Musings of a PR Professional

Finally finished!

We just finished editing our video for Safe Harbor! It’s about three minutes in length, and looks good! It’s not the most complex video in the world, but I think that any more editing or effects would have taken away from the woman’s story and thus the point of the video. I really like our final product. I think it is perfectly moving so that the audience will really appreciate her story, but it also sheds light on how much Safe Harbor can do for a person. I’m glad that we were able to get the point across that Safe Harbor is a very important organization that has the ability to change a person’s life for the better, and I hope that it motivates people to call the organization if they, or someone they love is a victim of domestic violence.

It took a little while to figure out what we were doing with the editing program, but once we got the hang of it we were able to get the editing done relatively quickly. It looks really professional, and I am excited about being able to share it with our class on Thursday. I also hope that Safe Harbor likes the video, and that they will find it useful.

Looking back over the entire semester, what really sticks out in my mind regarding this project is how lucky we were to be able to actually go to Safe Harbor and speak to a domestic violence survivor. By being able to do so, I felt I became much more connected to the organization which ultimately motivated me to really take this video seriously. I wanted to give them a final product that speaks to the genuineness of the organization. It is unfortunate that we were not able to stick more closely to our project proposal and do two videos (one for raising awareness and one for fundraising). But, I think it is almost better that we were able to focus all of our effort and make one really good video.

Overall, working with a nonprofit was actually a lot more rewarding than I thought it would be. For me, doing this project was more than just a grade. I felt like I was really contributing to something bigger and more important than myself, which was an awesome opportunity that this class afforded me. Despite all of the challenges that we faced, everything was well worth it in the end.

Chapter 10: From Friending to Funding

Chapter 10 is all about eliciting donations from people- how to move those who are interested or involved in your organization’s particular cause from bystanders to active supporters. As is the nature of the book, the authors focus on how to do so via social media channels. They give a list of six fundraising patterns that they have seen online, one of which is “Storytelling makes fundraising personal.”

I have touched on this concept before when I talked about my group’s video project for Safe Harbor. We decided to make the focus of our video a former client of Safe Harbors as she shares her story about how Safe Harbor helped her. Filming went very, very well (but more on that in a later post).

We followed in the footsteps of an organ donation organization in Illinois called Donate Life. We watched a video in class that they produced about a man whose life was saved when a young girl passed away and donated her lungs. Emotional appeals abound in this video, which I believe are a very effective way to connect audience members to a cause and move them to action.

The authors note, “Storytelling brings alive the activities of an organization and makes their issues real and urgent for current and potential supporters. Stories put a human face on abstract ideas, provide moral clarity in a fight against unfairness, right a fundamental wrong, and celebrate triumphs over evil.” Clearly, personal narratives carry a lot of moral clout which is very powerful when encouraging people to take initiative and do the right thing.

It is imperative that people working for nonprofit organizations look past the every-day logistics of keeping a program, shelter, or whatever it may be, going. People can’t connect with hard numbers or abstract, larger-than-life concepts. They can connect with real people and real instances where a particular organization made a tangible difference.

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.


Safe Harbor Update

Looks like it’s time for another Safe Harbor update! As a class, ee have a number of things in the works at the moment for this organization, and I am involved in two of them. The first is the Pepsi Refresh grant that I blogged about a few weeks ago.

We are working together as a class on winning the $25,000 grant. Last week in class we worked together to create a list of audiences that we will reach out to in order to gain votes for our cause throughout November. We also determined what media channels we would use to reach these different audiences. We decided to use:

  • Email list-servs that we have access to
  • Safe Harbor’s list of emails that they have access to
  • Our own and Safe Harbor’s Facebook and Twitter accounts
  • Our own personal contacts that we can communicate with in person and online
  • News publications in the upstate
  • Clemson’s newspaper The Tiger
  • The website

Knowing this, we determined what type of press materials we would need to best reach each audience. So, yesterday in class we split up into groups and actually wrote these press materials and are now just waiting until November to tweak these and start sending them out!

The second thing that myself and two other women in my class are working on for Safe Harbor, something I mentioned briefly in a previous post, are two videos for the organization. One video will aim to raise funds for Safe Harbor and the other will attempt to raise awareness about the organization.

We developed a project proposal to outline what we plan to include in each video. The fundraising video will most likely include people talking about how easy and rewarding donating in as well as what different dollar amounts could mean for Safe Harbor. The awareness video will focus on testimony from a victim of domestic violence that has been saved by Safe Harbor. In the proposal we also included how we will dispense these videos to the public. We plan to put the videos on YouTube and market them through Safe Harbor’s blog, Facebook page, and Twitter.

Now, we are just waiting to hear Safe Harbor’s feedback and beginning to get started on outlining story boards so we know exactly what footage and materials we will need for the videos.

So- here we go!

Refresh Safe Harbor, please!

For those of you who don’t know, or aren’t aware of the specifics, PepsiCo. has started an initiative called the Pepsi Refresh Project. Essentially what it is, is each month Pepsi gives away up to a total of $16,500,000 to the top 32 ideas that plan to do something positive for society. The ideas can come from any individual or any organization, but in order to win, the idea has to get the most votes. Anyone can vote, so the contest is really about who can promote their idea the best.

Our plan is to win $25,000 for Safe Harbor so that they can buy 30 new mattresses, re-do their kitchen, and stock it with food for almost one year.

There is A LOT of money up for grabs to do something great with- and we’re going to win. We’re a PR class full of smart and talented women. We got this!

More than anything, this is a social media competition. Whoever has the biggest, most dedicated social network made up of people who are (willing to be) active online will be the winners. So, a large part of our job will be to mobilize the troops. Of course personal relationships will help us, but we can’t simply rest on the hope that our friends and family like us enough to commit themselves to voting regularly.

So, we will not just throw together an application and pump it out to our friends on Facebook and Twitter. We are going to put time and effort into this campaign so that we are sure to win. We want people we know and people we’ve never met before to feel compelled to vote for our cause. As such, our class has chosen to wait until next month to submit our idea. So, over the next few weeks we are going to work hard to come up with compelling descriptions, stories, pictures, videos, slogans, and more to get our cause out there.

I personally think that pictures and videos will be the way to win votes. I firmly believe that the old adage is true, A picture is worth a thousand words. I believe that if we can show voters the women and children that they will be helping as well as the current, rather dire conditions of Safe Harbor’s kitchen and mattresses, we will be very persuasive.

But that’s my opinion. What’s yours? What do you think will help us win the most votes so that Safe Harbor can win funding?

Believe me- we would love to hear from you! We want to be successful and win this money for Safe Harbor and the people they serve.

Chapter 3: Conducting Research and Targeting Audiences

Once again the importance of research rears its head in a PR text. But, that is no problem because it should come up. A lot. Because research is the corner stone on which good public relations practices should rest.

 Since this text in particular deals with communicating for nonprofits, it is especially relevant to understand where your target audiences stand in relation to the issues that you are fighting for. And how do you find that out? By researching. You won’t know how to reach an audience unless you first know who they are, what they believe in and value, among other important information that you can gain through research. It is also essential to know how and what about your issue has been covered in the news already so that you know  how to respond to the media, what aspects of your issue need attention,  how to frame your issue, and much more.

Both researching the people you are trying to reach and the way your issue is presented in the media will give you a more comprehensive view of how you should go about creating and disseminating your message. For example, we talked about each of the projects we will be working on for Safe Harbor and what they will entail in class. The first thing that came up across all three is the need for research. While each will need a different message, mindset, and action to execute, we will all begin in the same place by researching because research will let us know what we should do next.

In conclusion: You can’t catch a fish without a worm, so why would you try to reach your target audience without knowing what will hook them?

The Beginning: Working to improve Safe Harbor’s communication

Safe Harbor is a domestic violence shelter that serves Greenville, Anderson, Pickens, and Oconee counties. In addition to their shelters, Safe Harbor has a 24 hour crisis line and provides counseling, legal advocacy and transitional living arrangements for women starting a new life. And all of these resources are free.

This semester our public relations class is teaming up with Safe Harbor to help improve their communication strategies. In order to get a better understanding of Safe Harbor and what we would be able to help them with, Samantha Tucker, Director of Development and Julie Meredith, Director of Volunteers and Communication came and spoke with our class.

If asked, I’m sure people would overwhelmingly support the cause to end domestic violence and offer shelter to those who have fallen victim to it. However, after listening to Samantha and Julie, it is clear that the social stigma surrounding domestic violence is a huge obstacle that Safe Harbor faces every day. It is hard to rally the public around an issue that is rooted in shame, so they need help raising awareness and raising funds for their organization (and clearly these two needs go hand in hand).

So, keeping these goals in mind we were given the opportunity to ask Samantha and Julie questions about Safe Harbor, their communication strategies now, and how they could be improved. After this discussion and armed with information, our class has come up with 3 ways that we will be able to help Safe Harbor increase awareness about domestic violence and their organization and raise funds. These three projects are:

  • Two videos. One will have the goal of raising awareness about Safe Harbor and will target potential clients of the shelter. The other will have the goal of fundraising for the organization and will target potential donors.
  • A plan for improving their social media practices and Safe Harbor’s website.
  • A PR/marketing plan for how to spread the word about a charitable fashion show being help for Safe Harbor in February. Designing useable marketing materials, such as fliers and invitations, will also be included in this project.

I, with two other women, will be working on the video project. It is my sincerest hope and intention to give Safe Harbor, at the end of this semester, a meaningful, well thought out, and professional quality video. I think it will be challenging, but if working to prevent domestic violence isn’t a challenge worth facing, I don’t know what is.