Effectively Using Community Relations in your PR Strategy

Does your business have a community service project or plan? If your answer is no, why not? Community relations is one of the most overlooked PR strategies, yet something that can easily be implemented for very little money – if any at all – and with a small time commitment.  Plus, chances are the majority of your employees are already involved with a nonprofit or community activity.

For a small business, community relations means becoming involved in your community while creating good will for your company. Examples of activities you can become involved in include:

  • Working a water stop for a 5K race that benefits a well-known non-profit
  • Helping at an animal shelter
  • Building a house as a company team with Habitat with Humanity
  • Volunteering as part of a greater group, such as a Chamber of Commerce or Industry Association
  • Collecting coins, cans, tabs, etc. for a local organization
  • Launching a book drive for your local library
  • Joining an advisory board or Board of Directors for a nonprofit or organization with meaning to you or your business

Most communities have resources that can help you identify a local need. In Austin, for instance, read GivingCity magazine or HandsOn Central Texas (they have chapters across the nation).

You may be wondering how community service involvement can directly impact your business. People tend to think of community service as a warm fuzzy thing, not as a form of ROI for a business. However, marketing experts disagree. In the 2010 PRWeek/Barkely PR Cause Survey, two-thirds of brands now engage in cause marketing (up from 58% in 2009) and 97% of marketing executives believe it is a valid business strategy.

According to Monica Williams, editor for GivingCity Austin,  ”Consumers have lots of choices in the market, and most would choose a business that demonstrates a commitment to their community.” She also adds that developing a community service plan is a great way to build a community around your business, learn more about your customers, and have something else to keep you motivated when times are tough.

If that isn’t enough to get you thinking, here are some additional mind-changing thoughts:

1.) Employee Relations. Your employees are one of your most valuable assets, right? Keeping them happy, connected and invested in your company will help build company loyalty. Remember the old saying “All work and no play.”

2.) Company credibility. Show your customers and your community that you have values and are invested in the greater good. According to the 2010 Edleman goodpurpose study, 86% consumers around the world believe that business needs to place at least equal weight on societal interests as on business interests.

3.) Creates a stepping stone for other communication vehicles. Very much a “soft sell”, community relations helps lay the ground work for name recognition and brand trust. This becomes extremely valuable when integrated into other marketing channels like advertising, direct mail, social media.

4.) Networking. We all know it’s small world out there and you don’t know who your next customer/client will be. Imagine the peer-to-peer networking serving on a Board of Directors could offer you! Or how about getting dirty building a house next to the the CEO of a company you’re interested in turning into a client?

Are the ideas flowing? Will you start a community relations plan for your business? Where will you start and what causes fire you up? Let us know in the comments below!

Next post, we will talk about effectively measuring the ROI of your community relations plan.


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