Kara Kennedy of Samford University’s Brock School of Business spoke Friday on public relations for non-profit organizations. She has extensive experience in the non-profit sector, having previously worked for both the American Cancer Society and the American Red Cross.
Kennedy’s advice for students considering non-profit PR was simple but important. She advised first that students stick to the basics. Use a SWOT analysis to figure out where you will spend the money you have. Non-profit budgets are tighter, so you have to be very picky about what you spend money on.
Kennedy also stressed the importance of relationships. You need to engage your customers and be honest with them. You also need to know who your customers are so that you can reach out to them. “Hunt ducks where ducks are,” said Kennedy.
Another part of building relationships with you publics is telling them your story every day and sticking to your core mission. Don’t let the media be the ones telling everyone your story because they won’t always get it right. Make sure you are upfront about your story, the good and the bad. Always let the public now how you are sticking to your mission.
Kennedy said it is important to be flexible. You never know when a crisis might hit, so you need to be prepared for it. When it does hit, make sure you have a plan to deal with it. You should never ignore a problem.
One of the more interesting pieces of advice Kennedy gave was actually in an off-hand remark about focus groups. She said that the purpose of a focus group is to see what you are doing wrong, so that you can fix it. Knowing the public’s perception of and issues with your company is invaluable for improving.