What’s the best idea good for if nobody knows about it? This situation is faced by many initiatives that have set off with an idea for a more sustainable world and at some point make no progress anymore because they do not generate any resonance on the outside. How do you bring good ideas and important messages to men or women? Which channels and media are particularly suitable for this? How do you not get lost in times of information overload? And how do you stay on the ball, taking as little time as possible?
For successful public relations work it can be worthwhile not to rush into it, but to proceed carefully and structured. The following questions may serve for structuring [source]:
|What do we want to communicate||message|
|to whom||dialogue group|
|by which means||medium|
|with what effect?||effect|
What, why and with what effect?
First of all, it is important to clarify what the goal is and what message is to be brought out. Is it about recruiting members, winning sponsors, advertising events, etc.? In many cases it is a matter of inspiring as many people as possible from the core idea of the association and motivating them to participate. Therefore, it should be summarized as briefly and crisply as possible so that it can be quickly understood what it is all about: Who are we and what do we want? This formulation process alone can be extremely valuable for reflecting one’s own organizational goals and values.
Who is the target group to which the message should be addressed? Information for seniors is certainly to be formulated, processed and transported differently than for children, young people, families or people with a migration background. Therefore, the interests and needs of the respective target group must be sounded out at first.
In what way?
The target group is also decisive for the choice of the right medium for transporting the information. If I want to reach as many people as possible, it pays off to use large media such as newspapers, radio or social media. Older people will be more likely to be reached via the print media and radio, younger people via social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. If special target groups (with a limited group of people) are to be informed, they can also be contacted with a personal letter by post or e-mail (however, the current data protection regulations must also be observed!).
In order for information to actually reach its addressee, it is often not only necessary to use different media, but also to repeat it over time. Especially for information that serves a younger audience, it is necessary to run an information loop every few years. A 15-year-old today will have hardly noticed anything of the large information campaign 5 years ago.
Public relations work has many faces: from flyers, posters, banners, radio and television contributions to websites, blogs and posts in the social media. The combination of information and experience within the framework of cultural events is also gladly used. To save effort and costs, you can also participate in existing events and place your information there. Here, too, the target group plays the decisive role. It may also make sense to convey some (rather uncomfortable) information on other issues that affect us all, such as food or energy prices.
As you can easily see from advertising, information is often transported via emotions. In this way, attention is generated, and the information may also be stored more deeply and thus more sustainably. Familiar faces from the community are particularly suitable for information campaigns at the local level. This creates trust and local reference.
Important: regardless of which medium is used, it should be professional on the one hand (otherwise one gets lost in the flood of information). On the other hand, it should also reflect the face of the initiative and the information that one wants to convey. It is important to strike a balance between professionalism and authenticity.
Professional public relations costs money. Saving money at this point might not be a good decision in many cases. This is where the search for sponsors from the own municipality would probably be more profitable. In order to reduce costs nevertheless, it is worthwhile to clarify the step “What, why and with what effect?” initially under their own direction and only then to hire a professional company for marketing and public relations. Because this step usually costs most of the time.
Information from the state network for civic engagement on the topic of public relations for associations (german): http://www.vereinswiki.info/node/70
Stories of success
How the Transition Town Keynsham is gaining new members
The founders of the Transition Town initiative Keynsham were at some point faced with the question of how they could increase their membership size and thus their efficiency to the outside and found a number of solutions: They took part in local events such as the Keynsham Music Festival, organised a school garden day, an energy day and an event on the topic of “Who feeds Keynsham?“.
In order to reach people outside their own organisation, they were involved in individual projects such as the community garden, the bicycle workshop or the local park. A monthly newsletter informs people about current projects and local events.
Solar ambassadors in Tuiwnwijk
Once, you have a critical mass of interested people it is easier to find out people who can volunteer in the project but do not want to be part of your core team. You might want to reach out to all households in your neighborhood, but in times where people barely know their neighbors, you should also think about alternative ways of outreach and dissemination. The volunteers in Tuiwnwijk came up with the idea of ‘solar ambassadors’- ” – a group of volunteers who were going door to door and discuss with their neighbors the opportunities the initiative provided. The fact that the ambassadors were usually speaking with their immediate neighbors helped the initiative to spread quicker in the neighborhood.