Community work is tied into a lot of what we do at Veracity. In fact, one of our specialties is matching charities with businesses and unfolding the PR magic. We are lucky to have truly learned from the best when it comes to infusing community into daily work life. Our long term client, Windermere Stellar, has been doing this well before we came onto the scene.
“I am proud to say that our brokers are equally successful at real estate as they are raising money for worthy causes,” said Joan Allen, Windermere co-owner and co-chair of the local Windermere Foundation chapter. “Working to build better communities is a natural extension of what real estate professionals do on a daily basis.”
The real estate company recently ranked number one on the Portland Business Journal’s (PBJ) list of the area’s most philanthropically-inclined, large-sized companies. How they did this is the making of a PR person’s dream.
Do more than write checks
Don’t get me wrong, giving money to charity is a wonderful way to give back, but it’s got to be more than that. In fact, we believe that this idea of “more” is what fuels Windermere’s fundraising machine. Every realtor donates a portion of their commission from every sale to the Windermere Foundation, which serves local charities helping low income families. But they don’t just stop there, embarking on friendly competitions to determine which office can raise the most for charity. Full-time realtors spearhead everything from charitable golf tournaments and gala auctions to smaller but still meaningful actions like donating a dollar to the Foundation for every realtor that shows up at an open house.
Most of these efforts are highly PR’able. We can follow an event PR timeline with many of the public fundraisers:
- Pre-event publicizing with calendar listings & press releases
- During event publicity with inviting & hosting applicable press
- After-event publicity to announce the fundraising results
Reach a wider, more engaged audience more often
Naysayers might wonder if our client is getting lost among all this charitable messaging. But remember that nobody cares about our clients as much as we PR people do, especially the press. And since it’s our job to make them care, we rely on the charitable messaging. Regardless, the press won’t want to write a piece solely focusing on the client and if they did that likely won’t happen again soon. Also, if your content surrounds the “self” of the organization and isn’t about how the organization affects others, your audience will stop listening. We as human beings don’t care about too much that doesn’t affect us directly. Since community issues affect everyone, community engagement is a goldmine for generating lasting PR results.
But we are writing checks!?!
OK, let’s get real. It’s true that charitable donations are not only how businesses can make waves, but more importantly how they can help others. However, handing a check over to the charity isn’t necessarily a PR event, no matter how oversized it is and I don’t mean in dollar amount, I mean in literal size.
If your organization plans on writing a lot of checks, the first step is to have a re-usable check made of dry erase board prominently displaying your logo that can be used over and over again. With each donation, arrange to present the oversized check to a charity representative in front of key stakeholders that would most appreciate the gesture — such as your employees or board members.
Have someone take a high-resolution (ish) photo of the check presentation and then send it to applicable publications with a recap of what happened. Your write-up doesn’t have to be a fancy press release. Simply type down how much was donated to whom with a brief description of the charity including their general mission, service demographic and location. You may also need to list the titles and names of the people in the photo if there aren’t too many people in it.
Repeat these actions every time you present a check, but be sure to customize the copy and the press list with each donation. If you are writing checks for coastal charities, let the coastal media know. However, if the next check you write is for a Tigard, Ore.-based charity, do not let the coastal papers know (unless your organization is based on the coast or highly affects coastal economies) and switch up your press audiences to focus on Tigard reporters. This thoughtful customization is basic and produces great results. Also, remember to use the images and copy for your social media.
Add a better visual element for better coverage
But your boss or board is breathing down your neck asking for a segment on the evening news or a front page story? Ok, my friend, this is where you need to do more than write the check. Bring in bodies to produce some sort of story-telling action to make a splash. Think in terms of visuals to get TV coverage or deeper storylines to get front-page worthy print or web articles.
An example of a TV-able action would be to volunteer for your beneficiary with a gaggle of your staff, board or clients. Incorporate physical action in to the volunteer work, such as raking leaves, painting or cleaning. Take photos and send them to TV stations before 2 p.m. on the event day if the TV stations do not come after you’ve invited them. Call to follow up on the photos. Be wary of incorporating children with the charity in your photos as you’d need to have their guardian sign a release form, which can be tricky for many service-oriented charities. Also run all your PR plans by your charity before incorporating them into the volunteer event at all.
How you could dig deeper to pull out a print or web feature story is to uncover some of the “why” around the charity. Is there a larger story that connects your organization to the charity? Was one of your board members or executives highly affected by the organization through receiving past services? Gently find out if they are comfortable going on the record and type a short synopsis that entices the press to uncover their own version of this story.
Many people are uncomfortable opening up in such a vulnerable way, or if you just don’t have a story like that to tell, then ensure your donation goes to something tangible, like a specific portion of a center or a certain program within the charity and create a story around that. For example, if your organization is donating funds to help build a new center, discover what portion of the center you could allot your donation to. The kitchen comes to mind with thoughts that go deeper than the financial donation into how the nourishment of food first fills stomachs, slowly making its way toward filling the emptiness of the soul.
It’s good for business & the community
Sometimes when we suggest publicizing the charitable activities of our clients, they are hesitant as they do not do it for the publicity. Our response it that first of all it is good for business. You are getting your name in the community, providing monetary contributions, time and/or in-kind products or services. Those are all good things and if we get the word out, it can have a real impact on the bottom line as we highlighted in a case study with Clackamas Federal Credit Union and Habitat for Humanity.
The other bi-product of publicizing community work is that it leads to more philanthropy. When your partners, competitors and the public see how you are impacting your community, they want in. We have heard numerous times that charitable programs and activities of other organizations have inspired companies to start contributing to the community or caused them to step their game up.
The humble brag
And we sure are taking the roundabout, deflecting way of telling you that for the first time Veracity also make the list of PBJ’s Most Generous Corporate Philanthropists in Oregon & Southwest Washington – Small. While our donation was modest, we are one of the smallest of the small on the list. We are humbled to be on a list with such generous donors and inspire to follow in their footsteps, increasing our donation amount each year to slowly rise higher on the list. We learn from the best of them and practice what we preach in the evolution, growing and learning realm.