Being on Target with Your Community Relations
February 7, 2023
By Heather Keroes, APR
Whether your organization has a brick-and-mortar location or lives online, the relationships you build with influential local leaders and other publics are essential to the health and future of your business.
There is perhaps no place more important to distinguish your organization than in the city or region it calls home, and contributing or giving back to your community is a mutually beneficial practice that builds brand recognition and strengthens your reputation.
Usually focused on a geographic location, community relations is typically part of a much broader Corporate Social Responsibility or Environmental, Social and Governance program. It is just one of the many ways that an organization can solidify its reputation through actions and investments in key stakeholder groups.
When developing community relations strategies with our clients, the first question we ask is, “Why?” What is your end goal? Which people or groups will help you get there? If a mission statement does not already exist, we craft one that’s connected to the organization’s overall focus. This can be tricky, as there may be many worthy causes you’d like to support or groups you’d like to be involved with, but narrowing down your focus is key, even if not always easy.
There is danger in spreading your time and dollars too thin, as your overall efforts become ineffective and seed confusion on what you stand for as an organization. For example, when representing a credit union, we sought opportunities tied to its mission of improving financial literacy. With clarity on the mission, it becomes that much easier to build a community relations plan, as well as provide reasoning for the opportunities that you will inevitably need to pass on.
Whether building a community relations strategy from the ground up or evaluating the course of your current plan, consider conducting an audit. We have worked with clients on audits to ascertain strengths, issues and opportunities critical to development and sustainability of community relations plans. The first phase is a review of any existing community relationships and activities (surprisingly, these are not always tracked!), and then, we speak with a selection of stakeholders that the organization desires to influence and forge relationships with, to hear their take on the organization and its impact. From there, we can determine or revise the community relations mission and begin recommending actions that are in alignment.
Our client EA Orlando, the Central Florida-based game development studio of Electronic Arts, employs talent rich in both technology and art disciplines. Thus, the studio hosts an educational summer camp and invests in programs designed to cultivate STEAM skills and career paths, especially among underrepresented groups. The organization’s community commitment is clear and unquestioned.
There are many ways to foster community relationships … from educational initiatives, board service, volunteer activities and community events, to chamber involvement, scholarships, donations and grants. However, even the most well-detailed community relations plan can miss the mark if your actions lack harmony with your mission, so take care to define it.
This blog post caps off our series on the pillars of reputation management. If you haven’t read them all, here are links to help you catch up:
- Dealing with Reputation Management in an Angry World
- Reputation Management Starts with Operational Understanding
- Public Affairs and the Court of Public Opinion
- Event Planning for Your Corporate Reputation Management Strategy
- Maximize Your Investment in Thought Leadership to Effectively Build Reputation
- The Strategy Behind Social Media
- Tips for Communicating Effectively Through a Crisis