Cause Public Relations
to Build Better Clients

One form of marketing that can often be overlooked for its effectiveness is cause public relations. It's great for the community and it can be great for your business.

By Ken Baur

You spend hours trying to determine where your marketing dollars will most benefit your business. After all, it is getting more and more difficult to get a return on these investments. One form of marketing that can often be overlooked for its effectiveness is cause public relations. It’s effective because it allows your company to give something back to the community that supports your business and, when done correctly, it can drastically enhance your company image. 
One of the most important aspects of doing cause P.R. correctly is limiting your efforts to one or two nonprofits. By doing so, you will be able to impact one cause much more than by splitting your limited resources among many causes. 
Another important part is to use a local charity or non-profit organization. While many national causes are very important, making an impact in the community that supports you is much more meaningful to those you service.
     Choosing the right organization to support is critical. It should be something that is not controversial or political in nature. Ideally it should be something the local community is proud to support. It’s also best if this organization has some form of association with an artist or art since this is more likely be consistent with your customer base.
     My team has found a great local organization to support. It is a non-profit called Opportunity Enterprises. O.E. employs the mentally and physically handicapped in our area, teaching them skills and helping them to be productive in the community. One of the areas it teaches its members is art. When we decided to become involved with this organization, we felt that the most significant contribution we could make was to provide framing materials to showcase their paintings. We frame more than 100 pieces each year for them at our cost of materials, and we donate the labor so there is very little investment on their part. In addition Larson-Juhl provides a deep discount on selected frames for the program so that we can pass on the savings.
     Each year at Christmas time we open our largest gallery to this organization to showcase the framed art they have created. The event brings more than 150 people into the gallery to see and purchase these unique pieces. The result is thousands of dollars in profit for the organization and lots of goodwill for us. The biggest thrill for our team is experiencing the happiness the artists get by being the stars of the event. They are bursting with pride about their art and really look forward to the evening. Of course the staff of O.E. really appreciates our support, and we have built many strong relationships with these great people. Because families and friends of the organization appreciate our involvement, many have switched to our service to support us in return. 
     The relationship has become a win-win for everyone. We couldn’t buy the type of positive recognition it has brought to us, and just as importantly our team feels great about what our company is doing for others. 
There are opportunities like this in every community. Look for something your team can help with, and you’ll be really glad you started such a program.
     One other area of cause P.R. can pose a real dilemma for many. This is the constant requests for donations and support for local causes. It’s tough to say no to anyone because it feels like doing so is bad for your image, yet you know you’d go out of business if you supported every cause.
Ideally you would like to say yes to everyone without going broke. A few years ago I read a suggestion by Bob Negen of Whizbang Marketing that has worked well for us. Bob suggested businesses create a “menu” of community support options for all requests. This “menu” consists of several different ways your company can help any local organization. 
     The beauty of this approach is that it offers a positive response to all requests, and it standardizes your company response so that all requests are treated fairly. 
The “menu” is made of options that allow the organization to use your service to make money yet require them to do something in return. This way they get a benefit when they support you. An example of an item on the menu could be a rebate of 10 percent to this organization for all purchases made by their members during a six-month period. This way, the more the members of the organization use your service, the more you can support them. Another example may be to offer your gallery space to organizations for fundraisers. This helps them while giving your gallery exposure to potential clients who have never been to your business. 
     The key is to choose ways of support that benefit both the organization and your company. This way the organization is helping to make your company stronger so that you are in a position to help them even more. Don’t feel awkward about creating menu items that also benefit your company. Attracting more business is your job. It’s not a bad thing to find creative ways to get more support. 
     Cause public relations is a great way to offer more support to the community that supports you. The rewards are fantastic when done correctly. Yes, you do build business with those you support, but you and your team also receive benefits and the satisfaction that can only be experienced when you help others. 

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