PR Pros: Choosing Clients’ Causes Carefully

By: Toni L. Rousell                   Original Post can be found here

Your advice is not only valued, as a hired PR professional, wise counsel is required.

So, how do you help your clients choose the causes they support? Being driven by emotions or going with what’s popular, is sure to be a recipe for disaster.

Discouraging clients from seeking alliance with causes they really have no sincere desire to support, or no real understanding of, should be number one priority.  It can be hard to steer them in a more beneficial direction, avoiding self-destruction of their brand, but it’s responsible and necessary.  They’ll thank you later and you’ll sleep better at night.  Throwing support to a cause they don’t truly believe in, will only lead to their support waning, which will consequently reduce the value of their endorsements as they appear “flaky”, or even unstable, in the public-eye.

Local vs. National

It can seem convenient to offer support to the largest, most visible organization when it comes to “giving-back”, but could a local organization, requiring more hands on support, be more beneficial to your client’s long-term philanthropic goals and public image?  Analyzing the organization’s mission, do results support that mission?

Local organizations will allow for your client to see the lives their efforts effect. They will be able to look directly into the eyes of those benefiting from their donations and volunteering, and will also be more likely to give to those in their hometowns who directly affected their success, which makes for excellent public relations.  This encourages a more faithful, less “fair-weather”, connection.

Alternatively, national organizations offer the opportunity for clients to give-back to multiple communities at once.  If your client lives or their primary business is based outside of their hometown, this choice would allow them to give-back to their hometown community, as well as to the new community that has embraced them. There should be no lack of effort on the client’s part to make their presence known, even when the cameras are off or not around.  A national organization will also be more likely to have consistent PR representation, affording a better grasp on public support of the cause and offering more flexible events your client can join.

Making the Commitment 

Sometimes a client desires to support organizations with a focus that may require a little extra effort for educating the public or validating the connection. Is the client truly committed? This is where your client’s genuine beliefs will come into play. The work required will expose the true intent: is it pub or love?

One example of true commitment is that of Actress Ciera Payton. Being raised, until the age of 13, by her grandmother and drug addicted (now incarcerated) father, Ms. Payton wanted to align her brand with organizations that would allow her to connect with youth growing up in an environment similar to herself: children of incarcerated parents.

But how understood is this cause?

Most children of incarcerated parents are misunderstood and, in many cases, ignored.  Many can site statistics, and some can actually admit they’ve become a statistic, but Ms. Payton’s focus is clear: share the fact that she has overcome the statistics.

By welcoming audiences in, sharing some of her most painful moments growing up in a life-threatening environment, Ms. Payton reaches those who can relate, finding those in need. She credits the Arts for saving her life, and not only commits funding, but diligently focuses on giving-back to youth facing the same battles she’s faced by mentoring.  She has chosen a mix of both local and national organizations to support, allowing her to give back to her hometown of New Orleans as well as her new home of Los Angeles.

Maya Angelou quote (pic)

PR and Publicity vs “Puff and Fluff”

While announcing the partnership, be honest with the public.  Don’t puff up your client to be more than what they are or try to fluff up their support to be more than what it is.  Instead, once the choice has been made, be sure to connect with those who genuinely share in the cause.  Reach out to those who are long-term supporters, whether celebrity or not. This will not only increase the support base for the cause, but will also strengthen your client’s alliance.  Joining forces and sharing ideas for creative support, increases public awareness and makes the difference between superficial “puff and fluff” and careful PR and publicity.

Remember, it’s the man who has more that gives more and philanthropic efforts are what keeps many in need going and feeling encouraged.  Giving back for the cameras is bound to be exposed and never worth the backlash.

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