There may come a time in your PR career when you are commissioned to provide public relations services for a client, organization or business where there is little to no budget available to support its needs. I have been in this type of situation before and I’m sure it won't be the last. There was a grassroots nonprofit organization who wanted to gain exposure and awareness in the community and beyond. However, there was only a budget allocated for marketing, but not PR. I felt strongly about the mission of this organization and wanted to help, but was certainly not in a position to provide “free PR” and eat the labor, time and resources of my company to enhance another. After much thought, I realized that I had to:
· Assess the marketing plan to determine if some of the budget can be replaced/re-allocated towards public relations.
· Utilize Internet marketing efforts as a vehicle to provide major support in communicating the vision of the organization and brand recognition.
· Capitalize on avail free social media outlets to obtain diverse internet publicity, leveraging interactive relationships to create closer bonds with audiences.
When reviewing communications plans, it’s imperative that you carefully determine the most necessary and most efficient tactics to implement in order to achieve the best results. I realized that although a bigger budget would have helped facilitate efforts for the grassroots campaign, I could still achieve similar goals with creativity and careful planning. We communicated the campaign's vision early and often through free/low cost efforts: e-mail campaigns, local meetings and events, which ultimately created a word-of-mouth buzz. It was then a matter of capitalizing on this buzz to seize media interest—and we were properly positioned to take our message from the community to the masses through TV, radio, newspapers and beyond.
Even in comfortably-budgeted campaigns, savvy social media use can raise attention where traditional media relations methods may not. Over the years, media outlets have reduced staff and advertisers have shifted spending dollars to radio spots and news/magazine ads towards the internet. Additionally, more and more people now turn to the Internet for their news information. This shift has reduced the amount of space available: especially for newspapers and magazines, where their space was typically used for free publicity.
The nonprofit organization took advantage of many of the free sites available to gain massive exposure and consistently updated content to increase relevancy and awareness. Huge cost savings occurred as a result of thinking outside the box. For example, instead of purchasing a Web site, we used blog site Blogger.com to share information and updates. Also, instead of paying to place an ad in the newspaper or paying to create a commercial, we utilized a camera phone to upload videos to post on YouTube.com and used Skype.com to message to audiences and interact with people. BlogTalkRadio.com is a great podcasting platform that can be used to interact with one or multiple individuals.
The Internet has sources that will allow you to run a profitable business or brand an organization from the ground up. You can select a prominent logo, create and publish content about yourself, your business or organization internationally and build a list of potential clients, supporters and advocates in minutes at little or no cost. These are platforms that allow you to create a constant presence verbally, audibly and virtually with video cameras, testimonials, pictures, products and more.
Lisa M. Wilmore is the president and CEO of The Wilmore Agency, LLC a boutique public relations company.