(Explained Using Classic Movie Gifs).
Since November there has been a surge in civilian activism and, not surprisingly, nonprofits are using this period to create support for policy changes they would like to see implemented. Having worked with several nonprofits in my career, including policy-centric nonprofits, I have identified some main PR principles nonprofits should abide by.
Communicate the “Ask” Simply and Clearly
It seems easy enough: what policy change does your nonprofit want to see, and why? But nonprofits, like any other industry, can get bogged down by external use of internal terminology. Acronyms, issue-specific language, and complicated metrics do not translate well with a broad audience. When reviewing your ask, think of what Denzel Washington’s character says in the Academy Award®-winning movie Philadelphia:
Make Sure the “Ask” Will Make People Take Notice
Your “ask” may not constitute front-page news, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t something that will impact constituent lives to some degree. Find the right newsworthy angle to get your issue in the public eye and generate constituent engagement. What would Holly Golightly add to her classic black dress to get attention?
Use Different Tactics for Different Audiences
The tactics you would use to target state government offices versus tactics used to engage small-town civilians should not be the same. For example, a state government office may be more receptive to an op-ed published by the leading state news publication, whereas small-town civilians may be more likely to read a Facebook post shared by a local organization.
You wouldn’t approach the Sharks in the same way as you would approach the Jets, right?
Don’t Get Discouraged - Change Your Approach
In PR, not every pitch elicits strong media response. It is common to feel discouraged if it seems your nonprofit is not making any headway when it comes to creating policy change. Instead of giving up, take a step back and look at your approach from a different viewpoint - is there an angle that you are missing? What is another way to phrase what you are trying to accomplish?
As my dad always said to me, “Nothing worthwhile comes easy.”
Make Sure Your Partners are All in Step
Most nonprofits have their fair share of partners - many of which share their policy goals. How has your nonprofit been working with its partners to create a uniform message with regard to policy change? Are you working together to reach the same finish line? Is everyone dancing to the same beat?
The journey to policy change can often be a long one, but can be more efficient and successful when incorporating these basic public relations principles.