ROLE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS IN NON COMMERCIAL ORGANIZATION (A CASE STUDY OF GUIDANCE COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION)
1.1 Background of the Study
For many non-commercial organizations, public relations, whether to recruit volunteers, publicize an event, or commemorate organizational milestones, is a scary, if not foreign, task. In most situations employees at non-commercial organizations know their programmes, the communities they serve, and are knowledgeable about the organization’s target social issues, but do not how to perform public relations.
There has been a push in the non-commercial sector in recent years on developing public relations as a core competency, as evidenced by the increasing number of workshops and conference presentations on the subject. Recent workshop offerings include: “The Nuts and Bolts of Public Relations,” presented at the 2005 Washington Library Association (WLA) Conference in Spokane, Washington; “Media Management: The Value of Relationships,” presented at the 2006 Montana Non-commercial Association Annual Conference in Helena, Montana; and “Branding, Communications, and Public Relations” to be presented at a July 2007 day-long workshop presented by Technical Assistance for Community Services (TACS) in Portand, Oregon. Though these three presentations are but a sampling of the myriad of workshops and presentations directed at non-commercial organizations n the Pacific Northwest, it should be emphasized that all three focus on media relations—the composition and distribution of pitch letters, media advisories, press releases, and public service announcements. The truth is, public relations are much more than just press agency. However, with the decreasing emphasis on government funding and increased reliance on independent sources of funding (Frumpkin, 2006), funders want to know that their money will be used wisely, and media clippings are one way to demonstrate this.
Therefore, media relations usually comprise the bulk of non-commercial organizations public relations programs. Many non-commercial organizations are already performing public
relations, though not as strategically or effectively as they could. For example, sending out a monthly or quarterly newsletter to clients, employees, and supporters, or writing or distributing press releases and public service announcements in conjunction with a fundraiser or event most certainly qualify as public relations activities. Some non-commercial organizations even have established and maintained media contacts, and have impressive databases of supporters, donors, clients, and partners in the community. However, these resources may not be utilized to their fullest potential, and the public relations activities that are being done could be done more efficiently, consistently, and effectively. The purpose of this paper is to establish effective public relations programs in organizations that are either establishing a public relations program for the first time, or to increase the capacity and effectiveness of an existing public relations program.
The basic operations of the organization, as dictated by the mission statement, take precedence over public relations, and the organization’s success is measured in quantifiable terms related to service output, not media coverage. Simply put, many non-commercial organizations lack the resources to acquire a full-time public relations practitioner. As a result, many non-commercial organizations hire interns to perform public relations functions, as observed by internship postings on any university’s career services website, a myriad of online intern search websites, and even job search engines that offer an internship search.
At first glance, this seems a viable solution to the resources dilemma many non-commercial organizations face. However, most interns work at the non-commercial organizations during the summer months or for a semester during the year. Interns rarely have the opportunity to meet the person who previously held their position, and as a result, the continuity of the position often suffers. For example, summer interns at an non-commercial organizations might develop a database of media contacts, and distribute press releases accordingly. Interns who take their place in the fall may not know about the database or who was contacted, and thus relationships with gatekeepers may not be fostered.
1.2 Objective of the Study
The objectives of this paper, is divided into two parts: theoretical basis and practical application.
If public relations are to be performed in the non-commercial setting of Guidance Community Development Foundation, the case study of this project, it must take into account the unique climate of non-commercial organizations, not be overly time consuming, and encourage continuity while recognizing that many people in the organization may be
performing public relations functions. Additionally, given the challenges of establishing a public relations program in the non-commercial setting, non-commercials must be convinced it is an endeavor worthy of their time and energy.