Every so often it is useful to take your public relations back to basics. Whether your membership organisation is small and focussed on a niche, or large and represents a major profession / industry, it is easy to find yourself going down a path that may not actually be the path you need to be on.
The top tips below will get you to stop and think about what you are doing and help you decide whether your PR will achieve the outcomes your organisation requires.
1. What does your organisation do?
You need to be able to clearly and succinctly explain what you do in just one sentence. Think of an elevator pitch when asked what you do at a networking event. If you can’t explain what you do in simple terms then it will be difficult for those outside the organisation to understand what you do and importantly, interpret what it means for them. For example, “The [name of organisation] is the professional body for [name the profession] and we provide training and education to help further their careers and set standards for their conduct within the profession.”
2. Why does your organisation exist?
This is a similar question to number one, but is more about why you do what you do. For example, do you have a mission statement that explains your core purpose and focus?
3. Who do you do this for? i.e. who are your members / stakeholders?
Have you ever profiled your members / stakeholders? By this I mean, have you ever worked out the type of people you need to reach? For example: individual / business / both; their needs / wants; geographical location; male / female; adult / child; level of disposable income / budget; other interests that are complementary / competitive to you; in one industry or spread horizontally over a number of different industries. What are their ‘pains’ that you make go away?
4. Do you provide what members need from you?
Do you know what your members need from you? If so, you can determine whether you provide this or not. For example, do your members want you to help them win new clients? Promote the role they have in business? Raise the profile of their capabilities? Lobby politicians on their behalf? Get changes in the law? When you know what members expect from you it is possible to determine whether you provide (enough of) the services that they need and amend your messaging accordingly (see number 6).
5. What do you ultimately want your PR activity to achieve?
If there are no barriers, what is your Ultimate Desired Result (UDR) from public relations activity? This could be: to reach a membership level of XXXX by [insert date]; new members to reach XX% by [insert date]; achieve an income level of £XXX,000 by [insert date]; launch training arm and fill each workshop to a minimum XX% capacity by [insert date]. You may choose to have just one UDR that all public relations activity will work towards, or perhaps a series of smaller ones is more relevant to your needs. Either way, you need to keep in mind what your PR activity is aiming for – your top of the mountain.
6. What do you need to say?
This is your messaging. Not every member / potential member / stakeholder will be interested in everything you have to say so you need different messages that are relevant to each audience. Some messages will appeal to all, but in order for what you say to have the most impact you need to talk in terms of what they need to hear – go back to their ‘pains’ that you identified in tip number 3.
7. When are you going to say it?
Once you know your messages, you need to convert these into compelling content and then decide on when you are going to communicate. Creating a content calendar / schedule really works to make sure that you cover all topics. You may find you only have enough content for one topic each month, or you may be able to focus on a different one every week. Think of key dates / events that are relevant to your members and schedule the content accordingly.
For example, if you provide CPD training and members need to log their points by the end of Month 3, your content for Month 1 could focus on CPD requirements and how to complete those final points. You may hold an annual conference in Month 10 and need to start drumming up ticket sales – if so, Month 7 could focus on the theme of the conference and the launch of ticket sales or sponsorship opportunities plus Month 11 could be a report on the outcomes of the conference. You don’t have to stick rigidly to the calendar, but by scheduling the topics you want to cover you will clearly see if you have any gaps and be confident you are communicating the messages you need to.
8. How are you going to communicate?
Fish where the fishes are. By this I mean that you need to be where your audience is and communicate in the ways that will reach them. If you need to communicate with a business audience then Facebook is unlikely to work, but could be effective if you have identified a need to communicate with individuals rather than employers. Would a printed newsletter through the post be read more than an electronic newsletter? Would an event attract your audience, or are they disparate and you need to run many across the country/world – would this be viable? Be where your audience is, e.g. online, social, in their homes, geographical location.
9. How frequent is your communication?
The frequency by which you communicate with members is crucial in terms of engagement. Communicate too often and you will annoy members. Don’t communicate often enough and they will feel disengaged or that you are not relevant to them. Both will affect your member attrition rate. Split-test your communication to determine what works best.
10. How can members / your target community communicate with you?
Public Relations is a two-way street. It is important to connect and communicate with members, but just as significant is members being able to connect back with you. This can be done by feedback forms on your website, the ability to add comments on your blog posts, the use of social media, holding events, providing contact information and staff names on your website/literature. Having a two-way flow of information enables conversation which aids the understanding of what you are communicating and helps increase engagement levels.
The above top tips only scratch the surface of what you can do to audit your public relations activity but they do give you an excellent base on which to check you are on the right path and not wasting resources on activity that is not meeting the needs of members and your organisation’s business objectives.
If you have ever conducted a public relations audit then add your experience below so others can benefit. I am particularly interested in hearing if this exercise made you realise you were / were not on the right track, or if you identified tweeks to your approach.
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