When businesses partner with a local nonprofit organization, it may be because the owner or employees have some sort of special connection to the cause. But let’s not be naïve, ladies and gentleman – many companies are taking advantage of a great PR opportunity by positioning their brand with efforts that warm our hearts.
Regardless of the motivating factors, however, such a partnership is usually a win-win. You can choose to donate a portion of your sales or donate your product or service. The classic oversized check is also a popular way to show your charity-of-choice that you’re all for promoting the greater good.
But what about literally rolling up your sleeves and recruiting your employees to lend a hand? It may take a little more effort, but your audience reach – and lasting impression – will be much more powerful.
For instance, let’s say a small manufacturer of pet products donates 100 dog toys to a local animal shelter. Who’s directly reached? The shelter volunteers will see, touch (and certainly appreciate) the donated toys. If the manufacturer distributes a press release to local news sources, then the general public could be indirectly reached, and hopefully they remember the name of the manufacturer and the good deed.
A second option is for the manufacturer to advertise that it is donating a certain portion of its sales, via local pet stores that carry the brand, to a nearby shelter. If the manufacturer utilizes point-of-purchase displays at pet stores where its products are sold – it will reach current customers who are already in the store shopping. An ad could also be placed in a local publication – but if potential customers frequent another pet store for whatever reason (often geographic closeness), how likely are they to drive somewhere other than their neighborhood shop for this? Maybe it would depend on the portion of sales being donated – but let’s face it, sometimes getting customers to change their buying habits typically (and unfortunately for the shelter critters in this scenario) only happens when there’s an incentive involved that will benefit the consumer directly.
Here’s another strategy: the manufacturer sponsors a pet adoption event at a shelter. As attendees “oo and ahh” over the animals, the manufacturer’s top employees are on hand to give advice about topics that relate to their products (dietary or exercise needs, for example). Attendees will get to handle some of the manufacturer’s products, such as biscuits and toys, while interacting with the animals. Many of these individuals may already have pets and therefore have a need for these products; the ones who get their first pet at the event or later on will have had a face-to-face brand experience that will likely stick in their minds much more prominently than a newspaper ad will. Don’t forget to snap a few action photos that local publications will be happy to print (much more interesting than just another colossal check pic). Local news stations may even be interested in stopping by to film a feel-good piece for the evening news.
There’s nothing wrong with writing a check or sending a box of your most popular product to a local charity – it’s a great way to build a sense of admiration and trust among your current and potential customers. But if you and your most enthusiastic, articulate employees can give the public a friendly face to put with a name, you’ll be ten times more unforgettable. In a world with an overwhelming amount of digital and print information, there’s something to be said for good old-fashioned, face-to-face communication. The best public relations strategy? Creating real relationships.