Musings of a PR Professional

Chapter 1: The Basics of Strategic Communications

Chapter one of Strategic Communications for Nonprofits (a trade book we are using as a textbook in the latest PR class I am taking) by Kathy Bonk, Emily Tynes, Henry Griggs, and Phil Sparks did a good job of reintroducing me to the public relations field. It’s been a year since I have taken a PR course at Clemson, and although I have been practicing PR in the “real world” at my internship, I think it’s quite different to learn than to do so I am thankful for the way this book has eased me back into the field.

As the title notes, the book’s focus is on PR for nonprofits, but the introductory nature of the first chapter lends itself well to pointing out a main theme/tenet every PR professional should follow: “… have a sound, well-planned communications strategy.” It is my belief that a well thought out plan can be one of the most important and useful tools to any PR professional. A fisherman would not sail out to sea without any navigation tools, so why should a PR professional begin their relationship-building efforts without a plan for what they want their message to be and how they will get this message across. Also, a plan is especially important in crisis situations. For example, while it is true that you can never plan for the unexpected, as a PR professional, you should have a general plan for how to handle a PR crisis when one arises.  The authors note, “You need to be in control of events before events control you,” when trying to turn around bad media coverage of your nonprofit. A previously developed plan is the best way to deflect a PR crisis because you can respond in a timely and comprehensive manner.

The idea that a well-prepared communications strategy is a vital part of a nonprofit’s success would be nothing if that strategy was not rooted in the organization’s values, mission, and goals. I think this is another great and relevant point that the authors make in this chapter. A marketing seminar that I attended last week at the Clemson Area Chamber Commerce dealt with the importance of making sure that every marketing effort is focused and in accordance with an organization’s purpose. The speaker emphasized that the beliefs at the core of any type of organization, not just nonprofits, should drive every PR tactic implemented or these efforts would be futile. You are only going to see the results you want if you have clearly outlined what you are trying to achieve and how you would like to achieve it. So, it is important to have a meaningful plan that uses communication as a tool to take your nonprofit where you would like it to go.

Crisis Communication

Frank Shaw‘s blog, Glass House came up on my RSS feed today with a post very relevant to Tuesday’s discussion and activity concerning crisis communication. Go check it out as a little supplement, his take is concise and informative.

Chapter Twelve

  • Crises can always be avoided. There are usually warning signs that people either don’t see or choose to ignore. As the book states, “The best crises are those that are averted” (p.403).
  • It is extremely important to have a plan for crisis communication ahead of time. This plan will help to minimize the harmful ramifications of the situation by allowing the organization to deal with what is going on effectively.
  • Crises are not all the same. Crisis communication plans should be falexible and crisis managers should be open to change if it is necessary.
  • One should always evaluate how the organization dealt with the crisis. It it essential that organizations learn from the strenghts and weaknesses of the plan and make changes to be better prepared next time.