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Charity in Changing Times

Melinda Jolley, Tartan Public Relations

Melinda Jolley from Tartan Public Relations, panelist for the 2010 Charity in Changing times series

This is the Second year that Accent Inns InnAid program has sponsored the Charity in Changing times seminar series.

One of the highlights of my year so far has been spending the morning at the Victoria Accent Inns’ Charity in Changing Time event with a room full of not-for-profit organizations wanting to learn more about how to effectively tell their stories through traditional and on-line media, how to increase their on-line presence, and how to better communicate with their volunteers.

I had the honour of sharing my experience in Public Relations with this amazing group, talking about the importance of taking the time to pull together a strategic communication plan before you start going gang-busters with your media relations, blogging or community relations.  Many of the participants only have a few hours a day or week to dedicate to Public Relations, so I suggested that they take one of these seven planning steps each day instead of tackling their plan all at once.

One tip I offered was to break your year up into campaigns or seasons to keep your messages targeted and clear. Once you’ve done this, what are your organizational objectives for this campaign and how can communications help you achieve these objectives?  In other words, what do you want to achieve by telling these stories?  Do you want to raise awareness about a new program, have 100 people attend a special event or raise $100,000 dollars for your program?

The next step is to do a quick environmental analysis.  What is happening in your organization and in your community that could affect your objectives?  This could include the reputation of your organization, a recent high profile event or the economy at the time.  These factors can all be taken into account when creating your communications tactics.

Next you need to think about who is your target audience.  Media relations will get your story out to a broad cross-section of the community, but who do you really want to engage with?  Is this your donors, special interest groups, business leaders or local government?  Also think about the best way to communicate with each of these groups.

Next think about what are the three to five things that you want your target audiences to remember.  Write out your key messages that you will then use in all communications as the campaign unfolds.  Coming out with consistent messages over time is very important.

Identifying a key spokesperson is important so your target audience gets used to seeing the same person speak on TV and then for example also receives a letter asking for support from the same recognizable person.

The last step in your communications plan is to choose your communications tools.  With the objectives, messages, and target audience that you have identified, what is the best way of achieving your goal?  Media relations, telling your stories through TV interviews, stories in the local paper or radio interviews, may be the tool you need if you are looking to get your story out to the wider community.  Being active with social media tools like Facebook, Twitter and creating a blog and website with up to date information targeted at your audience with your key messages may be the right fit.  Sometimes working directly with key individuals in the community or with select groups might be the most direct route to achieving your objectives.  Holding community events is one more tool in this tool box.

Once an organization has these elements identified, then the time spent communicating will be much better spent and will take you to your desired outcome much faster- something that is important for any organization, but even more important when you have limited resources and time.

In Victoria our group also enjoyed presentations by Tanya Smith from CHEK TV, Ross Dunn from Stepforth Marketing and Robin Holden from the Source Group.  John Espley from Accent Inns was our gracious host.

We are excited to be taking this charity communications road show to Vancouver and Kelowna this month.  Anyone working or volunteering with a not-for-profit group is invited to join us on Wednesday, March 24 at the Accent Inns in Burnaby or on March 25 in Kelowna. Pre- registration is required. We hope you can join us!

Melinda Jolley, Corporate Communications Manager

The Tartan Group