The PR of Corporate Social Responsibility today is not about telling people a great story with no basis in reality – it is about using technology shrewdly so that you get noticed!
And whether or not you’re personally modest and shun the limelight is not the issue. You may have a distaste for ‘PR’ – but for the survival of your NGO, NPO or small business, you have to be noticed on digital platforms. And that means creating websites that work and that Google will pick up on.
Your NGO, NPO or business may well
close down if you do not focus on your PR strategy.
Look at people like Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. None of these are or were exceptional men, apart from having intelligence, drive and a flair for technology. What made these men’s names household words was a simple concept – distribution.
Distribution is the ability to get your service or product out there, seen, heard and noticed. It is the ability to replicate your name over and over again so that it pops up in people’s faces every time they think about the general service or product you offer. These men aimed to fill a need – there was something lacking in the global marketplace, and they devised a way to meet the need – but their genius was not just in fulfilling the need, but getting the product to the need on a massive scale.
How does that relate to you, the little NGO, NPO or business? It means that in order to be successful, you, too, have to get your name, product and service replicated on a massive scale. And the only way to do this is to use technology in optimal ways. Not half-hearted, once-in-a-blue-moon ways. Not with websites that give incorrect contact details, unchanging content and no links to anything else. Static, unnoticed websites.
Some years ago when I managed a fund for a large parastatal, I was asked to find an NGO to fund literally overnight. (It’s the way things happen in parastatals, sometimes.) So I turned to the best guide I knew – Google. I googled South African NGOs working in a variety of categories and was immediately hit with the big names – the names that updated their websites with new content at least once a week. There are algorithms that determine where in the list your organisation appears. And they’re based on how often you post new content. If your website is static, you’ll find your organisation somewhere on the bottom of page 20 on the Google list – and who ever searches that far?
Many NGO workers complain about how corporates do their giving – either giving to the big names only (Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, CANCA, READ and Symphonia come to mind) or linking their giving to some PR stunt. But the fact is, corporates give to NGOs that professionally, transparently and compliantly manage their finances – and they are always going to try to get something out of it. That’s the nature of business.
Why do you think Coca Cola, in 2019, still spends billions on advertising? It is because people have short memories; we follow trends and we forget brands that stay out of the limelight. Corporates know this, and dedicate themselves to staying visible. Of course they’re going to use their giving as an opportunity to be noticed. That need not be your concern. Yours is to get noticed by them.
I sat with a German businessman who has a fantastic, truly brilliant educational tool that he wanted to market and sought advise on. I realised that although his product was great, he had no clue about distribution in the most general sense – getting the product to people at scale. I asked him,
‘Look, what does McDonalds sell?’
‘Burgers,’ was his natural reply.
I said, ‘No. Burgers are a sideline in terms of how they pitch themselves. McDonalds sells two things: convenience and location.’
We buy McDonalds because it’s convenient – it’s fast and easy. And we buy it because we don’t have to go out of our way to find an outlet. McDonalds buys the best prime property in every city in the world. In fact, they’re a property business, with a sideline in burgers. When we think ‘burgers for supper’, we think McDonalds, because we know the experience – from shop layout to quality of food – will be consistent, and that we will find one at any mall. They’re in our face. They’re constantly marketing. We hardly think – we turn like automatons to McDonalds because they’ve done their research and positioned themselves at the forefront of our minds.
Now if the internet did not exist, none of this would
be relevant to the hopeful, sincere and hardworking NGO manager. But the
internet exists and we have to use it to our advantage to get anywhere. If you
do not attach articles to your website on at least a monthly basis –preferably a
weekly basis – you might just as well shut down.
People dive into Google for everything. They research topics. They look for information. They want pictures. If you’re posting regularly and know how to tag your posts correctly, Google will pick up on that and your content will pop up for a whole variety of search terms.
Don’t scorn PR. We are no longer living in the 1980s, when we began to see an upsurge in the number of NGOs. We’re living in a digital era and NGOs have to seek funding in ways that fit in with the way people behave, or sink. Websites are now a business in themselves, and if yours is stagnating, it will be taken as a reflection of your entire organisation.
And that’s just the website aspect. We haven’t even begun to talk about Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you don’t know how to use these to get your name out there, hire someone to do it for you!