Chapter 9: Your relationship with your team and the general public
The salient ingredient in this relationship is how well you manage to motivate the people around you whether they are part of your team or even if they are listed as your targets on your marketing plan as well if the people or organizations have nothing to do with your business.
You will know if your team is one that is working to meet your target objectives when they work along with you as a team. When it comes to building a good relationship with your team you will both feel and see it usually through how well they communicate with each other and with you as well as with your customers. Your team’s approach to your business therefore assumes particular significance. Still you will need to motivate your team and you can often successfully do this by rewarding them.
However, you also need to have a good relationship with the public. The positive combination of this hierarchical interaction is also referred to as public relations. The most popular definition of public relations is that given by the Public Relations Society of America (2003) which holds that “public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other”. Basically, by using public relations you try to get the acceptance of the society you living by adjusting certain aspects of your organization, thereby creating a peaceful co-existence whereby a relationship is developed that caters for mutual advantages to both your business as well as to the public at large.
But how can you muster public relations and what can you do to make the most of it? The first barrier that you will have to break is to understand the social behavior and what your society holds valuable, and this should begin with understanding the internal working of your community. You will need to reach out to the people around you whether they are somehow involved in your organization or not. A way to reach out is to come up with policies and practices that are built on the values of your community in order to ensure that the general public views your business in a good light. This would include your employees, managers, customers, non-customers and other activities or events that help others including your business providing support to other organizations such as NGOs and charity institutions even if this has no direct connection to your business. However simple this may sound you will need to learn to come up with types of measures that support the opinion of the public and this will require an in-depth analysis of your social surroundings including the public’s concerns and behavior. The most effective way of developing a positive relationship with the public is to face and take on your social responsibilities first; and just because you need to somehow make the public see that you share their same ideas and concerns you will have to find a way to communicate your position to them whether you are dealing with environmental, charity, employment, governmental, historical preservation, the establishment of a recreational complex or family issues among several others. By adopting this approach you will slowly start to build a good relationship because the public will perceive your business as one that cares in the same way as the public does.
When you begin to see the positive results that emerge out of building good public relations you will start to see a pattern emerging and this pattern links your business to the support of others in the community even if they were not the reason your business was set up for. So whether you provide political support, an open door policy, commissions, monthly awards or free child care to your employees, fund the restructuring of the local school library, provide stationary, banners, food stands, balloons or any other item that helps these activities or events to be organized, it is having this positive relationship with others around you that will help boast your sales and which will provide your business with a public element. After all, public relations are about give and take and if you invest in the public, the public is most likely to reinvest in your business venture. Public relations will additionally re-enforce the concept of team spirit in your internal organization because your internal staff will also start to feel positive to be part of your team as opposed to feeling emarginated by feeling that your business is just one large economic structure.
Remember the more people know about you the higher the chance of them making use of your business. The principle to remember, especially in public relations, is to invest where there is a need of a solution to specific problems in society, even if this issue is on a global level or if it has nothing to do with you as this can only work in your favor rather than against it. Providing these organizations with your products or services to assist them in obtaining a solution is a great idea especially if what you have to offer is a much needed input by the organization you are helping.
Where to start in public relations?
Just like in any other step of your marketing campaign you will need to lay down objectives which involve mainly knowing what you want to achieve by undertaking this road. In considering what you want to obtain and also in examining how you are going to reach these objectives you will need to take in to account the following key elements:
- Your stuff ( whether past, present or future);
- Your market environment;
- Concerns: issues and problems that could need an extra hand such as depletion of natural resources, people in need of financial assistance, the vulnerable sector of society, sick people, medical research , political and public offences issues.
- Do you want to involve professional consultants to help you establish your public relations and making your good efforts known?
- Take a look at your local surroundings to determine where you can play an important role. Search for nonprofit organizations and fund raising events that are important to the people in your community and select what you would like to participate in. Needless to say this choice will be dependent on the balance between your budget as well as benefits that you want to reap out of this venture.
These are some of the fundamental aspects to consider right from the start although you may wish to include others.
Organizations worth looking at
The more people follow, support or belong to an organization, the greater importance they will assume for your public relations program.
National Centre for Charitable Statistics, Charity of America and the American Institute of Philanthropy among other entities as these will provide you with a starting point for your public relations. What these entities do is to provide you with lists and additional information of organizations that require your assistance and them also lay down what kind of help these organizations require.
Some other events and organizations that you should take into consideration would include:
- Heart power;
- AIDS Research Alliance of America;
- Making Strides Against Breast Cancer;
- The American Red Cross;
- Character Counts;
- Your local boy or girls scouts;
- Local educational and medical institutions;
- Children’s homes;
- Animal shelters;
- Health and safety at the place of work or at school;
- Local school incentives;
- Hoops for Heart;
- The American Heart Walk;
- The American Heart Association;
- Habitat for Humanity International;
- Crime or substance abuse prevention programs;
- The American Cancer Society Relay for Life;
- Local athletic groups;
- Jump Rope for Heart ;
- Local search and rescue groups;
- National public feast days linked to a cause such as Red Ribbon week and African American History month;
- Educational and vocational programs.
The above are just examples of causes and organizations that you can help and there are many other options that you can explore. You can always build your own personal list as you go along. Special attention should also be placed on the United Way, an organization that brings together people from all walks of life and is the lead in America’s social problem solving. Like other organizations United Way has a huge incentive to generate funds. Volunteer organizations belonging to different local communities add up to an average of one thousand four hundred. Bringing these organizations together is the main scope of United Way and is the way it helps assists with the needs of different communities.
The large statistics of people and organization involved in addressing community issues are the very reason why your business will hugely benefit by participating in their activities through promotional products. So you should always take a look at the statistics of these organizations as well as to the percentage of the American population these organizations target. For example, there are an estimated forty million HIV suffers in America. Now that is a big number and can significantly aid your public relations while at the same time you are helping their cause.
Making your public relations public
Despite all the good feelings that can come to you and your employees from helping others and even if you can do this without a catch at the end of the line, this guide aims to help you make your business more profitable. Therefore, once you have decided to take the road of public relations it is not enough that you do these good deeds and leave it at that no matter how personally satisfying it is to you. You will therefore need to make the public know about your role in these social events and your support in helping to solve public issues.
Again promotional products assume a highlight position here and you will need to make the most of them in order to make the public know that you too are behind the step forward that society has taken. Why do you need to let people know the important role that you have played? Simple, because it gets people to know about your business, it creates in them a positive connotation to your products or services and consequently it creates in them a desire to want to support your venture in return for all the good that you have provided your community with. All this will in return make your business reach if not increase its sales’ target.
So if you feel comfortable enough to come up with your own ideas without the need to recur to professional consultancy companies, your one way ticket to publicizing your positive input is through the use of promotional products. You do not need to have a live interview on your local station to achieve this public element.
Selecting the event or organization that you are willing to support and then choosing promotional products that are best suited for these events is a good public relations tactic.
Some Ideas for Public Relations
Taking into consideration what we have already discussed in this chapter, you will need to come up with a step by step plan of action that reflects your own business objectives. You will need to use all the imagination at your disposition and most importantly of all is the need that you go for something that is dear to your community. Remember the more popular an organization is usually an indication of the most treasured values of the citizens of your area. What does this mean for you? It basically means that choosing the most important organization or the even that has the most highlights in the media will get more exposure for your business as opposed to an event or an organization that is not so popular. Although every little bit of exposure helps, you have to remember that you are doing this to increase your sales or attract new clients and above all you will be making an investment in promotional products. For this reason you will need to ensure that whatever organization or event you will support, it has to make it worth your while. Hence, the need arises for you to opt to support the most valuable entities or activities in the eye of the public.
Let’s say that after due consideration of your local market, statistics have led you to believe that health, fitness and fighting obesity is the highest concern in the eyes of the public for whatever reason. Start by browsing through organizations and events that represent these concerns. What type of promotional products do you think they will need to run a successful event or to function in the long-run? Being a health inspired topic there are a lot of items that you can use as your promotional products. Glasses, mugs, athletic wrist or knee bands, caps, bottles, sportswear, calorie counting diaries, stands, electronic gadgets such as pedometers and many other items. Look for anything that you can imprint your business information on.
If you are unsure about upcoming events or what these organizations could really make use of, why not contact them and take action on their feedback? After all, even the people who ran these organizations will appreciate your support and might eventually find using your products or services desirable.
At the same time that you are running this in-depth plan of action you will need to involve as many people at your end as possible. This would include making your employees, employees’ relatives, family and friends participate. If you think about it your business will benefit highly from the volunteering of these people to assist you in a good cause. But your employees do not have to be physically present at the event. You can provide them with reasonable options that allow them to contribute to this event by either spending time by helping out at your stand and passing on promotional products, by passing on your connection to this event to your clientele and other people they come across with either through flyers, word of mouth or the internet or by contributing a small percentage of their wage to the event among many other options to motivate your staff to participate.
Of course as discussed previously in the sales promotion chapter, motivation and participation are increased when there is a reward at stake. Thus, even during your public relations you need to reward your promoters. You can also turn their participation in the event into a competition where the best individual or team of individuals reach a certain target or comes closest to it and reward them by giving them a price such as cinema, theatre or sport events tickets. You can use the same approach to attract the interest of the general public in the event. In fact, rather than obtaining blood donations from free willed individuals, the American Red Cross gets a higher response through sponsored events where donors also stand to win a price.
Alternatively, support a good cause by donating a promotional product like the ones mentioned in the rest of this guide to increase public participation which is a healthy and rewarding way both for you and for the community at large to interact together.
In these events it also important that apart from imprinting your contact information on your promotional products, you should also find a way of linking your promotional product by adding a message on it. In the case of an event related to health and fitness you could for example add the words “I am fit and fine” or “We are all for health”. This ensures that you are not only helping a good cause but you are also getting your name out there.
Be your own Community’s motivator
Let’s say that you read in the Sunday newspaper that a home for children is about to close down due to lack of funds. Reading this might have made you uneasy and one cannot help but wonder how upset the rest of your community feels. What can you do to help the children’s home? You can organize an event or a sequence of events to sponsor this home either through direct financing, donations of food, clothes or a call out for human resources such as volunteers, after school teachers, cleaners, drivers, maintenance services and gardeners. Why not ask your staff to participate and be the first to help out for this good cause? To strengthen the team spirit provides your employees, family and friends with accessories showing the name of the event or cause as well as your business information.
You can make use of different promotional products at different stages of the event. Reward the highest financial donor with a good prize, reward participants with promotional products with each donation, supply quilts with your name on it and a tag line to support the event. Use containers with your imprinted information on it as the volunteers of the event go door to door collecting donations. Place your information on cash donations jars, on the stands used as the meeting point for the event, on the flyers use for promoting the event and on the t-shirts or hats you give volunteers. Add a coupon or a discount to your flyers, car or baby bags.
The idea of saving other individuals, especially neglected or orphaned children is something that widely appeals to the general public. What more could be a better way to build team and community spirit while at the same time exposing your business than joining forces together to support such a good and much needed cause?
So the main driving factor behind setting off your public relations is to be kept informed of the needs of society. You can take a look at shelters, pressing environmental problems and research funding for example. You then need to figure out a way to act on these needs and the best way to do this is to show that you care by providing the organizations with items and incentives that will assist them in their cause.