Nonprofit PR: Creating a Definition

By on Wednesday, November 30, 2011
What is PR? In any given day, a nonprofit public relations professional can be found doing a myriad of tasks – e.g. responding to reporters, updating websites, managing video shoots, revamping tired old brochure copy for donors, architecting a new outreach campaign, updating social media and providing counsel or training to staff, volunteers or members.

The PR pro’s role can feel like a jack-of-all-trades comm shop in the nonprofit world – where small staffs mean that load-sharing is broadly interpreted. I especially hated being in charge of the photocopier, the Internet T1 line, and the phone system at one nonprofit (being responsible for communications in all facets, truly) – where all those things seemed to break down at the worst possible moments – in addition to member communications, publications, media relations, the website and public policy work.
 But it begs the question – what exactly do we DO? Really? A definition of nonprofit public relations provides greater definition to our frenzied professional lives, reminding us that strategy has to guide the mayhem. The Public Relations Society of America recently partnered with allied organizations to invite crowdsourced definitions of public relations.

Clearly, the old definition is out dated – having come of age when computers were just beginning to transform our profession. The new definition’s formula is simple:
Public relations (does what)
with/for (whom)
to (do what)
for (what purpose)

You can submit your definition for public relations to PRSA. I toyed with a few options, but kept finding the corporate and client side of PR monkeying with my mojo. It might be easier to come up with a definition, if we segment PR into practice areas. 
I finally came up with a definition for nonprofit public relations:
Nonprofit public relations builds understanding
with targeted audiences
to raise awareness about a nonprofit organization’s services, work and programs
for building a greater good.

What would your definition of nonprofit public relations be?

Everyone wants to know what you think.

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