Public Relations Commentary

Increasingly, public relations pracititioners have to know not only how to write for the Web, but also how to manage and respond to blog postings. This blog was created to use in my public relations courses to help my students prepare to blog and learn how to respond to others in a virtual yet professional manner.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Crisis Communication

NPOs in American already have enough difficulty in creating relationships, seeking out new clients, appeasing donors, creating fundraisers and maintaining a well organized communication plan. Now imagine taking that same NPO and sticking it in a country with not much infrastructure, a different language, different communication styles, plans, and see how much success can be emitted? Surprisingly many international NPOS are quite successful especially in crisis situations.
International NPOs, especially relief agencies, have to be able to operate transnationally, across multiple barriers such as language, borders and governments. Plus any international relief agency must be able to work with a variety of organizations. All of these variables could prevent relief being able to reach the crisis situation but relief agencies are able to get their job done even amid all these difficulties since they have an effective communication plan.
This author of this article interviewed Jason Kravitz, Direct Relief’s communications director. The mission of Direct Relief has been to provide essential material recourses to locally run health programs in areas affected by natural disasters, wars and famines. Kravitz emphasized the importance of having an effective communication plan and this allows them to handle stressful situations, just like any for profit business. Kravitz said that the “communication structure is a work in progress”, and I think that is a very true statement. Communication is a two way and many times multiple way street, with inputs and outputs coming and going constantly. The only way to keep up is to constantly change and alter your plan if you want to be successful.
I also agreed with another one of his main points. He emphasized the importance of finding local contacts in the area to facilitate most of the relief. During the Pakistani earthquake or East Asian tsunami aid was brought from the US but it was handed over to local representatives of the agency in order to facilitate smoother transitions, and organization. The locals know the area and the people and are able to make things happen much faster instead of having agency and bureaucratic headaches. I have done a lot of traveling and mission work in other countries and the success of our trip or project was usually because we had made local contacts. Once the relief is given, workers don’t have to stay around and check on things because the locals are in place to do just that. That’s why Direct Relief has long-standing relationships with partners and the donors of Direct Relief respect these relationships.
Once again NPOs were related to businesses in that they need an effective communication plan especially in order to handle crisis situations. Relationships and reputation are also an important aspect of successful relief aid.

Doing Well By Doing Right

I understand that the goal is to foster trust with your stakeholders, but Rosen almost pushes it to the point that it sounds like a false trust is better than no trust. He quotes Bowden (2004), “Trust is the ultimate goal in any solicitation. Once you have the person’s trust, you will most likely have a positive response.” Take this statement away from the nonprofit arena and anyone would tell you that it sounds like appearing trustworthy is actually more important than being trustworthy.

Of course I agree with Rosen that trust is of utmost importance, but is there a point where you’ve pushed the trust issue so much people become leery of your organization? I’m just playing Devil’s advocate here, but it is something to consider. Is it really about trust, or is it really about building and maintaining an organization that holds itself to the highest of ethical standards. Because if you have a great organization, won’t the trust just follow? I mean of course you’re probably going to have to toot your own horn a little bit to get the word out about how ethical you are, but is that the same as shouting from the roof tops, “hey all you out there with money, you can trust us!” Personally, I would say no…I pretty much am never going to trust anyone who point blank says, “trust me.” They’re up to something, aren’t they?

Building Trust

I wanted to say that I saw a good CRM going on here in Fayetteville on Thursday. A local restaurant here teamed up with the Arts Council and 25% of the restaurant's Thursday profits were to be donated to the Art Council. I was impressed with 25% but who knows how much that actually was or what their regular business on a Thursday is like. That could be their slowest night, which means they really aren't as charitable as they seem. But it is a new restaurant and they are probably using this CRM to build trust/branding among the community and bolster their good image.

In reading the ethics article for this week, I was struck by this particular passage,

"Unfortunately, a vast segment of nondonors, and even many donors, remain distrustful of
the nonprofit sector. To be successful, charity managers, and fundraising professionals in
particular, will need to identify ways to build trust between the organizations and donors
and potential supporters."

The article says there are a variety of ways, but fails to detail how a NPO might go about this other than saying time is on your side and people will eventually forget and give again. What do you do in the short run to regain trust? Perhaps increasing accessibility and openess about the organization is the best way. Some NPOs are reluctant to put out too much information for fear that competitors or opposition would use it against them, but when would that gamble be worth it to show key publics that you are ethically responsible (again). Maybe hooking your NPO to an influential person of moral standing would be the answer (i.e. hire some new ethical leadership). Or public apologies? And the sad part is, the damage to the public's trust may not even be of your NPO's actions, but yet it affects NPOs as a whole. Then what do you do? Step up good publicity efforts and just hope for the best?? I don't know, but the article left me wondering about how the best way to restore trust in the public would be.

Ethics and Trust

I got to thinking about the scenario posed in class about the Clean Up the Coast non-profit and the dilemma on whether or not to accept the large donation when reading the article "Ethics and Fundraising" for this week.

In class I was pretty sure that I would have accepted the donation, but after thinking about it, I find myself waivering a bit. The article for this week makes a good point in its conclusion that "Maintaining and enhancing public trust is essential for organizations that want to raise money." It also explains that this trust is not just a function of ethical decision making, saying that it comes from a much broader set of circumstances that make up the organization's perception within target donor groups. In thinking about the scenario presented in class, while taking the donation might not really be unethical, it might send a few ripples through the donors that the organization relies on year in and year out to come up with money.

Because I don't work at a non-profit, its often hard for me to think about all of the considerations that these organizations have to think about to stay afloat. There is so much more transparency with NPOs than in more corporate "for-profit" entities, and they are held to an extremely high standard of decision making and organizational behavior overall.

The point this article highlights for me is that it takes a long time to build up trust within a circle of annual donors, and all it might take is one or two semi-questionable acts before these folks are backing a different or competing organization. This element of communicating trust with each action is a hard thing to do day in and day out, but is essential for survival, as we have read and discussed.

There is an old adage (at least I am told) that one of my undergrad professors at UNC told us in one of the first PR or Marketing classes I took - he said that when it comes to any decision in Public Relations, if at all possible, take the morally high road, no matter what, "Its always easier to clean up a mess if you're on top of it."

This sentiment rings especially true for crisis management as it pertains to NPOs, because if they get caught on the unfavorable side of a moral dilemma, a lot of their funding and support can go right out the window, real quick.

Monday, March 24, 2008


I'm not convinced that CRM is the devil. If you can buy something you would normally buy anyway and donate some money to a good cause in the process, why not? I don't care that my dollar is going to one charity over another - that would defeat the purpose of giving, right? If giving to a specific charity is that important to me, then I'll write them a separate check.

I think it is up to the NPO to set clear boundaries going into the CRM deal to control the inflence that a company would have concerning the NPO. Do they get to say where the money goes? etc... If boundaries are clearly laid out then problems should be avoided. I agree that it is possible for NPO to be so dazzled by a potential donation that they would skip this step or agree to things that were contrary to the mission of the NPO. Strong, clear leadership within the NPO is the key to avoiding potential problems of CRM.

I wonder with what frequency there are problems with CRM deals...Is this an fairly isolated problem that bad press or bad deals corrupt CRM campaigns?

Cause Related Marketing

I attended a webinar on Cause Related Marketing a year or so ago, sponsored by the local chapter of the AFP (I think it stands for Association of Fundraising Professionals?). I have a positive view of CRM, but the article(s) did not seem to agree.
I'm usually happy to participate in CRM. Just recently, I gave a $1 at K-Mart and Food Lion to buy a shamrock - sadly I don't remember exactly what I was supporting, just that it's a campaign that's been going on for years and donating a $1 doesn't really 'put me out'. When the cashier at K-Mart asked me if I'd like to donate a $1, and I quickly and cheerfully replied "yes", she seemed surprised. I have a feeling she probably got turned down various times; perhaps I was her first "yes"! She was very thankful and appreciative, while I thought "it's the least I can do" (after all, I was buying a pair of boots that rang up as even cheaper than I thought they were going to be!).
I was happy to get a Target card because they give a percentage of what you spend to the school of your choice - I chose my nephew's elementary school. However, that has not been enough incentive for me to keep using the card (I paid it off recently because the interest rate is WAY too high!).
I have recently begun saving the 'Boxtops for Education' because a friend of mine asked me to. Her older sister works for a really poor school district, and they have had money donated to the school for those little coupons. I'm not going to search for products that have these coupons on them, but I'm definitely willing to save the ones I get and send them to her.
My point is that if the connection makes sense, I think CRM is a great idea. It doesn't cost the NPO money from their fundraising budget because the partner organization pays for that. It raises awareness about the NPO, and it brings in donations (and maybe even volunteers) that they likely would not have received otherwise.

PR and Campaigning On Campus

As I was walking through campus today (and last week), I was bombarded with advertisements for students running for class president. Because this is a PR class, I wanted to look at how well these campaign used PR tools to spread their messages and win over voters.

Here are some of the PR strategies I came across:

1. Cupcakes: One of the candidates (Anne Moser, maybe?) used pink signs with her name and cupcake graphics across them. One day last week she and her entourage stood by the tunnels on campus to pass out cupcakes. I thought this was a good idea because she at least got my attention..and now I associate her with cupcakes.

2. Music on the quad: Today, one of the male candidates had his truck parked near tally with country music playing, and signs with his name, etc. This was also a unique tactic.

3. Campaign fliers and simple signs: lots of the candidates used fliers to pass out. Most of which ended up in the trash. The only thing that made each stand apart from the rest were different colors. This can also be said for many of the signs. I think these people need to PR strategies

4. One interesting (and each) tactic was a guy who set up recycling boxes throughout campus with a sign attached saying something like: “Please recycle my components for (so and so).” I really enjoyed this idea: clever, and doing something useful/productive with his campaign

5. While some of the signs across campus were very bland, a couple with artistic or eye catching phrases did actually get my attention, which goes to show that standard PR tools, when used correctly and with a new spin, can go far. One sign was red with the outline of a wolf..but the wolf drawn on the sign was very artistic and unique. It definitely stuck out compared to the rest.

It seems, in general, most candidates relied on the same tactics as each other, not really branching out or trying to things to get more votes. While I didn’t look further into their campaigning, I wondered if they thought about blogs, websites, or facebook groups like we have talked about in class. Or, if they tried to (excuse the phrase) think outside the box.

Heres a question for the rest of the class: What strategies would you implement that would be cheap and effective if you were in charge of these students’ public relations plan?

Cause-related marketing

This may be a silly question, but if for-profit businesses use cause-related marketing to promote their products or help nonprofits to raise fund, does it mean that there will be a raise for the price of the products or services? If this is the case, then how can the partners in the cause-related marketing prove to the public that the fund goes to the place where it is supposed to?

Nature Conservancy

I agree that an organization must take responsibility for their actions. I think the Nature Conservancy did accept their actions that did not match their mission. The first step in accountability is admitting the situation in order to move on and improve. Nonprofits should create performance measures to conduct accountability audits of their organization. Public sector accountability cannot be applied to the nonprofit sector. Nonprofits have too many stakeholders that can hold them accountable.

Marketization of the Nonprofit Sector

I mostly agree with the study on nonprofits competing in a private market and how that can jeopardize the mission and goals of the organization. However, there are some aspects that are not addressed in the article that are of particular importance for the counter argument.

Everyone has to make a living: And I don’t mean that in a “let them do whatever to makes ends meet” kind of way. But it’s the same reason we support mom and pop shops over commercial store and restaurants – everyone has to make a living and why shouldn’t the public support that? With this competing market, non-profits have to diversify funds. More nonprofits are competing for fewer grant dollars. Disasters like Hurricane Katrina and September 11 rake a lot of donations away from nonprofits that depend on recurring donors. To ensure the same level of service, why shouldn’t nonprofits be given some leverage to find other ways to keep up with the market around them?

Is the public really hurting? Eikenberry’s argument that democracy and the public interest are hurting because of nonprofit’s entrepreneurialism is a bit dramatic. I understand nonprofits exist, mostly without regulation, to provide and supplement social services either under-served or passed-by the government. So nonprofits should support the public’s interest. But who was really hurt when the prairie dog exhibit was sponsored by a businessman wanting to promote economic education . . . or something along those lines . . . at the Atlanta Zoo? I agree it was not a donation supporting the organization’s mission, but isn’t it an exaggeration to say it was a strike at democracy?

Does someone have an agenda? Eikenberry and Kluver seem to use this study as a platform to advocate nonprofit/government collaborations as an alternative to marketization. This may be slightly presumptuous, but is that not another way for executive agencies to regulate nonprofit behavior? I support collaborations; I think they are a great solution to a multi-layer problem, but they are not always reliable. If partners don’t get along or don’t have the same mission, action is difficult.

For the most part I agree that marketization can lead to problems as a solution in a competitive environment. Mission should always be priority but creativity and diversification of funds are also necessary for nonprofit longevity. If the article was written in a less political way, I would have been better to fully support its standpoint.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Cause Related Marketing

Cause related marketing… I was aware of the ideas and actions but not necessarily aware of the name and the consequences involved. I was intrigued to its new hold on consumers, like we don’t already have enough reasons to get sucked into the marketing and advertising campaigns as it is and now they want to connect our emotions to causes.
It was interesting to see how CRM affected all types of groups from consumers to NPOS and corporations. It affects consumers since it allows us to support social causes or allows us to feel warm and fuzzy since we see something that is of interest to us and we can urge ourselves to purchase the product. For instance I am constantly getting VISA applications; join and you’ll win 2 free round trip tickets to your favorite location. And today if you join with this credit card you’ll get an Anne Geedes calendar. Babies and credit cards, a very unique and unrelated relationship.
For corporations they can link themselves to a needy cause or NPO and can increase their positive appearance to consumers. It seems to be a win-win situation for all the players but I agree with the author of the article who criticizes CRM and says that “CRM threatens the integrity of contemporary society by absorbing charitable giving into strategic marketing exchanges.” Instead of genuine charitable giving, one is inclined to give because it’s connected to a cause or brand they are interested in and they can kill two birds with one stone by buying the product: they get the product and are able to donate on the side.
From research CRM has increased budgets and awareness for NPOs but it has also brought along a lot of ethical questions. Sometimes the corporations might false advertise and spend more time marketing than donating or will renege on their contributions, and unethical actions outside of the relationship also reflect back on the NPO. Encompassing the Kantian moral commitment, CRM benefits all, even though people might be giving out of obligation they are still giving. So does it matter what insights them to reach into their pocket?
That involves a huge step into ethics and I don’t believe corporations like to take a journey down that road but I believe that NPOs should consider the risks before entering into CRM. NPOs are supposed to stand out from corporations not just in the profit making aspect but also in their relationships and reputation department. NPOs are trying to help others and make a difference and who how can that be achieved if ethics are pushed under the table just to raise more funds… but maybe that is too ideal in nature since NPOs also need to survive and research clearly proves that CRM raises revenue.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Survey research for NPOs

As a consumer, I have had the most experience with online surveys. Usually, I do them when there is an incentive involved. I signed up with a survey research company because they have a monthly drawing for prizes. Also, after I fill out a certain number of surveys (that number is unbeknownst to me), I get a $10 American Express card. Now that I think about it, that's a pretty lame incentive...but nonetheless I do it anyway. I keep hoping I'll win one of the other, bigger prizes I suppose.
It was for this reason that I was surprised at the survey research results in the "Response Rates" article. First of all, I found it pretty weird that they included a $5 bill in the mailing. I wouldn't think this is a good idea for any type of research - philanthropic or otherwise. But I thought for sure they would get a better response rate when they promised a $50 donation to the NPO upon completion of the survey. That seems like 'easy money' for the NPO to earn without having to put out much effort to get that donation.
But I think that because I work in and study higher education, I have gained an appreciation for the value of research. I don't mind participating in surveys. In fact, one of my Alternative Spring Break teammates put up a post on Facebook asking her friends to fill out a survey for her class, and even though she didn't specifically ask me to participate, I volunteered to help her out. My friends often come to me when they need to do surveys for their classes because I'm happy to help. I enjoy conducting research, but that is not really a part of my curriculum.
I really liked that the "Challenges and Their Implications" article broke down the costs to conduct each type of survey research. I would be interested to know what percentage of surveys are done via the web. I also found it interesting that it takes so long for the research results to be incorporated back into the design, format, and presentation of surveys. I feel like we have a much faster turn around in the higher ed world, but we may also produce more research than that of philanthropic studies research.

Internet Marketing

When organizations create a website for marketing, do they consider their target audience and design the site around that or create a website for the general public's knowledge/ internet skills? Also, I don't understand how a website can be "interactive" unless the organization responds back.

Market Research and its Challenges

Market Research

Considering the fields that we have all chosen I assume that we all view research as highly important to the welfare of the entities we are a part of. However, I think that we have probably all encountered times, or can imagine times, when our superiors did not see the value in research. I think this article does an excellent job of walking us through the basics of market research methods, but I think it needs more. Another section entitled How to Persuade Your Boss Market Research is Important should be included. Often times I feel as if the boss see market research as simply the bottom line and that’s all he or she needs to know. How do we help them understand that market research can not only help the profit margin, but also make life a little easier for everyone involved? We see and understand the importance of understanding our target audience, why can’t they?

Challenges of Survey Research

Cost is always going to be a challenge of survey research, but nonresponse problems seem to be the ones that are the most challenging of them all. The first question I think that we should ask, before ever even conducting the survey, is why wouldn’t someone respond to this survey? Answers could be: don’t care, not enough time, too long, survey didn’t work with my operating system, etc. The next question is then, how do we combat these issues? I think the answer is a pilot study and one maybe two focus groups. In a pilot study or focus groups you could find out what might make someone care enough to fill out a survey, what survey length is too, how long is too long, etc. Once you’ve modified the survey to the point where people are more willing to participate, then you can launch it on a larger scale and hopefully get a better, more positive response. I say more positive response because sometimes if people actually care enough to take the survey and it’s too long they either end up stopping all together or every answer is C, which is no help to you.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Focus Groups and Market Research

When reading “Focus Groups and Market Research” I was again reminded of the difficulties that qualitative research undergoes. From past research methods classes I remember that quantitative research is usually preferred and viewed as having more validity than most qualitative research. This article proved that point but also looked at the effectiveness of qualitative research, different approaches and the need for it especially in the social sciences fields.

In class we have talked about the need to do research before newsletters, flyers, surveys are conducted but have also mentioned that lack of monetary funds that NPO have. If research is not being taken seriously since there is not a lot of time and money available in NPOs, there is also a high possibility that time won’t be given to qualitative research. I think that if NPOs were going to conduct any type of research that quantitative research would be their first choice since qualitative research is just preliminary research and a follow up has to be conducted as well as the lack of validity and the lack of forums to follow for a good study. Personally, I prefer qualitative data since I don’t like numbers and don’t like graphs and charts but I do realize its important in the academic arena, especially in its job of providing validity.

The article talks about the confusion in qualitative data since it’s hard to make generalizations and each focus group can have different outcomes depending on environment, surveyor and any other number of variables. There are 3 approaches to conducting qualitative data. The first one is the exploratory approach which is pre-scientific explanations stimulated by every day thought. Then there is the clinical approach which is quasi-scientific explanations based on clinical judgment. And lastly the phenomenological approach which seeks everyday explanations derived from personal contact. All of theses approaches try to partition scientific knowledge from everyday experiences and thought but as seen from the definitions they are quite complicated and confusing to the average person. Therefore, the author suggests that unless you know what you are doing that the phenomenological approach would be the most logical.

The future of qualitative research seems to depend on the need for more awareness since it is quite confusing and takes more time and creativity. I think its good to have a balance between qualitative and quantitative data and that they can’t stand alone. As for NPOs having the time and money to conduct substantial and effective qualitative data that doesn’t seem like a feasible approach.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Bulletproof Politicians

This is a little off topic this week but why has the Wright scandal focused almost entirely on his expulsion and not on the innocent people and organization he “allegedly” (is it alleged? I’m trying to be politically correct here) cheated out of hundreds of thousands of dollars? I am referring to Rep. Thomas Wright who is being tried for laundering $340,000 in state funds, campaign contributions and non-profit donations.

I may sound like a Clinton (Bill not Hilary) but when Red Cross ED gets caught for having an inappropriate relationship with a staff member, who did he hurt? I am just upset that there aren’t criminal consequences for Wright's actions. All the punishment seems lie on whether or not Wright gets to run for reelection. This may be something that gets brought up after his March 20 trial, but for nonprofits to remain unregulated, things like this need to be minimized. And the nonprofit was cheated by a legislator! Sarbanes-Oxley will surely be a reality for non-profits if this type of scandal repeatedly occurs.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

NPOs and Politicans

I was intrigued to read the “Weathering the Storm” article since it looked at the relationships or difficulties that NPOs have with political organizations. (I am in the Master’s of International Studies program, so I enjoyed relating this article to what I knew about politics in the International field). The article also mentions some problems that NPOs face but it focused more on the problems that non-conventional organizations face, for instance drug problems especially sharing syringes.

One of the first problems they face is lack of state support, especially since they are organizations that reach an un-conventional group of people, usually far removed from the suits and egos of the Congressman. Most political campaigns and politicians always align themselves with a NPO, personally I don’t think this is because they are extremely magnanimous in nature but they feel that if they align themselves with a respectable NPO that their ratings will go up. But usually they align themselves with NPOs that reach and support a broad range of people and defiantly a group that is non-controversial. That explains why organizations that reach out to more difficult areas have a hard time receiving funding because politicians and Congressman are afraid to take a risk and align with these organizations. Just the other day I was listening to Delilah, don’t hold it against me = ), and even she had an NPO that she was apart of in Africa.

The US is very fortunate to have a working lobbying system that does support NPO, maybe not to the best of their ability but defiantly in comparison to other countries. China does not even have this function for the government to support NPOs, it is a growing movement and they are trying to learn from the US and how our NPOs function. The younger generation, especially on college campuses are really following the US role to get involved with NPOs. So maybe it is difficult for un-conventional NPOs to get funding but it is defiantly much more available that in most countries.

Prioritization of social welfare spending was also another political concern. If NPOs can align themselves with a politician they can have the chance to increase their funding but I also think they take the chance of risking their reputation since the funding of the NPO is determined by the success of the politician and this might ebb and flow. And only certain organizations that are well known might get funding from Congress as opposed to less know or organizations that don’t reach the mainstream of people. How many Southern Republicans are aligned with the NRA… it reaches their main population and look at the massive funding of the NRA. They both benefit from support of each other, but unfortunately then prioritization of welfare spending does take place.

Creativity and nonprofit organizations.

Aside from our furry little cows and our leather peaches fiasco a few weeks ago, creativity has to play an important part of how nonprofits communicate and distinguish themselves from one another and even from for-profit and government entities. It's not just creative messaging, but also creative problem-solving and strategic planning.

So consider you're working in an organization that has been doing the same routine with its programs and/or services for years. You've got staff members who are comfortable in their jobs, and board members who are content with where things are going. But, you've been monitoring your organization's environment and see a new startup venture who is going to be competing for your clients, donors, and volunteers.

You have to make some creative changes to survive this challenge because of the competitors' innovative ideas and approaches. How are you going to convince your organization to do things differently?

Introducing a fee for your nonprofit service.

So rather than having class this week, I wanted to pose a couple of questions that I'd like each of you to post your own answer to the original question and respond to others.

I think we can all easily see how strategic communications can help us advance our nonprofit interests and organizations. But one of the key distinctions between marketing and public relations involves price. For the arts and culture subsector, fees aren't viewed negatively at all. Even religious organizations "expect" tithings.

As we read this week about diversification of revenues, what happens when your social service nonprofit has to charge for its services to stay afloat? Say fundraising and government cutbacks have resulted in your organization needing to plan ahead for the future by finding new outlets for revenue. How would you decide (and convince your organization) to start charging a fee for services? How would you decide how much to charge? Would you try to spin-off a money-making entity (like the construction company from the Westside v. Eastside Community Center example from a few weeks ago)?

Note: Before you say, "Oh, we would never do that!" Just keep in mind the other option is closing and not being able to offer the services at all.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Elements of a Public Relations Plan (from Jon)

I was reading the article "Elements of a Public Relations Plan," and this
particular section on explaining why media coverage is important on page 3
caught my attention. "Paid advertising increases name recognition; media
relations increases credibility. When people read a story about the
excellence of your organization in a newspaper or see a story praising
your company on television, they are much more likely to have a favorable
opinion of your organization."

The contents of this entire page reminded me of one of the first few
discussions we had in class on week 1 or 2, that centered trying to define
what exactly PR is and what it does.

The fact that this page and the previously mentioned quote basically boils
the need for PR down to a tactic promoting credibility immediately made me
disagree with the statement, but the more I thought about it, I tended to
agree with the assessment that the basic premise for all PR work is to
enhance the credibile perception of a client or an orgainization within
certain groups.

This is certainly not a new revelation, and is one which we have discussed
either prominently or in passing on several occasions, but the simplicity
with which this article stated it struck me in an odd way. As someone who
has been working in the field for a couple years, I have some mixed
emotions on agreeing with this basic nuts and bolts explanation. I hate
the idea that my job and the entire PR industry can be summed up in such a
simple way, but maybe it can.

When stated in such a way, the goal of creating or furthering credibiliity
seems like an incredibly superficial goal, and sort of plays up the image
of PR practitioners as spin-doctors of questionable legitimacy. On the
other hand, however, when I really thought about it, I found myself
agreeing with this simplistic description of PR work in general.

I would like to think that PR delves a little more into the realm of
presenting people with information that is not necessarily aimed entirely
at image enhancement, but when people hire a PR agency, increased
credibility is what they want to see in return.

I will sum this post up with this thought ... PR is an area that
encompasses a lot of work, tactics and ideas beyond the simple desire to
increase credibility and news coverage, but if you had to sum it up in one
simple thought, I suppose that the statement of PR's main purpose as work
to enhance the credibility of a particular entity is a pretty fair one to

NonProfit Commercialism

The Diversification of Revenue article was interesting because I always assumed that individual donors were the main source of income for nonprofits but apparently there are numerous sources for an NPO to pull from. Froelich makes a statement about how the different strategies are viewed where, “private contributions are considered a rather sacred source of nonprofit support, [while] commercial activity is often viewed as sacrilegious”. I found this comment fascinating because after reading the article it would seem to me that the commercial side of a nonprofit would be the safe way to go as compared to other revenue streams. I understand that the NPOs might be worried about their mission statement as an organization that provides goods and services for those less fortunate; however, it’s obvious that the NPOs are more likely to lose sight of their original goal when they have to depend on individual, private, corporate or government funding sources.

Froelich states that the organizations could worry about becoming businesslike in their actions but according to their section on corporate and private funding sources the NPOs are already being shaped into a business based on what said funders require of the organization to receive the revenue. She makes a statement about the fact that over time “NPOs come to resemble for-profit corporations”. I think that I would rather have my NPO rely on the clients and customers who utilize the goods and services that my organization provides than on a corporate entity who might try to take over the organization in order to create a MiniMe tax break for their company.

Also, as Froelich points out, there is no goal displacement with this form of revenue. If the commercial activity is developed correctly it would only complement the organization itself. With this form of revenue strategy the organization is in complete control of the funds earned and are able to put that money where they feel – based on their goals and objectives – it belongs. All things considered, if I had a choice of where my NPO funds would originate from I would lean towards more commercial activities.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Creative marketing strategies

When reading this article, one particular section caught my eye. In the section entitled “Ends versus ends-in-view” McNichol brings up important points concerning the means and ends of museums. She explains that money, staff, the collection and management (means) are all very necessary for museums to achieve “the ends for which they exist.” But, what is critical is that museums have yet to pinpoint exactly what their ends are. Further, museums cannot measure those ends which they cannot pinpoint. So, doesn’t that make nonprofit marketing seem so simple in comparison? Can’t we just refer to our mission statement and know what our end should be? I think that knowing what your ends are takes away some of the guesswork for not only you, but also those people you are trying to reach out to. Knowing your end helps you reach out to specific media, donors, and other organizations, which according to the article can create somewhat of a snowball effect around your cause/organization.

On another note, McNichol cites Stephen Weil as writing, “[U]ltimately, each museum has to assess its unique community and make aesthetic decisions based on reciprocity. By inviting and authenticating the participatory involvement of its community members, it will model the worthy museum.” Just replace the word museum with the word nonprofit and I believe you have a statement that could guide your nonprofit’s efforts in all aspects. As we all know, a nonprofit is basically nothing without the community members who are a part of it, so wouldn’t it just make sense to try to reach out to as many community members as possible, even if you have to do it in a roundabout way like the Fairfield County Museum in Winnsboro, SC did?

Monday, February 18, 2008

How Companies are Marketing Online

I thought this was an interesting article that confirmed what I would have thought to be the biggest obstacles for companies trying to position themselves online, and definately for NPOs who don't have the money to pay for fancy infrastructure, etc. I agree that internet display ads function more for branding purposes than direct action functions, but I am surprised the companies acknowledge/realize that. I never click on display ads for fear of endless pop-ups, but I do occasionally go to their official website if I am really intrigued. Display ads for non-profs might have a little more credibility though.

I do think that perhaps the last page of the article about consumer habits was one of the most important pieces of the article. I am shocked that companies only project 32% (total) of their consumers to be buying services/products online. What??? That sounds like a gross underestimate of what consumers will be doing. I know from my own habits that I use phone books to prop up a leaning futon and research nearly everything online. I also purchase items from the internet regularly (provided their site is safe) because, well let's face it, Fayetteville is not the glamourous one stop shop for everything some might think it is, so I have to look elsewhere for products I want. Same could be true for NPOs...what if they don't have a local office in Fayetteville? Then my only choice is to try and find information on their website or at large online.

And I also think the companies surveyed are naieve to think that less than half of their customers are shopping their prices online, but that number could be due to selective information provided on websites in order to lure potential customers into persuasive sales reps. Overall, that last graph of projections seemed a little bit fishy to me.

Creative Marketing Strategies article

I really enjoyed reading this article. The references to post-9/11 operations were so interesting. I don't specifically remember hearing about the Camp Charley and Camp Francis efforts, but they seem like such great ideas. I have the perception that the public does not consider museums to be a non-profit in the way they think about the Red Cross for example. And yet, in the community's time of need, the museums were there to provide support and resources in ways that most city or town officials would not have expected or planned for.

This article was the first I had heard of the record number of attendees to museums in the days shortly after 9/11 - how fascinating. I had also never thought about museums as being a "brand" before. I was so impressed by the marketing success stories of the small locally-themed museums featured in this article.

I laughed to myself when they mentioned selling t-shirts with the logo...why is it that our culture feels compelled to remember an experience with a t-shirt?!? (I feel like that's a question Stacy and Clinton from What Not To Wear would ask.) I along with many of my friends and family are guilty of this. In fact, my dad just mailed me a t-shirt a couple weeks ago - just in time for me to wear on Fat Tuesday - that was from Mardi Gras 2000, "The party of the Millennium."

But back to my point, I enjoyed these stories because they demonstrate how collaboration can work so effectively. It saves money, establishes and builds relationships with other common organizations, and it serves the community. I suppose I won't look at museums the same after reading this article. Museums are not the particular type of non-profit that I am interested in working with, but I feel like I now have a new respect for them, what they do, and why they are so important to have around.

How We Beg: The Analysis of Direct Mail Appeals

Fermida Handy's article is a masterpiece which advocates for the pursuance of Honesty which is a great virtue. In essence, Handy is stating that if an individual cannot be trusted with the little that he/she owns, how can that person/entity being an agent be trusted with much which belongs to others, the benefactors and beneficiaries. As Handy states in the article, Charities often play the role of an agent that brokers a charitable transaction between the donor and the recipient. Donors or benefactors are willing to give generously as long as brokers win their Trust and being assured that the donations will reach out to the intended project(s) and not diverted to other programs or end up in some individual pockets. Keeping tabs to avoid being ripped - off is costly and this is why Handy addresses the issue of principal - agent problem.
Focusing on the issue of principal - agent problem, Handy is emphasizing the point that accountability and transperancy is vital. There have been and still situations do exist where agents are accountable but not transparent. It has happened and it is still happenning that agents do recieve substantial sums of funds and deposit the amount in the bank for some duration ( Fixed- Deposit ) in order to cultivate the interest then pass on the initial donation to the recipients. In doing so, they are technically respecting the intentions of the donor by being accountable but they are not sincere transparent by withholding the interest accrued.
This is the explicit picture of what goes on in developing countries and especially in Africa. I must be careful not to make a sweeping statement but certainly there are agents who fail the acid test of being transparent in their mission of trying to alleviate either the conditions of the famine stricken countries or the Aids pandemic. The principal - agent problem also extends to African countries which are experiencing civil strife. For the governments which are deemed to be in power illegimately, the International Monetary Fund ( IMF) , the World Bank ( BK) , United Nations ( UN) , United States ( U.S) , European Union ( E.U) and the International Community, will always enforce economic sanctions. Though the International Community will not recognize rogue states, they still have the obligation to respond to humanitarian crisis by giving donations to the affected countries, not through the state but through the agencies/organizations which have made a good reputation, a name that is highly respected and trusted. The good name of these agents do summarize the advocacy of Handy's article, Honesty is a virtue to be cultivated.

Online & interpersonal customer service

The McKinsey article shows the importance of using digital tools for marketing in today's world. It says that 93% of respondents reported frequent use of digital tools in service management, and 76% reported frequent use of sales management. As I went on thinking about examples in real life, I find that although it seems that everything can be achieved online, there is still a tricky part in it.

For example, when my roommate and I moved into our apartment a year ago, we installed time warner basic cable and Internet services under my name. About six months later, I received a phone call from their customer service saying that there was a promotion of getting a primary channel free of charge for six months, and I accepted it. The channel was installed on the TV in the living room, where neither of us really spend anytime watching. So after six months, we decided to cancel the channel and save the additional cost. I assumed that I could just do this online, but when I went to their customer service website, I found that there was only an "add a service" option there. So the only way I could cancel the service was to make a call and talk to a sales representative, who didn't sound so happy after getting my request. I did cancel the channel successfully, but when I talked to a friend about it, she told me that when she called a few days ago to cancel everything, the sales representative spent an hour trying to talk her out of it. At last, the sales representative agreed to give her another six months of promotional price, and she apparently gave up her original request.

I don't know if any of you had the same experience, but I think time warner is the only one that I encountered as not having a "cancel your order" beside the "make an order" function on their website. This experience leads me to think about the customer loyalty discussion a few weeks ago. In this case, is customer loyalty created by our true preference of time warner or because customers are simply tired of bargaining in phone calls? From the business's standpoint, this strategy may be described as successful in keeping customers, but as a customer, I can only say it's pretty tricky. Is this going to be beneficial to the company in the long run?