Public Affairs Spot of the Web: Unlike fundraising or direct program delivery, the value of communications strategy and public relations can be elusive or in the least relegated to an after thought in many nonprofit organisations.

However, it’s my contention that public relations is essentially about winning hearts and minds.  Winning hearts and minds is the very essence of why most nonprofits, NGOs and charities exist.  By extension, good communications strategy delivers important results for nonprofit associations of all stripes.

In fact, a variety of results is likely if you undertake effective communications strategy (6 areas where PR helps you directly). For example, fresh proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures; donors and prospective members starting to make repeat donations and expressions of support; membership applications on the rise; community leaders beginning to seek you out; welcome bounces in expressions of interest in volunteering; higher employee retention rates, capital givers or specifying sources starting to look your way, and even politicians and legislators beginning to view you as a key member of the business, non-profit or association communities.

Luckily for you, your PR people are in the perception and behavior business to begin with, so they can really do a job for you on this crucially important opinion monitoring project. When done correctly, it can catapult a nonprofit organization, charity or association’s cause from an unknown entity to a household name almost overnight. But what most people don’t see is the sweat beneath the glamorous exterior.  What goes on that makes for the value of hiring the outside help of a consultant resource for organisations?

Nonprofits are often pulled in different directions and as a result, seeing the forest from the trees can be a challenge.  The focus can far too often be upon managing day to day operations or chasing the next grant instead of building a long term vision.

Developing relationships with the media, with social media stakeholders and relevant audiences takes time.  Much like developing a fine wine, these need to be nurtured over time and they have to be maintained.

So what is needed from good PR consultants?


– Patience: Whether it’s waiting to hear back from journalists or producers that you have pitched, or simply understanding that a PR campaign takes time to gain traction and evolve, if you don’t have patience, you will never be able to do this job. Now, if we could only get our clients to be so patient!

– Critical Thinking: “The most important thing is to think like a journalist.” – Ronn Torossian, Founder, President & CEO, 5WPR

– Nerves: Be it the nerve to cold-call a reporter on deadline, or the nerve to get up in front of a bank of microphones and disclose bad news, it takes a streak of cold blood to be able to do PR.

– Verbosity and Simplicity: The ability to communicate in grand ways and on simple terms is a must. If you’re not comfortable speaking to an audience of white-collar executives as well as to an audience of blue-collar hourly-wage earners, you won’t be able to do this job.


– Internet-Enabled: PR takes an immense amount of research, and PR people who don’t understand tools such as blogs, search engines, and premium search services suffer the consequences. Knowing how to find Google or Technorati is not enough – you need to understand how to utilize these resources as well.

The ideal PR person, in my book, is like what baseball scouts call a “five-tool” player: 1) hitting for average, 2) hitting for power, 3) running for speed, 4) arm strength, and 5) fielding ability.

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