Why nonprofits find PR so difficult

While all nonprofits are different, they all share common attributes and challenges.  Most of those challenges are in marketing, PR and having their voices heard.

Every nonprofit wants the world to know about the great work they are doing.  And most deserve to be heard.  They want people to know how they are making the world a better place.  Some of this desire is self-interest.  They want to attract funding, volunteers and Board members.  Some is truly altruistic.  Wanting the world to know how their services can help.

So why is it so difficult for the average nonprofit to stand out?

First, there are so many nonprofits.  Tens of thousands in the country, and thousands in each major city.  Competition.

Second, there is overlap.  Too many nonprofits do the same thing.  They have the same mission.  So when the media cover one organization, they won’t cover a similar one that isn’t that much different.

Third, many nonprofits simply don’t understand the media and how to structure a story pitch.  They do social media, but social media only hits their circle.  The media want certain stories, presented to them in a certain way.  This is a PR skill that most nonprofits don’t have.

Fourth, there are many avenues to tell your story.  TV, newspapers, internet and social media aren’t the only avenues to attract attention.  What are others?  That’s where experienced PR and marketing counselors come in.

Last, nonprofits are great at doing their work, but that doesn’t mean they are necessarily at telling their stories.  Most of our clients lack basic understand, skills and contacts to convey their message.  Not their fault.  PR and marketing is a skill that takes training, practice and understanding.

The larger nonprofits can afford to hire PR and marketing consulting firms.  Smaller nonprofits often can’t.  But that doesn’t mean they can’t work with a firm.  Some PR and marketing firms will take on small projects for reasonable fees.  Having a PR firm doesn’t mean all or nothing.

The moral of the story is PR and marketing is a skill like running a nonprofit is a skill.  Everybody can’t do everything.  Let the PR experts do the marketing while the nonprofits change the world.


Why Nonprofits need a PR plan

All nonprofits are created equal, right?  Not when it comes to marketing and public relations (PR).

Marketing and PR is perhaps the only business function where one size doesn’t fit all.  Accountants do accounting.  Managers manage.  Employees do their jobs.  But when it comes to marketing, it is the ultimate tailored function.  No marketing plan from one nonprofit or for-profit corp. can be automatically transferred to another with ease.  Each must be tailored to the specific organization, their goals and objectives, capacities, audiences, budgets and so forth.

Hence all marketing/PR campaigns must be tailored to the organization.  Having a fresh perspective is often helpful as long as the fresh perspective doesn’t ignore history and challenges the organization faces.  If these are not recognized and understood, then a fresh perspective will result in facing the same challenges.

There are numerous template marketing plans on the web.  A quick Google search and you’ll find hundreds of “fill in the blanks” plans.  It won’t take long to realize they are all pretty much the same.  There are basic marketing tasks, strategies and techniques that need to be done.  But what you won’t find on the web is a plan that speaks to your specific organization’s goals and objectives, audiences you are trying to reach, budget you have available, staffing issues, history and on and on.

I don’t want to make it sound as though creating a marketing PR plan is rocket science.  Much is common sense.  But common sense will not give you the experience of having gone through the process dozens of times, the knowledge of what works and what doesn’t, the research that has been done in your market segment, goals that are achievable and goals that are out of reach.  All that, and more, comes with experience.

Professional marketing and PR is an investment.  No doubt.  And, if you don’t keep a close eye on what is happening, budgets can get out of hand.  Worse, marketing can go in the wrong direction.

Our guidance for every nonprofit seeking a fresh marketing perspective is to look closely at your past with an open eye on the future.  The beauty of marketing is that it is dynamic.  What works today, may not work next year.  Organizations that do the same marketing tasks year after year will usually find support starting to decline as there are only so many times you can say the same things to the same people.

On the other hand, marketing is fun.  It is creative and can show quick results.

It also is among the best investments a nonprofit or a for-profit organization can make.