By Kelly Tryba, PR Coordinator

As the PR professional at your nonprofit, you play a key role in driving fundraising, both directly and indirectly.  You have a unique challenge:

How can I tell my employer’s story in a way that is engaging and memorable while also moving people to a change in attitude or behavior about both teen moms and my employer?

 

Uniform communication

The first step is to get a grip on your communication collateral.  Is it professional in appearance? Is it uniform? Is it compelling?

In order to answer yes to these questions, you will need to make an investment in quality control.  For example, we provide a digital file of approved photos for our staff to use in their communication efforts.  This ensures they are using images that are both professional and highly compelling, which is key in a new era when a picture is actually worth more than a thousand words (or sometimes even a thousand dollars!)

The same applies for clip art… gone are the days when our staff was downloading grainy, low quality images.  A small investment in a clip art product that we made available on our server equips our staff to communicate effectively and professionally.

At Hope House we also put together a Style Guide that helps us control what terms our staff members use to communicate (for example, we refer to the teen moms in our Mentoring Program as “mentoring girls” rather than “mentees”).

Having control over the finished product is key in creating a congruent, effective communication plan, and it eases your burden if you can equip your team members with tools they can use without having to contact you first.

 

Storytelling

The best part about Public Relations at an organization that works with teen moms is the endless supply of inspiring stories that are right at your fingertips!

People respond to story. It is the most powerful tool you have at your disposal, and you need to use it continually. In fact, we have a policy that we do not send out an email without a teen mom story either in the body or as a sidebar.  Even our blog posts always either include a teen mom story as a sidebar or weaved into the actual post itself.

Why? Because stories are what catch people’s attention – and that is what they tend to remember.  When you started reading this blog post, you most likely scrolled down to the picture and read the caption that briefly told McKena’s story.  And it is pretty likely that her story is what you will remember best from my blog post!

One more note… changed lives are what inspire people, which is why your stories need to include the grit as well as the triumph. People want to know their investment is making a difference, and it is best shown through story, supported with a compelling photo. So tell stories with permission to share the hard backstory – or tell it anonymously or through a pseudonym if necessary.  But tell the story!
Continual awareness

My last tip is to stay on top of the industry. Communication vehicles are a moving target, and in order to utilize your social media platforms effectively, you need to know when the rules change.

For example, when Infographics became the hottest new way to tell a story (in very few words, perfect for today’s millennials!), we researched the concept behind Infographics and found a few free Infographic resources as well.  Soon we began incorporating these fun tools into our communication plan, with good feedback.

Facebook provides another example. Not too long ago the Facebook algorithm that determines how far your post goes was largely based on your number of followers and likes.  Recently it changed with a priority emphasis on how many shared posts and actual comments your receive.  We had to adjust, writing posts that asked for comments (i.e. advice for our teen moms on nutritional, budget-friendly meals or even a contest to who could answer a tough GED math question) and asking followers to share a few specific posts.

The truth is that by the time you read this post, these algorithm parameters likely will have changed again — which is why you need to continually educate yourself.  If you are on a tight budget, sign up for free newsletters, watch free webinars… there are a lot of great resources out there you can access for little to no cost.  But you need to make it a priority as the rules of engagement are constantly changing!

So…. keep it uniform, tell your story well and loudly, and stay at the top of the game.

These basic tips should help your communication program run smoothly and provide a significant return on your investment… which will in turn help your team continue to empower the teen moms in your community.