Just this year an illustrious professional career ends abruptly;  a worldwide brand that spent millions of dollars over the years to build a sterling reputation, out in front of every one of its competitors, watches its status unravel;  and an international conglomerate faces an industrial disaster and its iconic acronym stands to represent its biggest nightmare.

General Mc Crystal within a week – retired; Toyota within a month massively discounting cars and invigorating the US auto industry; and BP within a few days becoming the company formerly known as British Petroleum now known as BP — Biggest Polluter.

Companies that have allocated enormous dollars to building a public face . . . the military and multinationals.  And yet with their considerable resources, both financial and professional, they did not understand how quickly their reputation could unravel.  How quickly their public profile could be tarnished and how extensive the damage could be.

Are you ready for this?  Do you have the resilience to survive?  It begs the question that as nonprofits perhaps we need to reconsider how we court the press.  How important we think it is to be on TV or in print.   Can we control our message more effectively using social media and web-based outreach?

So you’re thinking of promoting your organization in the press anyway.   Then be prepared.  When you’re pitching a story, an interview or sending out a release do you know enough about the background of the reporter and the media outlet.  Have you read enough of their prior stories or seen enough of their broadcast reporting to have an understanding of the nature and tone of their coverage?   What is their writing style, do they have a personal agenda and does your message fit into that agenda.  If not, beware – their agenda may take precedence over yours!

Are you prepared for a crisis?   Do you have a communication’s plan that specifically addresses the conversation that you must have with your constituents the moment something considerable happens that impacts the community you serve?

Have you designated a spokesperson and is that person media trained.   As a nonprofit whose financial health depends on donor participation, public relations must be moved to the top of your agenda.  Today, let’s ask ourselves could our organization survive a media hit.  Then take a critical scan of your communications efforts and the persons responsible for this most important yet very delicate task.

Robyn Fern Perlman
Founding Principal
CoreStrategies For Nonprofits, Inc.

By Robyn Fern Perlman