonprofit your cause supports at any time.

If you would like to talk with someone from the nonprofit, feel free to click on the nonprofit’s name from your cause and send an email to the contact listed on their profile.

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