Literacy agencies fulfill an important and demanding role in their
communities with limited funding. Finding enough time and resources
for outreach and promotion is difficult. However, increasing program
awareness and effective public relations are extremely important and
are closely linked to successful learner recruitment.
Public relations is all about your agency projecting a positive image
in your community to a wide variety of stakeholders. Here is an overview
of four different types of PR that help ensure that your agency is projecting
a positive image in your community.
Front Door Public Relations
Front door PR includes those seemingly meaningless day-to-day interactions
that take place during the course of doing business. It is often through
these casual, incidental and unplanned day-to-day encounters that the
value, worth and significance of an organization is perceived. Just
like with dating, first impressions count! Here are a few tips to ensure
good first impressions:
- Have a cheerful, helpful person answering the phone and
greeting those who come into the office.
- Have an easy-to-use phone answering system; for example,
make it clear how to leave a message and make sure
the caller doesn’t
have to push a complicated series of numbers to speak
- Make the office’s reception area welcoming and professional.
- Have a private meeting spot for assessment and intake.
- Make sure communication tools (brochures, website, posters,
etc.) are clear and user-friendly.
Maintenance Public Relations
It is also important to remember the ongoing public relations work
that needs to be done. PR, advertising and recruiting are not one-shot
deals; they are part of an ongoing cycle. There are always newcomers
to communities, new staff at other agencies and people who are looking
for literacy services now who were not interested before. This type
of PR is about the information we put forward to those who are already
involved in our agency: learners, volunteers, staff, sponsors, donors,
community partners, local service agencies and funders. Maintenance
PR is vital in maintaining a positive reputation in your community.
It includes things such as:
- Communicating promptly, respectfully and professionally
to all stakeholders
- Responding to emails and telephone calls as soon as possible
- Honouring any commitments made by your agency
- Actively sharing agency information (newsletters, etc.)
with all stakeholders
Outreach Public Relations
Outreach PR means going beyond your current stakeholders to reach new
people and develop new relationships. It includes things like submitting
press releases, distributing promotional information, taking part in
community events and making presentations. It is also about trying to
think more creatively: where might you promote your agency that you
have not considered before?
A wonderful example of outreach PR is “Literary Tuesdays”.
Literacy Plus in Renfrew County offers an annual fundraising event called “Literary
Tuesdays”. This event is an annual authors’ festival, where
for each Tuesday in July various authors come to a local restaurant
and do readings in support of literacy. Community members come by and
enjoy the readings, have coffee and dessert and a lovely evening out. “Literary
Tuesdays”, while primarily intended as a fundraiser, has also
proven to be an effective PR activity for Literacy Plus. Typically,
between 50 and 150 people come out for each of the four Tuesday evenings
in July. Literacy Plus gets local media coverage and the event definitely
raises their profile. You can read more about “Literary Tuesdays” at:
Joining Forces: Collaborative Public Relations
Collaborative PR involves partnerships with other organizations to
further mutual promotional goals. A group of organizations working together
to organize a community fair, awareness campaign or a joint volunteer
recruitment initiative are examples of this kind of PR.
Think creatively! Literacy Plus in Renfrew County was told by the advertising
department of a local radio station that some businesses are willing
to share their advertising time with non-profits. For example, leading
up to Family Literacy Day in Renfrew County, the Honda dealership added
a 15 second tag about literacy to its regular advertisement.