Musings of a PR Professional


Chapter 6: Building Trust Through Transparency

Is Safe Harbor a fortress, transactional, or transparent organization? Well, let’s see.

Fortress: Organizations that do what they can to keep their secrets in and the world out.

Transactional: Organizations that only interact with the public for monetary purposes- they provide them with money and that’s it.

Transparent: Organizations that let the distinctions between inside and outside the organization blur, are straight forward, and open to outside ideas.

So, I don’t think that Safe Harbor a transactional organization because they interact with the community in meaningful and enriching ways. For example, each October during domestic violence month Safe Harbor hosts a candlelight vigil to honor those who have passed away from domestic violence. That’s a lot more than just asking for money! On the other hand, I would not go so far as to say that Safe Harbor is a transparent organization. They don’t put out there how much money the spend each year, how many volunteers they work with, how many people they help, and more, which could be endearing or useful to the public. This may be due in part to the very sensitive nature of the issues they deal with, or it could be because they are afraid to lose control. Either way, their transparency is prohibited. Therefore, I think that Safe Harbor is a fortress organization, if I have to pick one of the three.

But, Safe Harbor is doing everything in their power to move away from this idea that organizations can only function efficiently if they value privacy and control. They are beginning to work with social media to open themselves up to conversations about domestic violence and the people that are willing to help them disseminate their messages. Safe Harbor has realized that it is time for them to change, and it will be a long, challenging process. But, it will be worth it in the end.

 


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.