Tuesday, October 5, 2010

beyond the pr professional

Our readings this week talks about people outside the public relation s professional who organizes communication strategies in a non-profit organization, namely the spokespeople and partnering organizations. These readings focus on very important aspects of strategic communications because they deal with things that are outside your control (to an extent). That's why properly training spokespeople - and for that matter, all people who are connected to your organization - is so important. Without a cohesive, clear message delivered from everyone in an organization, an organization's success is in jeopardy. Both chapters (9 & 10) emphasize this point.

To begin with Chapter 9, choosing spokespeople is a decidedly difficult task. Let's take celebrities. It can go well, like the Rock the Vote campaign (well, minus the fact that Paris Hilton was not registered to vote), or it can go not so well, like this blogpost from Walletpop shows, giving a list of celebrity spokesperson fiascos. Some of the "fiascos" mentioned were for regular corporations but a few are from non-profits like the Beef Industry Council who had two spokespeople that didn't work out. James Garner had a quadruple-bypass surgery (anyone with health that bad probably shouldn't sponsor any type of food-related organization) and Cybill Shephard doesn't actually eat meat (I think it's pretty obvious why she shouldn't be its spokesperson). However, even with all of those fiascos, I think it can be pretty powerful to have a celebrity speak on behalf of your organization...if chosen correctly. Oftentimes, it is just easier and safer to choose a non-celebrity. If you choose someone from inside your organization, like an executive officer, you can probably at least save time teaching them information about the actual organization. Then, the first priority would be to train them to speak well and deliver messages effectively.

Another point from this chapter that I think is important is the power of personal stories. There is nothing like putting a face with a cause to rally supporters. This is the strategy we are hoping to use for our Safe Harbor videos because being able to actually see and hear a real story from someone who has been abused can make the problem appear more real to people who don't understand the problem it can be.

Chapter 10 deals with partnerships. I really enjoyed reading this chapter because I think the power of partnerships is really obvious. Organizations partner together all the time to support a unified cause and it almost always yields a better result than just one organization. When I started to read this chapter, my mind immediately jumped to Orange RockCorps. Ok so Orange isn't non-profit; it's a communications (i.e. cell phones, etc.) company but RockCorps is non-profit. I think this partnership is still worth mentioning though because it's pretty successful. RockCorps started in the USA and, as far as I know, still going. Orange RockCorps started when RockCorps expanded to the UK and Orange partnered with them. Orange RockCorps has now expanded even more to France and, recently, Israel. I say this partnership is successful because the RockCorps movement is much bigger in the countries where they have partnered with Orange, even though the US is where it started. Having the connection with this other company has allowed them to have better communications plans because they have a for-profit company to financially back them.
Note** I also wanted to use this partnership as an example because I love this organization and what they are doing. Oh yeah, I should probably say what they do: RockCorps organizes concerts with some pretty big stars (last year this included Lady Gaga, Busta Rhymes, and Razorlight to name a few) and the only way to get a ticket is to volunteer for four hours. It combines all my favorite things: music, volunteerism, internationalism, etc.

To bring it back to non-profits and more specifically domestic violence organizations, one of the Web sites I looked at to do research for the Safe Harbor project was that of the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV). This organization is a coalition of state coalitions against domestic violence. Through this organization, each state coalition (and in turn, those organizations that make up that coalition) can benefit from the national campaigns. They are even starting a Media Advocacy Project that should be launched anytime now (the site says it will launch a resource center in the fall). I'm excited to see what exactly this project will include.

Obviously partnerships are important and extremely powerful. The book stresses though that each organization must be fully committed and must be included in all plans. This, I think, is important to understand. Like all group projects (no matter how small), if each person/organization doesn't know its position and what is going on, it will probably fail (or at least not do as well as it could).

Next to come: Political Campaign Analysis - I've chosen the campaign - Vincent Sheheen for South Carolina governor! I'm excited to see what this campaign has in store.

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