People who volunteer for charitable causes say they get back so much more than they give. The same can be true for a small business, where doing good can be great for public relations.
Charitable events often appeal to news media because they typically involve turning a negative into a positive, which makes for a good story. Usually it’s a tale that begins with disease or disaster, segues into kindness, and concludes with success (the fundraising tally). We all like a story with a happy ending; sponsoring a charitable cause means your business is part of that feel-good story.
Cause-related PR events can provide a series of news hooks for media attention. The first news hook is the event announcement, which you can pitch to calendar sections. These sections are compiled weeks in advance so be sure to contact the calendar editor as early as possible. Supply the who, what, where, when, and why of your event, including contact information. Providing a photo to illustrate the listing may give you an edge.
A second news hook is the event itself. Invite the media to attend, particularly if it’s an extremely fun or visual event that lends itself to photos or video, such as a dance-a-thon, a race, or a musical event. Line up key players to be interviewed, including any celebrities in attendance and any “real people” who are being helped by the event. For example, if you are raising money for breast cancer research, locate a breast cancer survivor attending the event whose personal experience makes the story that much more poignant and relevant.
The final news hook is a look at the results of the program. For example, the event sponsored by your restaurant may have raised money to buy defibrillators for local schools. The first time a defibrillator is used to save a life, you should reach out to the media with the story, tying it back to the fundraiser. Another example: Your toy store donated a percentage of sales to buy playground equipment for a local park. A few days before the refurbished playground is to open, offer to the media a photo of children clambering on the equipment and include a caption that describes the action and your business’s contribution to the project.
Aside from providing multiple news hooks, charitable events can also increase your business’s chances of being covered by a reporter who might otherwise never write about you. For example, if your business is a clothing store, it would normally be covered by a reporter in the business section. But if your business sponsors an in-store registration for potential bone marrow donors, you may catch the attention of the health reporter. A story that runs on the health page and mentions your business as the sponsor may attract an entirely new group of eyeballs, and that can translate into potential customers.
So if you are considering sponsorship of a charitable event or project, factor into your decision the PR possibilities you stand to gain from it. When it comes to creating media angles and opportunities, doing good is a proven route to doing great.
In her 16 years as a PR professional, Barbara Goldberg has helped clients in health care, alternative energy, and the performing arts tell their stories in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, CBS News, ABCNews.com, and many other media outlets.