This article originally appeared on PR Daily in February of 2018.
Many nonprofits conduct PR on a scant budget.
The dedicated communicators at altruistic organizations understand the value of public relations in soliciting donations, attracting volunteers or reporting to donors, but they might be missing out on affordable, effective opportunities.
Even small not-for-profit organizations can effectively promote their message through social media.
“If you want to reach your donors, go where they are. Sending physical mail and hosting trade shows are no longer effective ways for reaching people,” marketing expert AJ Agrawal says in Forbes.
Where are people? On social media.
A Newswhip study examined how leading nonprofit organizations succeed in social media and public relations. TED, UNESCO and UNICEF garnered the most earned media coverage.
TED’s mission is to spread ideas through videotaped short talks by subject-matter experts; it had the most engagements on articles written about its programs.
An article about George Soros’ charity Open Society Foundations had the highest average engagement because of one viral article from yournewswire.com, a site long on hyper-partisan news coverage and short on accuracy. The article reported that the foundation was barred from operating in Austria. The story was completely false, according to PolitiFact.
That finding highlights the need for nonprofits to monitor fake news sites that might mention them in articles.
Most articles about Open Society Foundations were little more than veiled attacks on George Soros, so any media analytics around the engagements Open Society Foundations garner in earned media ought to be taken with a fairly large helping of salt, according to Newswhip.
Newswhip offers these tips:
- Be an authority. If your nonprofit or its research is cited as authoritative in earned media, more people will become aware of its charity work and its mission.
- Define your voice and stick to it. TED has a very defined voice for its videos, which keeps people coming back to its content. Reflecting its motto “Ideas Worth Spreading,” TED staff carefully selects expert presenters and rehearses them rigorously to ensure thoughtful and helpful teaching sessions.
- Use video to your advantage. Video vastly outperformed for the two biggest nonprofit Facebook pages that Newswhip examined. It’s worthwhile to take advantage of this trend with well-produced, informative videos.
- Post frequently. The World Economic Forum posted 50 times a day on Facebook, which resulted in over 11 million engagements. If you have enough interesting or provocative content to post frequently, do so.
Here are more PR and social media marketing tips, from other knowledgeable sources:
- Focus on quality. Other experts recommend focusing on high-quality posts rather than on quantity. Pick a few crucial platforms to post to consistently, but not necessarily frequently, recommends fundraising expert Claire Axelrad in Maximize Social Business.
- Tell stories. Stories that relate accomplishments of people the nonprofit serves can persuade donors to contribute to your cause. The most effective stories—whether text or video—focus on the people helped rather than the nonprofit itself. “Tell stories wherever you can—especially where you know your donors hang out,” Axelrad stresses. “The more you tell, the better donors feel. Especially when you make them the hero of the stories!”
- Social media advertising. Yes, nonprofits typically have small marketing budgets, but it’s possible to create an effective social media advertising program for $5 a day, says Margot da Cunha at WordStream. The key is to take advantage of the targeting options of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn to reach your particular audience. Reduce social media advertising costs by targeting audience by interest, locality and demographics.
- Add a “Donate Now” button. Facebook enables some nonprofits to place a “Donate Now” button on their page. The button can be added the same way as other call-to-action options. The page’s category must be set to “Non-Profit Organization” only—with no other categories selected. Look into the feasibility of using other crowdfunding methods as well.
- Set goals and strategy. Creating social media goals and strategy should be your first step. Determine what you want to achieve and best to do so. Carefully define and aim at your target audience, including journalists and media outlets.
- Monitor and measure. Select metrics highlighting progress toward those goals. For instance, you could set a goal for number of media placements and then measure them against website visits, form fills, number of volunteer inquiries and donations, etc. “By cross referencing these numbers during the appropriate time period, you can see how your promotion efforts correlate with the desired outcomes you set,” says Kristen Hay, marketing coordinator at Bloomerang. “A big part of marketing and PR is measurement. But on the flip side, it’s important to keep in mind that what’s meaningful sometimes isn’t measurable. … Think of your PR and marketing efforts as an ongoing activity, rather than a one-off task.”
Public relations and digital marketing offer superb ways for nonprofits to spread their messages and increase donations to their cause. Social media engagement can amplify positive earned media mentions.
Because PR and social media campaigns can be implemented with relatively small investments, they are especially valuable to smaller, cash-strapped nonprofits.
A version of this post first appeared on the Glean.info blog.