Among the various roles that PR performs, earning media space for brands and companies is arguably the most important. It’s publicity that comes at a certain price and one that is often expensive. If you are a corporate with enough money, it’s not too difficult to create and implement a campaign. The same, however, cannot be said for a charity such as The Sunflower Fund. With little to no funds available for a PR campaign, obtaining media exposure can appear to be an insurmountable task.
That is, if you look at it from that angle. However, if you approach it from the perspective of its national fundraiser and PR manager, Tarryn Corlett, you’ll find that it is actually more than achievable. All it takes is a little bit of innovation and a lot of hard work and dedication. “It’s certainly tricky,” she concedes. “Every year, it becomes tougher because you need to try and reinvent the wheel in an effort to attract sponsors and get them excited about coming aboard.”
One way of doing that is by changing the angles and themes of various events. While one event may be focused on children, another may place impetus on attracting donors from a specific sector of society. On the other hand, as Corlett points out, there is also the need to look past events altogether. “A lot of NGOs rely on events. For example, every charity seems to have a golf day. However, you need to look past these and find something that is more sustainable than your average event.”
Instead, charities need to think outside the box when attempting to gain media coverage. One such example is a campaign that The Children’s Hospital Trust begins tomorrow. Together with Groupon, the organisation will offer a charity gift voucher which can be purchased via the Groupon site for R50 in the usual way that you would buy a gift certificate. This R50 charity voucher will then go directly to the Children’s Hospital Trust’s identified fundraising project. As its communication co-ordinator of publicity, Ronnis Daniels, says, something like this is newsworthy and worthy of coverage.
But it’s more than that. It’s about creating campaigns that don’t simply ask for money. “You need to understand that there are other charities competing for donor funding and exposure,” says Daniels. With that in mind, you need to ensure that you stand out from the crowd. It’s a point seconded by Corlett. “The funding pool is getting smaller and companies are not entirely sure about where and how they want to spend their money.” At the same time, there needs to be mutual respect between your funders, sponsors and yourself.
Corlett continues: “From our side, we have to understand that companies do not have an endless supply of money. They have to be specific in the criteria and who they support.” That shouldn’t stop you from attempting to get a company to back you though, as long as you understand the boundaries. This has been Corlett’s experience, having secured funding for The Sunflower Fund after initially being turned away. She also believes in connections. “[As a charity] you need to build relationships with everyone around you. Likewise, you need to meet face-to-face [with potential sponsors].”
“Emails are emails but meeting with sponsors allows you the opportunity to show your material and tell your story.” It’s an opportunity to raise your charity up above those who also need funding because while it is not a dog-eat-dog environment, there is still healthy competition among organisations. Meanwhile, you can add an extra string to your bow by including a good report back system, which is something that both Corlett and Daniels use successfully for their respected charities and believe is a necessity.
Corlett explains: “In having something like that [a good report back system], companies will be more inclined to return.” It also allows for what Daniels described as “transparency”, as donors are able to see how their money is being spent. The Sunflower Fund and The Children’s Hospital Trust are both media-orientated with the goal of remaining in the public eye as much as possible. Both offer space in press releases, radio and TV mentions as well as online and social media. As Daniels reiterates, records are held so that clients know where they have been mentioned, what the value of that mention is and also the impact that it makes.
PR can work just as well for charities regardless of the lack of budget and the constant need for donations. For charities, it’s more about building relationships with those around you, treating anyone as potential sponsors or donors. And as Corlett firmly adds, you need to make it enticing enough to make them want to approach you.
Do you do any PR work for charities? What strategies do you find to be most effective? Let us know on our blog