PRoviding the basics

      26 Comments on PRoviding the basics

This week my numbers became faces. Fifty people came to Hofstra to attend my conference titled, “PR on a Shoestring Budget for Nonprofits” which was designed to offer real help to organizations who are often unsure about how to “do” public relations.  These folks were from many of the same nonprofits who responded to my survey of Long Island nonprofits last year.  Fifty-eight percent said they devote less than 2% of their budget to public relations and marketing, 70% have no full-time staff member handling PR, nearly all PR functions are grouped with other tasks, and little or no training is given to the staff and volunteers who do the PR work.

My goal, with grant support from the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, was to provide the basics to these nonprofits, which are clearly struggling to get their messages to their audiences.  We kept our three workshop sessions simple. “Social Media vs. Traditional Media was presented by PR pros Debra Scala-Giokas of Certilman Balin and Donna Rivera-Downey of Girl Scouts of Nassau County;”Writing for Public Relations” was “taught” by future Hofstra adjunct professor David Norman of Kitchen Public Relations and me; and “Pitching the Media” was given by current Hofstra Adjunct Professor Laurie Bloom of Rivkin Radler and David Chauvin of Zimmerman/Edelson Public Relations. Our keynote speaker was Carl Corry, who runs Newsday Online.  And assisting us were student volunteers Sophie Krall, Abby Littleton, Marilyn Oliver, and graduate assistant Vania Andre.

The attendees’ appreciation for the program was heartfelt.  We received numerous accolades for the conference content and even more for staging it at all.  There’s a real hunger out there for help, and public relations professionals should be providing these nonprofits with pro bono services and guidance as often as they can.

Getting messages out among all the media clutter is not easy.  So I was kinda proud of myself this week.  It felt good to lend a hand to people who need much-needed help.  My colleagues and I made a lot of people happy–and a little smarter.  And after my next survey numbers are published in early 2013,  I’m planning to do this again.  Your thoughts?

26 thoughts on “PRoviding the basics

  1. publicrelationspro

    I agree that the function was definitely needed by the nonprofits because they are often understaffed with little to no budget for public relations work. I think that by providing this service, it strengthened the image of Hofstra University as well as gained credibility. One other issue that might have been addressed is the reluctancy to incorporate certain aspects into their business like social media. Some nonprofits are skeptical, claiming it to be “non-quantifiable.” The fact is that those who do not use social media to their advantage will be left behind in a worse off position.

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  2. Kerry Kiddoo

    Congratulations Professor! This seemed like a great and informative event for those people who are lacking in their PR knowledge. I think it’s great they got to learn from someone who has an excellent professional career as well and hopefully they will use what they’ve learned to better their corporations!

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  3. passportstories

    I really wish I could have attended this event, as I am sure it was fantastic! I think it was a great thing for you to do because these organizations really do need help in the fields of public relations and marketing. It is sad to think that those companies that are high achievers in these fields are normally not non-profits of not-for-profits, organizations who are simply trying to do good in the world. Thanks for doing this conference. I am sure that it was appreciated more than you will ever know!

    -Molly Sestak

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  4. Taylor Albright

    I completely agree with Lauren. Having something like this at least once a year could be very beneficial. It seemed like this event was a very good and very informational and helped a lot of people. Also, agree with Lauren when she said that we get to learn this first hand in our class. If PR professionals are willing to help out these non profit organizations to be able to take on the many opportunities that they have, it will be such a great thing!

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  5. Kellie Sahagian

    I was unable to attend, but it sounds like a fantastic event! Congrats on it being very successful! It sounds like a great idea to help non-profits with PR.

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  6. Holly Haynes

    It is really good to hear that you conducted a workshop for non profits; I wish I had gone! As a PR major who seems to be a little lost, this is refreshing to read. After spending countless hours in my major courses and focusing on big corporations and the PR that is involved, I have been a bit discouraged. I’ve always felt that big corporations in this world, while they have their bonuses, are just not my cup of tea. I’ve always wanted to look into non profit organizations, hoping that it might be more meaningful, yet I’ve heard mostly negative things about non profits.

    It’s good to hear that some still have invested time into NPO’s. It gives me hope for my future career. Keep up be good work and education.

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  7. lshulman

    I was unable to attend but all this positive feedback makes me wish I could! PR tactics are constantly changing and it’s important to stay up-to-date. Companies (especially non profits) benefit so much from PR. Being able to do their own public relations is cost effective and important to those companies that can’t afford to hire. Sounds like a great conference.

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  8. Lauren Someck

    Creating an event like this annually could be beneficial for every organization. Having the correct skills and tools to best utilize PR is imperative to reaching your targeted audiences and maintaining interest in your organization/company. I think the way you broke down the event into those three specific areas was a great way for the attendees to get the most out of the sessions. What I learned in our PR 107 class through our meetings with our clients is that there are so many companies and organizations that are struggling in areas that could easily be improved with proper PR strategies. For example, there could be endless opportunities for organizations but because they lack the necessary skills in PR they are not tackling these opportunities. I agree that PR professionals should be reaching out to nonprofit organizations and offer their expertise and help through lectures and events like these.

    I think this was a great event to host Professor Morosoff and I am sure you helped many organizations move forward in their Public Relations practices.

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  9. Lauren Means

    From what I’ve heard, many small businesses or start-ups don’t realize the potential in using PR as a business tool. They plan out everything else–sales, budgets, merchandise, customer base, etc–but don’t outline a PR plan. Using PR, especially by hiring a consultant or a PR firm, can exponentially increase the success of the business. Many businesses need seminars like the ones you held to understand the importance of PR in their business plans.

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  10. brittanywalsh

    Everyone public relations in easy until they sit down in a class and realize there are strategic methods that come along with it. Many non-profits that don’t have a budget probably figure that they can handle doing it on there own. I think it would be ideal for the non-profits without a budget to hire an intern but it also helps for them to learn the basic tools of PR so they can get there information out there, even if it is not perfect. By attending your seminar, they might be inspired to either hire interns, take classes or do some reattach on the field online. I think this was a big help for foundations that need it most.

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  11. Jenny Zheng

    A lot of pr people still don’t know the basics, even if they think they do. The times keep changing, and in this digital world, the rules have changed. Public relations remains the same at its core, but how its functions are carried out have been amended and there are still many practitioners that need to be filled in. Not everyone can go back to college to re-educate themselves, so events like these are very helpful.

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  12. Rachel

    It seems your connection with these nonprofits, and up and coming PR professionals (current students) would be a great way to introduce PR employees to the nonprofits, starting as interns, and possibly becoming full time staff members. Your thoughts? What non-profits were in attendance?

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  13. Nicole Chiarella

    Congratulations on a successful event! I was unable to attend but I think it is a great idea for you to provide these professionals with advice on how to get things going. There are many people who are confused on how to make things right and happen and they usually are simple fixes. The people who attended walked away with new and fresh information that they may or may not have known. Hopefully your next event will grow larger and the people who have attended will return with others that need help.

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  14. Michelle Soslowitz

    This was a great idea to have and i’m glad to hear you had a successful event! I know when i was interning this summer PR and marketing was a small feature for the company. Sure we sent out press releases and PSA’s but I did a lot of work helping out with social media. That is definitely one of the newest and most popular ways of communication now and many people don’t know how to use it to reach out to new target audiences. All of the other discussions sounds like PR100 which is what a lot of people don’t know if they never studied PR or took classes and was probably very valuable and knowledgable information

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  15. Ryan Derry

    If non profits put more effort and training into public relations and marketing, their results would definitely be greater. It doesn’t take too much money to do a few things for your organization that will benefit you in the long run. Aka, the right social media training, blogs, media databases and relationships, a good website, journalistic writing skills, SEO, etc. These are some the key things that won’t take a toll on your wallet but give you necessary image improvements and possible donations needed for growth.

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  16. Jenny Rowe

    Congrats! It sounds like the conference had a great turn out. Unfortunately I had other obligations, so I could not be present. I think another conference sounds like a great opportunity and I would definitely be interested in attending!

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  17. Kellianne

    Congrats on such a great turnout! I wish I could have attended, but I had my internship all day. It sounds like the speakers were a great addition to the conference. I would definitely attend if you held another one. I think that non-profit PR is an area of PR that I will have to be in at one point or another, so I wish that I could have attended. Sounds like it went great though!

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  18. Nicole Risell

    I like the idea of helping non-profits do PR because their budget’s are already pretty thin because of lack of profits, so providing them with tools and pro bono services to help their organization gain recognition is a great thing.

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  19. Julie Rafatpanah

    I work with a non profit project called Deepening Democracy Through Deliberation, which has successfully used PR tactics like Facebook and blogging to get our events and messages out. I feel like it’s important for non profits to learn about different PR strategies to get their work out there, because otherwise, a lot of the good that they do won’t be utilized, or even known about.
    I think it’s a good idea to have more PR workshops for these non profits. It’s really important to not just do good things, but advertise them.

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  20. Leia Schultz

    I found this post especially interesting as I interned this past summer at a nonprofit organization, the “I Have a Dream” Foundation of Boulder County. I worked closely with the organization’s Vice President of Development, who handles the bulk of the responsibilities relating to community relations and fundraising efforts. Although she is by no means incompetent, I found that she doesn’t have the innovative thought process of a trained public relations professional (her background is in social work and psychology) when it comes to generating ideas about the get “I Have a Dream” coverage in local media. As such, I like your suggestion that “public relations professionals should be providing…nonprofits with pro bono services and guidance as often as they can.” I think that “I Have a Dream” of Boulder County – truly a wonderful nonprofit – could use some guidance in terms of how to get more media attention (although it helps that one of the organization’s board members is the editor of Boulder’s local newspaper, The Daily Camera), to implement a better developed PR strategy based on the fundamentals of the ever-evolving industry.

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  21. Jill Archibald

    The conference was a great experience. I thought that it was perfect for those non profits in attendance because it was essentially like a PR 100 class in one day. There was so much valuable information shared and I saw those who were sitting at my table taking detailed notes. I think that the conference was even beneficial for us PR majors who know the information that was presented upon, but specific details sometimes get glazed over. I hope you open up your next conference to students again!

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  22. Lauren Ciuzio

    This is great! This is similar to the panel I attended with you last year for NYSCA which was a great experience. It is important for every organization both for profit, and non profit to be educated on how to properly utilize social media, and to learn how to communicate as the times are changing. These lessons have been displayed throughout our weekly meetings with our clients. Us students are teaching the older audience, how to use PR to their maximum benefits through using social media. Social media is basically a free outlet for press, and can really benefit your cause if used correctly.

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  23. Chloe Lambros

    I think this was a great idea and it should be done annually. Every organization (profit or non profit) should be well educated on PR and marketing skills. Better yet, it is essential to inform others on good communication (i.e. getting the proper message out to the public and media).

    When all is said and done, I fully agree that “public relations professionals should be providing these nonprofits with pro bono services and guidance as often as they can.” Getting messges out isn’t easy but it can be done.

    This almost reminds me of PRSSA’s “Back to Basics” Regional Conference last year. We had similar seminars about pitching, writing, etc. I think reminding or teaching people about the basics of PR is always helpful and essential.

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  24. Bert Cunningham

    Congrats. Sounds like you had a very successful event that was much appreciated. And congrats to the PR Pros you gathered who willing shared their knowledge and experience.

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