What big business can learn from charities?

Posted by: Nikki Peters

By Francesca Rivett-Carnac 

I went to the PRCA’s Charity Group Summer Drinks the other week, and it really got me thinking.  What can big business learn from charities?

What struck me about the speakers from WWF and Shelter was the enormous focus with which they approached their campaigning and PR work. There’s nothing like a tight budget to sharpen the mind, and there are serious lessons to be learned from the charity sector. Even, or perhaps especially, if you’re working for a big business.

If you could only launch one campaign a year, I’m guessing you would think long and hard about what it was, what it said, where it went – and crucially, what it delivered. Right?

Right. But what’s the excuse for not thinking like this all the time?

What I’m talking about here is strategy. There are many businesses and organisations that are very good at generating content in the media without thinking about what it is really achieving. In the absence of a purpose that supports your organisational objectives, coverage just becomes noise.

We’ve all seen it. A piece of research that doesn’t go far enough in linking back to the business or organisation that commissioned it. That fantastic stunt that make us smile when we see it, but a couple of days later we have forgotten who was behind it. The spokesperson on the sofa who is clearly an expert – but at the end of the interview we are none the wiser about the organisation they represent.

Of course, brand visibility is important and name checks play their role. But I can’t help wondering whether, if egos were left at the door, we would see businesses and organisations generating better targeted and more effective coverage.

Supporting every business plan should be a good comms strategy; never the other way round. When budgets are tight we are forced to prioritise, and for organisations getting it right, the result is brilliant coverage that leaves us in no doubt about who they are, or what they are trying to achieve.

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